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Windows Registry

Windows Registry

Ever wonder about the history of the Windows Registry and how it came to be what it is today? Well, if you’re interested in that, keep reading and get some answers to your questions! There is also some additional information about backing up the Registry from what we have provided to you before.

Ever since Windows 95, the Windows operating system has been using a centralized hierarchical database to store system settings, hardware configurations and user preferences. This database is called the Windows Registry, or more commonly known as the Registry. When new hardware is installed in the computer, a user changes settings, such as their desktop background. Well, when new software is installed, this information is stored in the Registry. The operating system then continually references this information during its operation. Though understanding the Registry will provide good knowledge into the inner workings of your computer, it is important to take extreme care when working with the Registry. Modifying it incorrectly can cause problems with the use of your operating system.


The Registry is a key component of the Windows operating system. It is so important that without it, Windows would not even run. When a new piece of hardware or software is installed in Windows, it stores its configuration into the Registry. This allows Windows to retrieve that information at later dates, such as when it is starting up. As Windows starts, it will read the configuration in the Registry and know what drivers need to be loaded, what settings need to be applied or what resources need to be allocated in order for this equipment to work. Because this information is stored in the Registry on your hard drive, Windows has this information available each time it boots up.

The Registry though, is not only for operating system settings. User preferences and application settings are stored in the Registry as well. When you change your desktop background or screen saver, these details are stored in the Registry. Now, when you shut down Windows and start it up again at a later time, your preferences are available and loaded automatically. Application settings, such as what directory you would like to download files to or what your default font is in a word processor, are stored here as well. As you can see, the Registry contains information that is not only vital to the use of the operating system, but also essential in allowing you to customize Windows to your particular tastes.

Viruses, spyware and other types of malware can cause corruption and damage to the Registry. With this in mind, it is important to backup your registry so that you know you have a clean copy stored safely on your hard drive in case of an emergency.

Backing Up the XP Registry – Two Methods

Method 1: Using System Restore

One way to backup the registry is to create a system restore snapshot. System restore returns your computer to a previous snapshot without losing recent personal information, such as documents, history lists, favorites or e-mail. It monitors the computer and many applications for changes and creates restore points. You restore these snapshots when your configuration isn’t working.

Now, keep in mind that this method is unreliable in the event that you want to rollback the registry changes made a long time ago. In which case, the system restore might have purged that particular restore point, due to space constraints or a recent system restore point. There could have even been a restore point corruption. Please remember, system restore points get deleted for many reasons, which makes this method a bit unreliable, especially in the long run.

If you still would like to try this method, here are some directions on creating a system restore point:

1. Click Start, All Programs, Accessories, System Tools, System Restore.

2. For Classic Start Menu: Click Start, Programs, Accessories, System Tools, System Restore.

3. Click “Create a restore point” and then click Next.

4. In the restore point description box, type a name to identify this particular point. System restore automatically adds the date and time that this restore point was created to the name.

5. To finish creating this restore point, click Create.

6. You can also launch the system restore window by typing the command below in the Run box: %SystemRoot%\System32\restore\rstrui.exe.

Method 2: Backing Up the Selected Branch of the Registry by Exporting:

This method is more reliable and preferred if you’re making changes to a specific key or area of the registry. To back up a selected branch/key in the Registry, try this:

1. Click Start and then click Run.

2. In the Open box, type “regedit” and then click OK.

3. Locate and then click the key that contains the value you want to edit.

4. On the File menu, click Export.

5. In the Save In box, select a location where you want to save the Registration Entries (.reg).

6. In the File Name box, type a file name and then click Save.

The following pictures will help you in understanding the backup process of a selected branch/key of the Registry.

Now that you’ve created a Registry backup for that particular key, save the .reg file in a safer location, in case you want to undo the Registry changes made some other time. You can restore the settings by just double clicking the .reg file. It will automatically merge the contents to the Registry.

There is one more method of backing up the whole Registry (“System State”). For backing up the whole Registry, you can use the NT Backup Utility to back up the System State. The System State includes the registry, the COM+ Class Registration Database and your boot files. Unfortunately, I am not sure how this exactly works at the moment, but I will try to find out and present it to you in a later newsletter tip.

Along with that, stay tuned tomorrow for another exciting article about the Windows registry. You’ll learn a lot, so be sure not to miss it!

~ Ramachandran Kumaraswami