Guide to Windows XP Recovery Features

  • April 15, 2004
  • Read 95,583 times

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Automated System Recovery
  3. Driver Rollback
  4. Last Known Good Configuration
  5. System File Checker
  6. Microsoft Backup Utility
  7. System Restore
  8. Windows File Protection
  9. Conclusion


Computers over time tend to start displaying problems. Whether that be the operating system not booting, programs not working, or random errors and crashes. To help alleviate these problems Windows XP comes with 6 methods that enable us to recover from these situations. These do not work in all cases, but a lot of headaches can be avoided by learning how these methods work. In this tutorial we will give a general overview of each of these methods so that you can administer your computer more efficiently.

Automated System Recovery (ASR)

Automated System Recovery (ASR) is an advanced feature integrated into the Microsoft Backup utility that will allows you to recover the Windows XP operating state in the case of a catastrophic system or hardware failure. By using this feature you can restore windows to a previous state from when you ran the ASR backup routine. This type of backup will first save your system settings on a floppy disk and then make a backup of the files you specify on your computer. You can then use this ASR floppy to restore your system settings when you reinstall Windows XP.

Driver Rollback

Driver rollback is a feature that allows you to rollback a driver to a previously installed version. This is especially useful when you install a new driver for a piece of hardware installed on your machine and you start to have problems either with that piece of hardware or other devices/applications on your computer. If such a situation occurs you can use Driver Rollback to rollback to the previous driver that was installed before you upgraded it.

To access the Driver Rollback feature you should double click on the System icon in your Control Panel. Then click on the Hardware tab and then click on the Device Manager button. This will bring up the Device Manager window where you can double-click on the piece of hardware that you had previously updated to enter it's properties. Once you are in the particular device's properties sheet, you should click on the Driver tab. Under this tab you will see a button labeled Driver Rollback. If you click on this button, it will ask for confirmation that you want to rollback the driver. Agree to this and follow the default prompts.

If you try to rollback a device whose drivers have never been updated, Windows will tell you so.

Last Known Good Configuration

Every time you load Windows XP successfully Windows saves certain registry keys and applications settings on your computer. Then if you you ever boot your computer and for some reason Windows fails to load correctly, you can use the Last Known Good configuration to boot Windows to the last known good settings

To use this saved configuration when booting Windows, press the F8 key as Windows starts, and then select the Last Known Good configuration option. Your computer will then load Windows using these previously saved settings.

System File Checker

Windows XP comes with a utility that will scan Windows system files on your computer and replace them if they seem to have modified or deleted. This is an important tool as there are many viruses and malware that will intentionally delete certain Windows system files. The System File Checker uses different arguments to change its behavior and are described below:

/SCANNOW - You would use this argument to make the SFC tool immediately check your computer for missing or changed system files.

/SCANONCE - You would use this argument to make the SFC tool check your computer for missing or changed system files on the next reboot.

/SCANBOOT - You would use this argument to make the SFC tool check your computer for missing or changed system files every time it boots up.

For most situations, you can just type: sfc /scannow to immediately have it run and check for the altered/deleted files.

Microsoft Backup Utility

Windows XP includes a backup utility that allows you to backup and restore data on your hard drives. Using this utility you can backup and restore personal data that you specify when you create the backup. Regular backups of your data is suggested to avoid losing that data in the case of a failure. The Microsoft Backup utility can be found in System Tools under Accessories in your Programs menu.

System Restore

System Restore is a feature of Windows XP that allows you to restore your computer to a previous known working state in the event of a problem. This is done without loss of personal files or data such as word processing documents, spreadsheets, music, images, etc. This feature is enabled by default and runs in the background making backups after certain events happen on your computer. System restore functions are only available to an administrator of the computer, therefore if you are not an administrator, you will not be able to follow this tutorial.

System Restore protects your computer by creating backups of vital system configurations and files. These backups are known as restore points. These restore points are created before certain events take place in order to give you a recourse in case something goes wrong during that event.

If you would like to learn more about this feature you can read this tutorial: Windows XP System Restore Guide

Windows File Protection

Windows File Protection protects certain files that are essential for the operating of your computer and Windows from being overwritten, deleted, or changed. WFP creates backups of these files that it deems are essential into a directory named %SYSTEMROOT%\system32\dllcache. When WFP notices one of these files being modified in any way, it will restore that file with a copy found in the dllcache folder.


Windows XP comes with many features that will allow you to backup settings on your computer in case of catastrophic failure as well as prevent files being modified by malicious programs. It is important to understand how to use these programs to the best of your ability in order to have a secure working environment.

As always if you have any comments, questions or suggestions about this tutorial please do not hesitate to tell us in the computer help forums.

Lawrence Abrams
Bleeping Computer Windows XP Basic Concepts Series Computer Support & Tutorials for the beginning computer user.

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