How to Back-Up the Windows Registry

The Microsoft Windows registry is a very sensitive place. The registry is a large database filled with all the settings that your computer needs to startup and run correctly. These settings are very important, and changing one wrong value can corrupt your registry or otherwise cause your computer to become unstable or unresponsive. For this reason, the average computer user avoids the topic of Windows registry repair in fear of causing irreversible damage. What many users don’t know is that there are precautions that you can take to make sure you can reverse and Windows registry edit what goes wrong.

Before making any type of Windows registry edit it’s important to make Windows registry backups. Consider doing so as part of the process of making registry modifications. There are a number of processes to make backups. The most common method is to do so using the Windows registry editor, REGEDIT. There is an “Export” feature in the Windows registry editor that lets you backup the entire registry, or a specific “branch”. You can also perform a Windows registry backup using the familiar Windows system restore feature. A more complex route would be to backup the registry from the command line.

Windows Registry Backups with REGEDIT

If you are making a Windows registry edit using REGEDIT, the registry editor pre-installed in Windows, then you can choose to backup the registry from there. Commonly this method is used when you want to perform Windows registry backups on specific areas. When you plan to make a Windows registry edit, you can export that “branch”, meaning that key and everything inside of it, as a precaution. To do so, navigate to the key that you would like to backup. Right click on the key and choose “Export”. Choose a file name for the backup and where you would like it saved to and then click “Save”. You can do this with branches of any size, and any number of times that you would like. This method is best when you have specific areas you want to have as a backup. If you would like to have Windows registry backups of the entire registry, then it would be best to use System Restore or do so from the command line.

Backup the Registry with System Restore

System restore is a very useful tool in Windows. It allows you to create a “Restore Point” meaning a backup of all the important elements of your Operating System, including the Windows registry. Normally your computer will create its own restore points at certain intervals, however you can also create them manually. If you are looking to change Windows registry and want to have a backup of the entire registry rather than select branches, this is your best option.

To create a restore point, go to your start menu and select “Programs”, then “Accessories” and finally to “System Tools”. Click on “System Restore” to bring up the System restore wizard. Follow the instructions in the wizard until a system restore point is created. If you make a fault Windows registry edit, you can always restore your computer to the exact settings it was at when you created this restore point. Rather than navigating through the “Start Menu”, you can also choose to launch the System Restore Wizard by entering the following command into a command prompt or “Run” dialog:

%SystemRoot%\System32\restore\rstrui.exe. 

Windows Registry Backups from the Command Line

The final, and most technical method of backing up the Windows registry involves using command prompt. To do this, you use the “Console Registry Tool”, REG.exe. Performing Windows registry backups in this fashion is usually done when a user would like to automate the process with programming scripts. To use the Console Recovery Tool, open a command prompt by typing “cmd.exe” into the “Run” dialog in your Start menu. The command you type should look like the following:

REG EXPORT [KEY TO EXPORT] [WHERE TO SAVE IT]

For example, if you would like to export the key “HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software” and save it to “C:\Windows\Backups” you would type the following:

REG EXPORT HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software C:\Windows\Backups

If you would like to view the backup, simply navigate to where you have chosen to store it on your computer (C:\Windows\Backups in this example). If you would like to know more about what you can do with the Console Registry tool, you can type “reg /?” for help on using the tool.

More Resources

Understanding how to make registry backups are incredibly important before attempting Windows registry repairs. Even the smallest Windows registry edit can cause serious damage, so make sure you always create backups, regardless of how innocent the changes may seem. To learn more about making Windows registry backups and why they’re so important, see some of the resources below.

How to Backup and Restore the Registry in Windows XP

How to Backup the Windows Registry in Windows 7, Vista and XP

Protect Your Registry – Backup Regularly

In Windows – How do I Backup the Registry?

Backing Up and Restoring Registry Keys in Windows