System Restore is a useful feature where you can roll back system files, registry keys, installed programs, etc., to a previous state in the event of system malfunction or failure. It is enabled by default after installing Windows and you can find the settings in Control Panel > System > System Protection. From there you are able to turn the protection on or off for a specific drive, delete restore points and adjust the maximum disk space used for system protection.
When things go wrong, rolling back using System Restore may not necessarily fix the problem because you don’t know what are being restored from the backup. If you haven’t noticed, Microsoft did not provide a way for you to access the system restore files. Thanks to Nic, he created a very useful tool called System Restore Explorer that allows you to browse system restore points.
System Restore Explorer is a free and very easy to use software that allows you to access system restore points by mounting to a folder with only a click of a button. Upon running System Restore Explorer, all restore points are displayed on the window except for restore points created in the last 5 days. You can uncheck the box at the bottom to show restore points created in the last 5 days. To view and browse the files, select the restore point and click the Mount button. The restore point will be mounted to a HarddiskVolumeShadowCopy directory at C drive.
You won’t be able to edit, delete or copy files into the HarddiskVolumeShadowCopy folder as it is write-protected. However you will be able to open or copy the files out from the folder for editing. When you are done accessing the system restore points, simply click the Unmount button at System Restore Explorer to remove the folders from C drive. Other than that, System Restore Explorer user interface also shows the disk space being used by the restore points and you can easily delete restore points from the software by clicking the Delete button.
A very useful tool in case you want to get back some of the old files that are being backed up by System Restore without performing an unnecessary System Restore.