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How to Back Up the Windows Registry

Most PC troubleshooting tasks can be done using tools that come with Windows or the hardware that it runs on. If you must view, modify, or create information in the Registry, you can do so using the Registry Editor. But before you tinker with the registry, back it up.

Follow these steps to back up the Registry:

  1. Press Win+R to summon the Run dialog box.

  2. Type regedit and press Enter.

  3. In Windows 7 and Windows Vista, click the Yes or Continue button or type the administrator’s password.

    Behold the Registry Editor window on the screen.

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  4. Choose File→Export.

    The Export Registry File window appears. It’s basically a specialized version of the typical Save As dialog box.

  5. Choose a location for the backup.

    Windows automatically selects the System32 folder beneath the Windows folder. Saving the backup there works, but instead you may wish to choose your User Profile (or “home”) folder or save to an external device, like a media card.

  6. Type a name for the backup.

  7. Click the Save button to save.

  8. Proceed with whatever you plan on doing in the Registry.

  9. Close the Registry Editor window when you’re done.

To restore a Registry backup, choose File→Import in the Registry Editor.

A backup of the Registry is made when you set a restore point in Windows. In fact, a quick way to restore the Registry is simply to run System Restore. But, as with backing up the Registry, you need to ensure that you set a restore point before you modify the Registry.

All the information organized into keys and values is vitally important to Windows. Don’t experiment with the Registry by modifying values to see what happens. Doing so can have adverse effects on your computer.

  • You can also run the Registry Editor by popping up the Start menu and typing regedit in the Search box. Then click the Registry Editor icon that appears on the menu. This trick doesn’t work, however, on every PC.

  • You can explore the Registry, view things, waste time there. But don’t view the Registry as a playground or an opportunity to discover more about your computer. Use the Registry only when you need to, such as when directed to do something by documentation or technical support people.

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