Tweak System Restore to Perfect Your PC ProtectionOvercome your system's reluctance to create new restore points in XP or Vista; maximize the life of your LCD monitor.
George Vipond, White Rock, British Columbia
System restore should back up the Registry and many important system files frequently and automatically in Windows XP and Vista. But various conditions can prevent System Restore from creating backups or (as it calls them) restore points:
Tight drive space: To create a restore point, you need about 200MB of free space on the system drive or partition (usually the C: drive). When this space is unavailable, your PC may stop creating restore points and may delete existing ones.
No Task Scheduler: System Restore uses Windows' Task Scheduler to create system restore points automatically every day. To make sure Task Scheduler is active, select Start, Run (or Start in Vista), type services.msc, and press Enter. Scroll to and right-click Task Scheduler, and choose Properties. If 'Service status' isn't set at 'Started', click the Start button. And make sure that 'Startup type' reads 'Automatic' before you click OK.
No rest for the OS: System Restore creates restore points automatically only when your PC is turned on but idle. If the system is always off, hibernating, or in use, you get no automatic restore points.
Even when System Restore works properly, not all restore points are usable. Restore points aren't complete backups. Each holds only the changes since the previous restore point, and System Restore may need to use all the restore points on your hard drive so as to revert to any one of them. In that case, if one restore point is corrupted, they're all useless.
If you can't get any of your restore points to work, remove all of them so you can start over; to do this, turn System Restore off and then on again. In Windows XP, select Start, Run, type sysdm.cpl, and press Enter. Click the System Restore tab in the System Properties dialog box, check Turn off System Restore, click Apply, uncheck Turn off System Restore, and click OK. In Vista, click Start, type sysdm.cpl, and press Enter (or select System Restore from the list of programs that appears as you type). Click the System Protection tab (or choose open System Protection), and uncheck Local Disk (C:). The exact name of this option varies, but it should end with '(System)'. You may have to wait a few seconds for it to appear. Select Turn System Restore Off in the System Protection pop-up, click Apply, recheck Local Disk (C:), and click OK.
Maximize LCD Life
Does repeatedly turning my LCD monitor on and off wear out the light source, and thus shorten the life of the monitor?
J. Trent Corbett, Chesterfield, Virginia
Almost certainly not. The fluorescent light bulbs that are used to back-light LCDs continually pass through an on-and-off-like cycle while your monitor is in operation. The less time they spend cycling on and off, the longer they'll live.
But maintaining the screen at too bright a setting for a long time can leave yellow marks on the LCD itself. To extend its life, keep the display as dim as you can without causing discomfort as you work. Of course, your eyes are harder to replace than your monitor, so don't dim it to the point where it causes eyestrain.
Notebook LCDs, which are more expensive to replace, normally run with a dim light anyway to increase battery life.
Tell Windows to Knock Off the Restart Nags
It seems that every time Windows updates, it issues annoying reboot reminders every 5 minutes. To stop the pop-ups in XP Pro and Vista, select Start, Run (just Start in Vista), type gpedit.msc, and press Enter. Navigate in the Group Policy Object Editor's left pane to Local Computer, Policy, Computer Configuration, Administrative Templates, Windows Components, Windows Update. In the right pane, double-click Re-prompt for restart with scheduled installations. In the next dialog box, select Enabled, and set the number of minutes to something very high, such as 600. Click OK and close the Group Policy Object Editor.