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Incident Report: System Restore

Category:softwareDate of Incident:2003.06.02
Product:System RestoreVersion:WinXP-SP1


System Restore is a critically important tool in Windows XP, allowing one to rollback a system configuration in the event of some event (commonly installing new software) causes system problems or crashes.


I install enough new programs so that now and then I do encounter one that causes a system crash of some sort, so I have occasion to need System Restore's vital service. One fine day I attempted to use it, selected an available restore point from the list it presents, and then received this message:

system restore error message

Scenario problems:

The vendor gets points for clearly stating that the task failed. Perhaps even more important, with a piece of software that will make crucial system modifications, it is vital to know whether it did part of the job or none of it in the case of failure. This error clearly states that no changes were made. Finally, it is incumbent upon good software to present alternate courses of action to achieve one's goal. And on the surface, this error message apparently does that, by suggesting that one try a different restore point. The problem is that after I then tried every available restore point (i.e. those within a time period in which I knew nothing else had changed), all of them failed with the same message. So what does one do in that case? The way to improve this user experience is to provide some hint of what went wrong or why it went wrong, or at least a pointer to an article in the vendor's knowledge base.

In a Nutshell:

This is a tough problem, because most computer users are not technical experts, so providing too much in the way of technical data would not be useful either. Perhaps ultimately one would just have to contact the computer or the OS vendor for help...

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