The Back to Basics series looks at common tasks and problems that Windows users might encounter on a daily basis and explains solutions and ways to do those "things". To kickoff this new article series I'm going to look at ways to backup the Windows Registry.
The Windows Registry is the core of the Windows system and malware likes to use it to spread its disease throughout the whole system.
A good way to be on the safe side is to backup the Windows Registry regularly so that it can be restored when needed. This can also be useful if you encounter errors at one point in time and want to restore the Registry to fix the issues you are experiencing.
For instance, the installation of a new software program may make changes to the system that you want undone. Uninstallation may not help in this case, but restoring a previous Registry snapshot might.
It is better of course to create a full system backup.
Most of the time there is a Microsoft way to do things, and an easier one provided by third party developers and their applications.
The Microsoft way to backup the Windows Registry:
Microsoft suggests to create system restore points which automatically includes the Windows Registry. System Restore has to be turned on in Windows Services as a requirement.
Windows Vista (and newer operating system) users type systempropertiesprotection in the search box and press enter. Windows XP users on the other hand run %SystemRoot%\system32\restore\rstrui.exe from the Run box (Windows R).
The menus are easy to follow through, it is just a matter of selecting Create A New Restore Point, assigning a descriptive name to it and clicking on Create. Windows Vista users might have to overcome the User Account Control before they reach System Restore. They find the Create button in the System Properties dialog box, on the System Protection tab.
Update: Windows 7 and Windows 8 users may to press the Windows-key, enter system restore and pick the right tool from the results listing to create a System Restore point on their system.
Alternative option to backup the Registry
A second option that you have is to back up hives of the Windows Registry using the Windows Registry Editor.
- Tap on the Windows-key, type regedit.exe and hit the Enter-key to load the Registry Editor.
- Confirm the UAC prompt that is launched.
- Select what you want to back up using the left sidebar listing of Registry hives.
- Open File > Export.
- Type a name for the Registry backup and pick a location you want to save it to.
This saves the selection to the local system. You can restore it at any point in time using the "import" option under File.
The third-party way to backup the Windows Registry:
Download ERUNT, a free software to backup and restore the Windows Registry that runs on most editions and versions of Windows including Windows XP and Windows Vista. An alternative to Erunt is Regbak.
ERUNT requires minimal user input to backup the Registry. A click on OK on the welcome screen loads the program interface. It is usually not required to make any changes in this menu but to change the location of the Registry backup. It would be ideal to store it on another hard drive.
A click on OK creates a backup of the Windows Registry which can be restored by executing the program from the backup folder.
Update: Erunt is compatible with newer versions of Windows as well. You may run into an UAC prompt but won't encounter other issues. Just run the program and use it to backup the Windows Registry using the software.