Backing Up and Restoring the Windows Registry





The Windows registry is a special database that contains the configuration settings needed by Windows programs and hardware.  It contains information about your screen colors, wallpaper, hardware devices and associated drivers, settings for your programs, and much more.  It is (ideally) the repository for all information that was saved in .INI files in the versions of Windows predating Windows 95.


Many Windows problems are the result of invalid or otherwise problematic settings in the Windows registry.  Such problems may be fixed by manually modifying the registry with Microsoft Registry Editor.  As a general rule, you should not attempt to modify your registry unless you are instructed to do so by a trustworthy source, such as a tech support agent you call for help, or a technical article on a vendor’s web site.  Making changes to the registry can create problems ranging from slowed performance, to programs that will not run, to Windows to starting at all.  Nonetheless, if you are instructed to make changes to the registry, it is a fairly straightforward and safe process if you are careful to follow instructions correctly.  The one important thing to remember before making changes is ALWAYS BACK UP YOUR REGISTRY.


The following sections explain how to back up and restore your registry for the various 32-bit versions of Windows.  Since not every solution is applicable for every version of Windows, I have included information about which solutions are applicable for which versions.  This information is not intended to be exhaustive, so for more information on using any of these programs to back up your registry, I recommend consulting Windows Help (Start > Help).  I also recommend Microsoft’s online knowledge base at  The knowledge base contains a large amount of information about the registry for every version of Microsoft Windows.



Solution #1:  Microsoft Registry Editor


Applicable To:


·        Windows 95

·        Windows 98

·        Windows Me

·        Windows NT

·        Windows 2000

·        Windows XP


The Microsoft Registry Editor or “RegEdit” is a very straightforward program to use for exporting and importing the registry.  To start RegEdit, click the Start button and select Run.  For the name of the program to open, type RegEdit (capitalization does not matter to Windows) and click OK.


When RegEdit opens up, you will see a window with two panes.  The left pane shows the main registry keys, all beginning with “HKEY”.  These are conceptually like folders which contain sub-folders and data stored for use by Windows.  The right pane shows the contents of the currently highlighted key.  If no key is highlighted, the right pane will be blank.


Do the following to export your registry:


  1. Click on the Registry option on the menu bar
  2. Select Export Registry File
  3. Be sure the All option is selected under Export range
  4. Type a name for the registry file and select the folder where you wish to save it
  5. Click Save


RegEdit will then create a registry file with the name you selected and the .REG file suffix.  I suggest using a descriptive name such as the current date so you can remember when and why you created the file.  An example would be the name 09-14-02 for a registry backup created on September 14, 2002.


In the event that something goes wrong when you modify your registry, I highly recommend saving the registry file to another drive when possible.  Since the Windows registry is usually quite large, the registry export file will probably be several megabytes in size and will not fit on a floppy disk.  I suggest saving it to another hard drive or partition or to removable media such as a Zip disk or CD-RW.


Later on if you should need to return to your previous settings, you can import the registry in one of three ways.  First, before importing your registry, consider the following:  any changes that you or any applications made subsequent to exporting your registry may be lost when you import from a registry file.


The two easiest ways to import the registry are:


  1. Open RegEdit and select Import Registry File from the Registry menu.  Then change to the folder where the file is located, select the file, and click Open.
  2. Using Windows Explorer, change to the folder where the file is located and double-click the file.


Note:  Always be cautious about double-clicking a registry files especially if you do not know what it contains.  Depending on the contents of the file, importing it could create problems by overriding your current Windows and program settings.


In the event you cannot boot into Windows, you can also restore the registry after booting into DOS mode with a system disk.  (If you are running Windows NT, 2000, or XP, you will not be able to use this solution if Windows is installed on an NTFS partition.)


Do the following to create a system disk in Windows 95 and 98:


  1. Open the Control Panel and double-click Add/Remove Programs
  2. Click the Startup Disk tab
  3. Insert a blank disk and click Create Disk


For other versions of Windows you may create a system disk by doing the following:


  1. Open Windows Explorer
  2. Insert a blank disk
  3. Right-click the floppy drive icon and select Format
  4. Select the option to create an MS-DOS startup disk


Once you have booted to a DOS prompt, you will import the registry.  Assuming the registry was exported to the file named REGISTRY.REG in the folder, D:\RegBack, type each command followed by the ENTER key at the DOS prompt:

  • C:
  • REGEDIT D:\RegBack\registry.reg


This will start the process of importing your old registry.  Depending on the size, it could take thirty minutes or longer to complete.



Solution #2:  Windows Registry Checker


Applicable To:


·        Windows 98

·        Windows Me


For Windows 98 and Me, the Windows Registry Checker is automatically run when you start Windows.  It serves two purposes:  1) it checks the registry for any problems, and 2) it backs up the registry.  Although it does not allow you to specify a name for the registry backup, the Registry Checker is easier to use than the Registry Editor. 


Do the following to back up your registry:


  1. Click the Start button and select Run.
  2. Type ScanRegw and click OK
  3. After checking your registry, Registry Checker will ask if you wish to back up the registry again.


To restore a registry backup created with Registry Checker, you will need to boot into DOS and then type the following command at the DOS prompt:


·        C:

·        CD \WINDOWS



ScanReg will display a window with a list of recent registry backups and the dates they were created.  Use the arrow keys to move up or down to highlight the backup to restore from and press ENTER.  If you wish to cancel press the ESCAPE key.


One disadvantage to using the Registry Checker is that it automatically discards the oldest backup every time it is rerun.  If you wait to long, an older version of your registry it may be deleted before you have the chance to restore it.



Solution #3:  Microsoft Configuration Backup


Applicable to:


·        Windows 95


In addition to the Registry Editor, Windows 95 has a registry backup tool called Configuration Backup.  It is not included with Windows by default, but must be installed manually.  If you have the Windows 95 installation CD, do the following to install it:


  1. Create a new folder for the program.
  2. Insert the Windows 95 CD and go the folder called x:\Other\Misc\CfgBack (where x represents the letter of your CD-ROM drive)
  3. You will see two files in the CfgBack folder.  Drag the two files from the CD to the new folder you created in Step 1
  4. To run the program, double-click the blue, yellow, and red icon.  To read information on how to use the program, double-click the file with a book icon.


When you run the program, it will walk you through the steps to back up your registry.  The options to back up and restore the registry are accessed from the same window in Configuration Backup.  To create a backup, type the name you wish to use and click Backup.  (I suggest using a descriptive name such as the current date so you can remember when and why you created the backup.)  To restore a backup, click to highlight the particular registry backup you want and then click Restore.



Solution #4:  Emergency Repair Utility


Applicable to:


·        Windows 95


Windows 95 has another program called the Emergency Repair Utility (ERU) which can backup up the registry and other critical files.  The program is located on the Windows 95 CD in the folder, x:\Other\Misc\ERU (where x represents your CD-ROM drive letter).  If you right-click the file named ERU.INF and select Install, ERU will be installed to your hard drive.


When you run ERU, you may save the backup to a diskette or to a folder on your hard drive, a Zip disk, or a writable CD.  Since the registry files may be several megabytes in size, the backup will probably not fit on a diskette.



Solution #5:  Microsoft Backup


Applicable To:


·        Windows 98

·        Windows Me

·        Windows 2000

·        Windows XP


The Microsoft Backup program has the ability to back up the registry along with other files on your computer.  Although it does offer the option to back up only your registry, it is good practice to use the program regularly to back up your registry and other files that are important to you.


The Microsoft Backup program is not installed with Windows by default.  If you do not find listed under Start > Programs > Accessories > System Tools, you can install it as follows:


  1. Insert the Windows setup CD
  2. Open the Control Panel and double-click Add/Remove Programs
  3. Click the Windows Setup tab
  4. Scroll down the list of components and double-click System Tools
  5. Click to place a checkmark next to Backup
  6. Click OK


Windows 98, ME

When you create a backup, be sure to go into Options, click the Advanced tab, and select the option to back up the Windows Registry.


Windows 2000, XP

In Microsoft Windows Backup for Windows 2000 and XP, the left pane displays the contents of your computer.  Below the list of drives installed on My Computer, you will see an option for System State.  Check this option when performing a backup to save your registry and other critical system files.



Solution #6:  System Restore


Applicable To:


·        Windows XP


Windows XP includes a new tool called System Restore which allows you to save your registry and other system information.  You may launch System Restore by selecting Start > More Programs > Accessories > System Tools > System Restore.  When the program opens, do the following to create a restore point:


  1. Select the option to create a restore point and click Next
  2. Type a Restore Point Description (such as today's date)
  3. Click Create


To view the saved restore points, click Home or go back to the beginning and select Restore my computer to an earlier time.  Do the following to restore:


  1. Click the calendar button and navigate to find the restore point created for a particular day.  When a day is selected on the calendar, any restore points created for that day will be listed to the right of the calendar.  If none were created the list will be blank.
  2. Select the restore point and click Next to complete the restore.  Be sure to shut down all programs and save any open files, as Windows will shut down and restart after restoring.