The Windows registry is intolerant to any type of unwarranted changes done to it. Once you have made a change, it cannot be undone. The only way to revert your system back to the way it was before you made the changes is to reedit the registry manually. However, in the complicated registry hive, this is not always the best solution and it is not easily done. Therefore, it is important for you to take necessary precautions prior to making any changes to the registry. The best precaution that you can take is to back up the registry before you start modifying it.
Registry Backup Methods
Windows XP provides a number of methods that you can use to backup both the entire registry or just a part of the registry. You can also use third-party registry maintenance tools to create registry backups. Here, we are discussing four common methods.
Windows XP operating systems come equipped with a disaster recovery System Restore feature. You can use this feature to make a snapshot of the registry before starting with your edits. If you encounter any problem while operating your PC, you can revert your system settings, including the registry, back to when you took the last snapshot. This registry restore method will not have any effect on user-specific files such as history, emails, favorites, and user documents. However, this method is not quite reliable because it removes snapshots taken a long time ago to save system space. Therefore, in case you need to rollback registry changes done a long time ago, chances are that the System Restore might have already removed that particular snapshot.
Back up a Specific Registry Branch
If you want to create a backup of a specific branch or key of the registry, you can export the selected portion and save it in another location. To perform this action, select â€˜Startâ€™ and then select â€˜Runâ€™. In the displayed â€˜Openâ€™ box, type â€˜Regeditâ€™ and select â€˜OKâ€™. Next, in the â€˜Registry Editorâ€™ window, navigate to the key or branch you need to backup and select â€˜Exportâ€™ from the â€˜Fileâ€™ menu. In the â€˜Export Registry Fileâ€™ dialog box that is displayed, select a location to save the backup, enter a name in the â€˜Save inâ€™ file and click â€˜Saveâ€™. The backup is saved with .reg extension. In case you need to restore the file, just double-click on it. This will automatically merge the backed up contents to the registry. In case you want to back up the entire registry select the â€˜Allâ€™ option in the â€˜Export Rangeâ€™ section before selecting the â€˜Saveâ€™ button.
Windows XP also enables you to create a backup by using the command-line method. For this, run reg.exe command at Command Prompt. To view the full list of options that this utility provides, open Command Prompt, type â€˜regâ€™ and press â€˜Enterâ€™. This will display the list of commands that you can use with this utility.
Given below is an example to export a registry branch using the â€˜regâ€™ command.
REG EXPORT HKLM\Software\Microsoft C:\HKLM_Soft_Micro.reg
Backing up the Entire Registry
You can also create a backup of the entire registry using the NTBackup utility. NTBackup utility enables you to back up System State that includes registry, boot files, and COM+ Class Registration database.
Using a Registry Cleaner Software
If you are not comfortable in using any of the above methods, you can search and download a third-party registry cleaner software from the internet. The main purpose of registry cleaner software is to enable you to scan the registry and remove any obsolete and unwanted data from it. A good registry cleaner software also provides a registry backup option that you can use to create a registry backup prior to making any changes.
The registry is a very important part of all Windows operating systems. At times, you may need to make direct modifications to the registry either to rectify an error or to tweak the system to perform certain tasks. Whatever you may do, it is important that you back up the registry prior to making any changes to it. There are many different methods available both in the operating system and through third-party software that you can use to make a registry backup. You must use one of these methods before modifying the registry to ensure that, in case something goes wrong, you can restore the registry back to its original state.