View Full Version : Registry backups

26-11-2003, 11:59 AM
On another forum a flatmate got the following in response to her suggestion that a newbie (like us) should be advised to backup the registry before trying to alter it:

Most people on this forum are so unspecific when it comes to backing up and restoring the registry that I'd hate to find out how many people out there have had to, at the least, re-activate Windows.

Put simply, you cannot just backup the entire registry, then reapply it a couple hours later when you found out you f'ed it up. It's a matter of backing up specific portions and restoring them.

If the second para above is true have I been fooling myself in thinking that a backup made using regedit (and selecting "all") is of no use, can the entire registry not be restored in total?? I read FAQs 6 & 7 and got the impression that it could.



26-11-2003, 12:13 PM
Why would you want to alter the registry in the first place?? It might help knowing what you are trying to do firstly?


Terry Porritt
26-11-2003, 12:33 PM
I would say you are right Martina, that second paragraph would only be true if in that 2 hours significant changes had been made to the registry by installing/uninstalling programs.

There is a place or case if you like, for both saving the entire registry (often easier to do), and for just exporting a particular key or value.

If a program is being installed in order to try it out, then Id save the whole registry. If something goes badly wrong then the whole registry can be restored. I mean, one doesnt know what changes have been made to the registry by a program except by using before and after comparison software, and that can be a pain.

If one is playing with changing just one piece of a key, or a dword/string value etc, then yes, just export a small portion.

Terry Porritt
26-11-2003, 12:40 PM
Another thing, in win98, a backup of the registry is made by default the first time the computer is booted each day. I have found that invaluable in the past when Ive forgotten or havent bothered to back up the registry.when playing around.

I still have to find out if XP has that automatic facility,( I dont mean System Restore), but havent got around to it yet.

26-11-2003, 12:44 PM
Martina, it looks like the advice given is correct and you can't backup the entire registry for the Win 2000/ XP/ NT family. Have a look at this site (http://home.t-online.de/home/lars.hederer/erunt/), specifically the Detailed Information (English) page. Although I have not used it myself I have seen that program (ERUNT) recommended at a couple of forums and I plan to try it myself sometime.

If you intend to alter the registry you are able to backup (export) the branch or string that you intend to change and if things go wrong import your backup in again. If your whole system crashes and you are right in the deep stuff that's where disk image programs like Ghost come in handy. ;-)

26-11-2003, 12:46 PM
Lohsing.... I don't want to do anything with the registry, just have a backup copy which I thought I could use to restore the registry in case a registry disaster occurred. (much like the System Restore)

Terry P..... I think I understand what you are saying. If changes were made to the registry then a backup copy could be restored but any progs installed/uninstalled between registry backup and restore would not perform.

Thanks guys


26-11-2003, 12:49 PM
I'm a bit slow aren't I Terry? :-)

> If a program is being installed in order to try it out, then Id save the whole registry. If something goes badly wrong then the whole registry can be restored.
I use System Restore for that purpose and it works quite well.

> I still have to find out if XP has that automatic facility
It doesn't appear to, according to the link I posted above. That article is quite enlightening actually. ;-)

26-11-2003, 12:56 PM
Oh dear Fire-and-Ice. The following lil note from that article really blew my theory away:

Note: The "Export registry" function in Regedit is USELESS (!) to make
a complete backup of the registry. Neither does it export the whole
registry (for example, no information from the "SECURITY" hive is
saved), nor can the exported file be used later to replace the current
registry with the old one. Instead, if you re-import the file, it is
merged with the current registry, leaving you with an absolute mess of
old and new registry keys.

I give up trying to understand it.

Thanks heaps


26-11-2003, 01:16 PM

I was under the impression by choosing to backup 'System State' which is one of the options in Backup in XP that you are backing up the Registry and other critical system files. I backup System State regularly. Perhaps I am wasting my time? Comments please.


Terry Porritt
26-11-2003, 01:16 PM
We have to distinguish between win9x and XP.

In XP it appears that system restore is the best way of backing up the entire registry, and restoring will replace the existing registry. In win98 there was registry checker in system tools that gave an option to back up the entire registry.

Using regedit to export the whole registry as a .reg file by selecting "all", some 40MB or so, will as Martina says only merge with the existing directory, thus combining the two in a bit of a mess.

In XP there is a difference between merging a .reg file which just adds the saved entry onto whats already there and using the registry hives option. That creates a binary file which when restored overwrites that part of the registry.

Graham L
26-11-2003, 01:26 PM
Aha, this is the new Microsoft emphasis on security and stability in the software. :D

Terry Porritt
26-11-2003, 01:43 PM
Thats right Graham. When there was dos in Win98, the entire registry could be exported as a .reg file, and then re-imported to replace the registry from dos. Registry keys cant be replaced if they are open in windows by merging.

Oxie, I havent got around to using the XP Backup, I just copy the entire drive to another one every week using Norton Ghost, with System Restore as required between times when having a play around.

26-11-2003, 03:14 PM
Maybe I don't tinker with stuff well enough or I've just done it properly, but I have NEVER backed up a registry or restored it.

Susan B
26-11-2003, 04:47 PM
Looks to me that the Registry FAQ might need a little updating. :-)

26-11-2003, 08:02 PM
Hello Oxie - please bear with my newbie status. I think you are backing up the registry correctly using Backup but I thought I was doing it ok using Regedit . Someone with more knowledge had better advise you.

Backup is not loaded on my 'puter tho' I understand it can be from the OS cd (XP Home). Maybe I should get round to finding instructions and having a go at loading it. I was trying to backup the registry using regedit after I read the instructions in a FAQ file and at http://attechnical.com/WinTipREGbak.html

I'm afraid it all made sense - seemed simple so I have been doing it till today. My very big mistake seems to have been not checking that it was applicable to XP. Ah well, a trap for us newbies which I will not forget easily..

Thanks all


26-11-2003, 08:10 PM
The only problem with exporting the registry is that if you add a new key to it (eg: disable right click) and then realize 'Woops.. That feature sucks as I can't right click anymore' you go to import your registry and right click is still disabled.
This is because the exported registry is been reimported over the keys it backed up - not the entire registry, so what happens is you have ~1000 keys which are overwritten and the 1 key which you want changed is left alone because it wasn't in the export.

Simply speaking - you backup My documents and then add mynewdoc.rtf and do a few other things, you realize that you stuffed all your documents by doing something and you want to restore them, so you bring them back across and mynewdoc.rtf still exists even though it wasn't backed up as it wasn't included in the initial backup and therefore left alone.

Terry Porritt
26-11-2003, 08:39 PM
Well, Martina, that article is quite wrong for both win 98 and XP, so you havent actually been saving your registry.

If the exported .reg registry file is clicked on it will "merge", not replace the registry for both win 98 and XP.

Now this is the interesting difference. In Win 95/98 the registry can be successfully exported to a text .reg file and then re-imported, overwriting the existing registry.
In XP however the whole registry cannot be re-imported from a .reg file because some keys are open or in use.
You can easily check this out by trying it, no harm will be done. The registry is just overwritten as far as it is able to be ( ie it is exactly the same if you dont change anything), and then an error message will come up about keys being open.

So in summary, if you are going to alter a registry entry, export that entry as a hive file. Then if things go wrong you can import the original to overwrite the wrong entry.

If an entry is to be added to, eg someone may say "this is a good mod, use this reg file then, import the reg file and additions will be made to what you already have.

If you want to backup the entire registry, say before adding hardware, or before installing some program, then use System Restore.

Terry Porritt
26-11-2003, 08:44 PM
.......System Restore to create a restore point.