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Microsoft's website states that "System Restore does not affect personal files, such as e-mail, documents". However, they do not define what personal files are.

Today, I installed a new AMD graphics card. After installing the latest driver (13.1), the system became unstable and occasionally crashes, so I decided to roll back using system restore. The system becomes stable again, but some user files are missing, including those in the C:\Users\<name>\Downloads. It appears to me that zip files are kept and exe files are gone.

Note that the files were still there after the crashes and before system restore, so they're not lost because of the crashes.

Does anyone know what is the precise mechanism Windows uses to decide what files to restore/remove? How does it tell what is a system file and what is not?

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fyi, you can undo the restore if you need the files back AND if you use "Last Known Good Configuration" no files would be effected – Logman Mar 16 '13 at 3:29
up vote 4 down vote accepted

Specific file types monitored by System Restore is given at: A "system" file is any file in the Windows directory or any file that has the "System" file attribute.

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Thanks for the list! Do you have any idea why Microsoft decided System Restore should monitor files in the user directories? In my opinion, it's counter-intuitive since these files aren't part of the "System". – netvope Mar 16 '13 at 5:28

Under my Downloads folder, there is a luxmark-win64-v2.0 subfolder, containing files I extracted from The majority (but not all) of the data in the subfolder was removed by System Restore, but the zip file was not affected. I realize I can compare them and see what was removed.

I extracted a new copy of the files from the zip file and used WinMerge to compare the two folders. I found that all .cfg, .dll, .exe, and .ply files are missing in the old luxmark folder, but all .exr, .jpg, .png, .scn, and .txt files are intact.

This suggests that Windows identify personal files (files that are unaffected by System Restore) by file extension only. If you have important files with an extension not commonly associated with personal files, System Restore may remove them.

If possible, I'd recommend backing up all personal files before running System Restore.

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