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I restored my system from a Windows System Restore point. It solved some issues I was having, but introduced other strange problems (like my optical drive disappeared).

One thing that surprised me was several files from my Web2Py installation were deleted: the executables and *.js files; possibly some others (like favicon.ico). I did not expect this because Web2Py is basically a portable, standalone application. You just unzip it and run the executable inside, so nothing should be registered with Windows. My question is: what files does Windows system restore delete, and how does it decide this? I'm just wondering what other files I'm missing and if there's a way to get restore them (without rolling back the restore point). Perhaps it scans for certain files types (like exe, js, ico, dll) with a creation date that was after the restore point creation date?

Some other people who experienced a similar problem:

update: I found some more references on how Windows System Restore works:

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I think it can remove some things from the desktop, and from program files directory, particularly executables. ERUNT is better.. but not a default thing or automatic. so sometimes one finds one has to use system restore to go back, if that's all you have. – barlop Dec 17 '10 at 5:46
System Restore for for desperate people. Disk imaging is much better and without surprises. – harrymc Dec 17 '10 at 10:48
@harrymc suppose they have one partition. Where would you store the image, and how would you conveniently restore it? (and i'm not asking as a conundrum.. it'd be an easy one as a conundrum, rather i'm asking what your method would be, that is efficient) – barlop Dec 17 '10 at 13:33
@barlop: I would store it on an external disk. And it helps if this is compressed (like Acronis does). – harrymc Dec 17 '10 at 14:10
up vote 1 down vote accepted

This is a description of what files are changed in a system restore (faq-ms win7 system restore). System Restore affects Windows system files, programs, and registry settings. It can also make changes to scripts, batch files, and other types of executable files created under any user account on your computer. System Restore does not affect personal files, such as e-mail, documents, or photos, so it cannot help you restore a deleted file. If you have backups of your files, you can restore the files from a backup.

Protecting files during system restore

Here is what the system restore shadow copy backs up. It's like a mini system state backup.

  • Registry
  • Files in the Windows File Protection (Dllcache) folder
  • Local user profile
  • COM+ and WMI Databases
  • IIS Metabase
  • Specific file types monitored-460 files

Here is a list of monitored file name extensions in system restore. If you have XP, they still have a file that will tell you which is included and which is not (%windir%\system32\restore\Filelist.xml). This file does not exist in newer versions and could not find a way to change the files it saves.

To be safe, before going a system restore, you should save certain files and programs. A system state and backup could be done if you think you could lose some files. Do the system restore if anything missing, restore backup and faults, save files that went missing then system restore again (not latest) and then restore the saved files.

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System Restore in WIn7 also removes all *.js (javascript) files after the restore-to date!

I had a dozen or so stored in ANSI (from notepad) in personal document folders, and they were gone.

The search-software on Win7 Home can't find them!

But "Shadow Explorer 8" (free) found all of them.

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What changes in a system restore, is

-your registry
-some things in a user profile (so that includes your desktop). If it's in "documents and settings" then i'd suggest moving it out
-probably some things in your windows directory
-your program files directory.

If you want things to be safe from a system restore then move them to c:\blah

This usually means some things within "documents and settings". since you probably won't or won't get much benefit backing up anything in "\program files" or "\windows"

Some applications store their data - some of which may be important to you- in an "application data" directory. Browsers(storing form data, and passwords), and Email Client's data. And that may be worth backing up if unsure. But It won't be too much data to backup..

If you have better info on any specifics, about what in the program files directory, or windows directory, or "documents and settings" is messed with, then you can apply that knowledge. But it should be certain and well tested! otherwise be safe and just backup what you need from those. But outside of those, I think you're fine. That's what i've found from win xp anyway. In vista the principle may be similar so c:\blah would be fine.

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My missing files were in "c:\dropbox," so "c:\blah" is definitely not safe. – Leftium Feb 3 '14 at 21:51

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