Windows stores virtually everything that makes it work in a hierarchical file database called the Windows Registry. The registry contains all of the configuration settings for the operating system, programs, services, components, and just about anything else. Everything from icon size to taskbar color is stored here.
The registry is made up of millions of keys and values. You can think of keys as folders and values ??as data stored in folders. In Registry Editor, the keys actually look like folders, and the values ??are what contains the actual settings. Each key in the registry can have more than one value, like more than one file can be stored in a folder.
In addition, values ??can store data of various types, including String, Binary, DWORD, QWORD, and others. You don’t need to understand this level of detail, but hopefully you understand the structure of the registry.
When it comes to backing up the registry, you really have two options: manually backing up parts of the registry using export, or backing up the entire registry using system restore. When you make changes to the registry, it is always a good idea to create a restore point and then also back up the edited registry key.
There is a way to export the entire registry, but this is not the best option for several reasons. First, you will end up with a large file that needs to be saved somewhere. Second, if you only change one parameter, trying to import the entire registry back later can overwrite many other new values ??that were written to other parts of the registry after export. This can actually lead to more problems and possible damage. Finally, you won’t even be able to import the entire registry back, because many of the keys will be used by Windows and therefore simply won’t be written.
The best option to back up and restore your entire registry is to use System Restore. Therefore, when making changes, first create a restore point and then manually back up the only edited partition. If there is a problem, you can always reload the exported partition simply by double-clicking the .reg file in Windows.
If you can no longer log into Windows because changing the registry has messed something up more seriously, you can simply run advanced restore options and select the previous restore point you created. I’ll explain both methods in detail below.
Open Registry Editor
First, let’s talk about opening the Registry Editor. In almost every recent version of Windows, you can open the Registry Editor by clicking the Start button and typing regedit.
You probably already know how to do this, given that you found this article while trying to learn how to back up your registry. Obviously, before making any changes to the registry, you should always make a backup. Now let’s move on to the main topic of this article about different ways to back up the Windows registry.
Backup registry partitions / partitions
In many of my posts, I’ve mentioned tricks or tips that require editing a key or value in the registry. If you’re going to make one change here and there, you don’t have to back up the entire registry.
Let’s say you are editing a value stored in the following key:
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE – SOFTWARE – Microsoft – Windows – Current version – File Explorer
You can right-click on the explorer and select Export to back up the entire key along with all subkeys and any of their values.
You will notice that there are a few more extra keys under the main explorer key. By default, only the selected branch will be exported along with the connected keys and values. If you want to export the entire registry, you need to select “All” in the “Export Range” section when saving the .reg file.
Again, I do not recommend backing up the entire registry this way, as you will receive a “Unable to Import” error when you try to import the file back.
So stick to exporting only selected branches and you’ll have a better chance of re-importing the registry file later. Now let’s talk about using System Restore to perform a full registry backup.
Fully backup log via system restore
Using System Restore, you will not run into problems when restoring to a previous state, because Windows solves all locked and used problems for you. You will always create a restore point when using Windows and it is very easy to do.
Click Start, type Create a restore point and click on the first result. You will be taken directly to the System Protection tab in the System Properties dialog box.
Click the New button at the bottom and another dialog box appears asking for a description. Click the Create button and the restore point will be created.
It only takes a few minutes to create a restore point. Once completed, you can restore a previously created restore point in two ways: through the same System Restore dialog in Windows or through the Advanced Restore Options screen. Below I will show you both methods.
Restore registry via Windows
If you can still start Windows and log in, you can try repairing the registry by opening System Restore. Click “Start”, type “System Restore” and click on the first result.
When the System Restore dialog box appears, click Next. On the next screen, you will see a list of all the different restore points currently on the system.
You will see manually created restore points as well as automatically created ones. You can check Show more restore points to see all restore points stored on the system. If you click the Scan for Affected Programs button, a list of all programs that were installed after the restore point was created will appear as they will be removed. It will also tell you which programs were removed after creating a restore point to be restored.
Click Next and Finish and that’s it. The system will revert to the previous restore point and you should be fine. Please note that System Restore does not change any of your personal information when the system state changes. It only looks at the registry, programs and system files.
Restore registry via recovery options
If you are unable to log into Windows, you can still use System Restore, but only with Advanced Boot Options in Windows 7 and Advanced Recovery Options in Windows 8 and Windows 10. This method is slightly different for all three operating systems, so I’ll explain all of them are below.
Windows 7 Recovery
Restore Windows 7
In Windows 7, you need to restart your computer and then press the F8 key during bootup. The “Advanced Boot Options” screen will open and the first option will be “Repair your computer”.
Highlight it and press Enter. This will load the System Recovery Options dialog box and here you will need to select System Restore.
Again, you just select the recovery you want to go back to and that’s it. Usually, if you have problems booting Windows, the Advanced Boot Options screen appears automatically.
Please note, if you cannot load boot options with F8, you may have to use a system repair disc. You can create a recovery disc on any Windows 7 PC by clicking Start and typing “System Recovery Disc.”
Insert your CD or DVD and click the Create Disc button. Once you receive this disc, you can boot directly from it to get the system recovery options mentioned above. The only thing you need to make sure is that the CD / DVD drive is listed first in the boot order.
Windows 8 Recovery
Restore Windows 8
In Windows 8, the entire recovery procedure and graphical interface are completely different. Instead of the boring DOS interface that used to be, you now have a trendy modern GUI that makes things a lot easier.
F8 no longer works when trying to navigate to this new interface. Fortunately, I have already written an article about the various methods you can use to get to the advanced boot options screen in Windows 8 Once you are on the home screen, click on “Troubleshoot.”
In the Troubleshoot section, click Advanced Options at the bottom.
Finally, click on System Restore on the final screen and you will see the familiar System Restore dialog box where you can select the restore point you want to return to.
In Windows 8, you can create a system recovery disc like in Windows 7, or create a USB recovery drive. To create a recovery disc, click Start, type recdisc.exe and create a recovery disc as a recovery drive.
Again, you only need to create them on a different computer if you cannot download the recovery options to your current computer.
Windows 10 Recovery
Windows 10 Recovery
The procedure in Windows 10 is exactly the same as soon as you get to the advanced boot options screen, but slightly different in Windows. Since Windows 10 has returned the Start menu to full form, you can click on it and then Settings.
Then click on Update & Restore in the Preferences dialog box. As you can see, the Settings dialog box in Windows 10 is completely different from the Settings dialog box in Windows 8.
Finally, you will be able to click the Restart Now button in the Advanced Startup section. This will take you to the same Select an Option screen where you click on Troubleshoot.
Hopefully, the detailed instructions above will allow you to safely and easily back up and restore your registry in Windows 7, Windows 8 and Windows 10. If you have any questions, feel free to leave comments. Enjoy!