There are many enhancements to Windows' restore and recovery capabilities, including:
1.) Vista includes the ability to backup key files and folders or your entire hard drive, just like Acronis. It can also be scheduled to do incremental backups on a regular schedule. Time will tell if this means the end to True Image's and Norton's packages.
2.) System Restore has been enhanced to backup far more system changes than in Windows ME and XP. I'm not sure it would be much help in your case, but it certainly is a welcomed enhancement.
3.) Windows Recovery Environment is a set of tools that will let you help diagnose and resolve boot-time issues, registry corruption, and BSODs itself instead of forcing you to rely on the Microsoft Knowledge Base for guidance and Recovery Console, among other things, to fix the problems. This includes the ability to run System Restore's functionality outside of Windows.
4.) Shadow Copies/Previous Versions is available in the Business, Enterprise, and Ultimate editions. It can be set to automatically backup multiple editions of user-specified files, including when restore points are created. You can then choose to open the current version or previous versions, a benefit if you delete pat of a document and don't realize your mistake until after you save and close the document. This is already a feature in Windows Server 2003 as well as Microsoft Office 2003, but brings the functionality home to all file types.
These are all seperate functions but they are integrated together under the System Restore roof, just as Norton, Symantec, and others have brought antivirus, firewall, and privacy protection together in one package. Thus, you have control over each individual functionality but all in more or less one place.
I hope you never need the functionality, but it will be there if you ever do.
I have WinXPSP2Home on my Dell E510 and was fiddling around making a very minor registry value change in HKEY_CURRENT_USER Control Panel > Desktop when my forearm clipped the lower right side of the keyboard and about one-third of the registry entries disappeared. System Restore could not restore to any previous restore point. I have had this restore problem before but usually it works. If not I always have an up-to-date Acronis backup to rely on and now have NTbackup installed to backup the registry.
Does the new Vista have a more "robust" system restore that anyone can comment on.