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“Cannot Restore” Errors When Trying to Use System Restore

March 17, 2009

in computer performance,data storage and recovery,Windows

by Tina Gasperson

Q: I’ve been having trouble trying to restore my system to an earlier date. The restore program goes to the point where it says pick a date to restore to. There will be several dates highlighted to pick from, and when I pick one the program goes through its paces and then gives the message that it cannot restore to that date. No matter what date I pick it does the same thing. Is there a way to correct this? — Thomas

Unfortunately, the odds are you will likely not be able to correct this error, since Windows has probably deleted the files. One of the ways this can happen is if you have upgraded your Windows to a newer version. When the files are updated, Windows doesn’t keep old system restore checkpoints since they would not be compatible with a newer version of Windows. Neither can you “degrade” to an older version of Windows with system restore.

Another possible reason for this error is that your system is getting low on space. When you have less than 200MB left on your hard drive, Windows will start deleting system restore checkpoints and it doesn’t notify you in advance. Additionally, if the space allotted for system restore checkpoints is exceeded, Windows will delete the oldest restore points until the amount of space is under the limit.

There is one thing you can try. Some people have reported success in overcoming System Restore errors by booting the computer into Safe Mode first. To boot into Safe Mode, shut down your computer, then as it restarts, press F8. Use the arrow keys to highlight the option to boot into Safe Mode. Once your system is fully rebooted, enter Help and Support from the Start Menu, and click on “Undo changes to your computer with System Restore.” Select a date to restore from and see if that works. If not, then System Restore is not going to work for you in this instance.

Tina Gasperson (, affectionately known as Computer Lady by her family, has been writing about IT, home computing, and the Internet for more than a decade.

{ 1 comment }

bill 03.23.09 at 2:48 pm

I sincerely hope there is at least one other possibility for the lack of ‘system restore’. I (the newbie) tried to do one recently and got the same response Thomas did. I tried 3 times (which is all that were available) and failed all three. As is the wont of one of my experience level I just assumed I messed something up.
Your article points out two possibilities, neither of which pertain to my machine (I have been using XP Home for about 5 years and have about 20G free space on my HD).
I am new to your newsletter and am enjoying it immensely. Thank you and your cohorts for your efforts, explanations, and clear readablilty. bill

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