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Dire Warnings and Portents (or, A Few Things To Watch Out For)

Be careful not to roll the system back to a time before you "activated" your copy of XP. That creates something of a "too much fountain of youth and you disappear" problem. Be ready to reactivate the OS before excavating that deep.

Another reason to keep restoration as close to the most recent stratum as possible is to avoid having to reload too many service packs, patches, and drivers for both the system and applications. Even though your content should not be wiped out in a System Restore operation, you'll have to restore shortcuts and icons connected to your content in the Start menu. If you have the "All Your Base Are Belong To Us" Flash movie hooked up to a little alien icon, you'll have to go claim that base one more time.

XP passwords and hints, including Microsoft Internet Explorer and Content Advisor passwords and hints, won't be restored. This means that old passwords and hints won't overwrite new ones. That's a good thing. But passwords for programs, such as Hotmail Messenger and other web server–based passwords, will be restored—that is, they'll be overwritten by passwords saved in old restore points. If the earlier passwords are different, and the user isn't expecting the password to change back, she may think she's locked out of her program.

The reality is that the only passwords on web server–based programs that are overwritten are the ones the user's system remembers. The current passwords she knows will open the programs across the web on the server—but you'll probably get a help desk call if you don't mention the possibility.

Domain and computer passwords change every 30 days by default. During a System Restore operation, those passwords will roll back to a previous state on the local machine. Meanwhile, if information about joining domains is stored in Active Directory, that info doesn't roll back. Result: Locked-out user. To fix this problem, remove and re-add the computer to the domain.

Get Service Pack 1 for Windows XP. A Bugtraq report says that Windows XP stores restore information in the System Volume Information folder, and the subdirectories to that folder allow unprivileged users to browse the subdirectories. Service Pack 1 closes the door on that.

You'll have to restore compression on files and folders, if you want it back. System Restore doesn't monitor or record changes due to compression, so it can't replace those changes.

Above all:

Educate users that System Restore will never be a substitute for backing up data files. Used to roll back certain changes that can wreak havoc on a system (like a bird entering a jet engine at just the wrong angle), System Restore can make it easier to keep your Windows users flying straight and level for a long time.

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