The registry on Windows is a database that stores all sorts of information about the operating system. It’s used by applications, services, programs – essentially everything to do with settings and configuration is stored in the registry.
Simply put, the registry is structured by keys and values. Think of the keys as folders, like the ones you store your personal data in. The values are the data inside the folder and it’s the values that hold the vital settings data.
It’s uncommon to need to fiddle around in the registry. It takes care of itself, automatically adding and editing values as you perform actions on the system. But things can go wrong. Or perhaps you want to tweak something. If you’re following advice guides online, they might suggest going into the registry and making some changes.
Before you do make any changes to your registry, you’ll want to back it up. In fact, there might be other reasons to specifically back up the registry. Perhaps you’re moving to another computer and want to transfer those system settings across, for example.
However, backing up the registry isn’t as straight forward as it would be for a regular data file. A lot of the registry actually can’t be manually edited. The same goes for restoring data into it. You can’t back up the entire registry and then restore it while running your system normally – you’ll get an error, essentially telling you that you can’t overwrite data that’s currently being used.
Most of the time, when talking about backing up the registry, it’s just about backing up a specific part of it. Perhaps even a specific value.
To launch the registry, press Windows key + R, input regedit, and press OK. Navigate to the key that you want to back up, or the key that contains the necessary values.
To back up a key, right click it from the left-hand pane and click Export. Give the file a name – something identifiable for later – and Save. You can then make any changes necessary to that key, safe in the comfort that you have a backup.
When it comes to restoring that particular key, you simply open the file. You’ll get a warning, basically asking if you know what you’re doing, so click Yes. It’ll then restore that data into the registry.
You can backup the entire registry in the same way. Right click the root folder, click Export, and give it a name. It’ll be a large file, but that’s fine. The only problem is, as mentioned previously, you won’t be able to restore it in the same way. You will get an error that “not all data was successfully written to the registry” because “some keys are open by the system or other processes.”
Instead, if you want to back up the whole registry, the best thing to do is use System Restore. Do a system search for ‘create a restore point’ and follow that process through. To restore later, launch System Restore again and follow the wizard through.
How to Backup and Restore the Windows Registry
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