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How to Backup and Restore Windows Registry

written by: •edited by: Rebecca Scudder•updated: 12/18/2009

How often do you use your Windows registry cleaners? It is a good practice to backup your Windows registry before you run the registry optimizers. This part of XP Windows Registry tweaks deals with XP registry keys best backup method after a discussion about the new XP Windows registry editor.

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    Windows Registry - Tweaking using the New Registry Editor

    Most of you often use XP Windows registry optimizers to fix Windows registry errors. You know that the registry is accessed very often - whenever you start an application or play with the hardware. Hence we will skip the basics of registry in this article.

    The main difference with Windows XP registry editor and the previous versions was that the previous ones allowed you a read-only view using the "regedt32" command. Windows XP brings in a new Registry Editor, which presents Windows registry in editable format. No matter whether you type "regedit" or "regedt32" in the RUN command, you get the new Windows Registry Editor 5.1.

    Making changes to XP Windows registry is normal these days. It is a good practice to backup your registry before you attempt to edit/fix/clean it. Though there are four methods to backup the registry, we'll discuss the best two backup methods that suit your needs and won't go on to corrupt the XP Windows registry keys, along with annotations for any downsides to the methods.

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    Backup and Restore for Windows Registry

    The Windows registry contains five main keys and countless sub-keys under the main keys. You can backup the entire registry, a set of keys, or a particular key - whatever you want. The most widely options used to backup the registry are Reg file and Hives.

    Registry Backup to Reg Files

    This option creates an editable registry backup file. You can edit the backup file using Notepad or any other text editor. The most common method of exporting keys of the XP Windows registry, the backup can be merged into current, active registry using a double click or a right click.

    DOWNSIDE 1: If you double-click, the reg file is added to the registry after a confirmation dialog. If you accidentally click YES, you add an incorrect backup to current registry.

    Restoring .REG File: Right-click on the Reg file and select Merge or use File -> Import in the Windows Registry Editor. When you use this method, the backup is checked for relevant keys. As the keys are found, they are replaced by the backup.

    DOWNSIDE 2.2: If some key (in backup) is missing in the current XP Windows registry, it is also added to the current Windows registry. This usually happens when you uninstall any program and later restore an old backup Reg file.

    DOWNSIDE 2.2: If you changed a value of any key using the Windows registry editor, the key will be overwritten with older data (in case you made any changes to the backup using Notepad).

    Overall, this method is good if you are sure that you will not delete or alter any keys in the backup .reg file.

    Registry Back up to Hive Files

    Selecting this option will create an image of the selected key in binary format (not text).

    Downside 1: You cannot edit the hive file (backup file).

    Downside 2: You cannot export the entire registry into a single file using this option. If you try to backup the entire XP Windows registry by selecting My Computer icon, you get a message that the key selected is invalid.

    Restoring Registry Hive: You can always add it back to the Windows registry using File -> Import option.

    Overall, this is the XP registry keys best backup method if you do not intend to make any changes to the exported file. Of course, the other downside - missing keys- apply to the Hive method too.

    Other Backup Types for Windows Registry

    Text File: Exporting the registry or XP Windows registry key using this option creates a text file. You can view and edit keys on Notepad but cannot merge this back-up into XP Windows registry.

    Win9x/NT4 .reg Option: This option creates a Reg file similar to the first type. The only difference is that the backup created using this option is compatible with older versions of Windows. It would be a very rare case when you would export one computer's registry to another!

    Now that you know the pros and cons of different types of registry backup, you should be able to select the option that best suits your purpose.

Tweaking the Registry Editor - Tweaking Registry to Improve Windows Performance

Tweaking the registry editor allows you more control over your machine and OS. This Guide helps you learn tweaking the registry editor to acheive the following: increase Windows Startup speed; increase Windows Shutdown, XP Registry Keys Best Backup Method ; and creating custom context menu;
  1. Tweak Windows Registry to Increase Windows Startup Speed
  2. Tweaking Windows Registry to Increase Windows Shutdown Speed
  3. How to Backup and Restore Windows Registry
  4. Tweaking the Windows Registry - Custom Context Menu for Beginners
Additional Info
Additional Info