How to Backup, Restore, and Edit Registry Files the Right Way

How to Backup, Restore, and Edit Registry Files the Right Way

The Windows 10 Registry Editor is a confusing and scary jungle, filled with wonderful tweaks that are hard to find. It’s a database of configuration settings for Windows, system apps, hardware devices, and third-party apps. If you install apps carelessly and neglect registry hygiene, learn how to backup, restore, and edit Registry Files correctly.

We often recommend editing registry files in our Windows 10 troubleshooting guides. The Registry contains instructions and references to essential system files for software and hardware compatibility. Many advanced features and settings can be tweaked through registry entries.

Editing the wrong file or entering the wrong value can break your computer and render all data on it inaccessible. We have created this guide to help you backup, restore, and edit registry files. Discover everything you need to know about the Registry Editor before making any adjustments.

Basic Terminology

Here is a typical registry key path: “Computer\HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE”.

How to Backup, Restore, and Edit Registry Files the Right Way

‘HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE’ and other top-level folders you see are called Hives. The ‘SOFTWARE’ is called a key, and they can go many levels deep, each divided by a backslash. Finally, the ‘Default’ file you see on the right is a value. You can think of them as folders and files for simplicity.

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Disclaimer: Do not mess around with registry keys and values if you don’t know what you are doing. Adding, deleting, and editing these can break things on a system level. We highly recommend avoiding making changes on your computer unless you’re okay with reinstalling windows, losing data, and resetting settings. Proceed at your own risk.

How to Edit Keys or Values in Registry Editor

It’s best to adjust those values in Safe Mode. However, the specific solution depends on the problem you are troubleshooting. Once you have backed up the registry using one of the methods below, restart your computer in Safe Mode before troubleshooting.

This way, if something goes wrong, you won’t need to reinstall or reset the operating system. You can restore the modified/deleted registry key to restore functionality. The process of opening the Registry Editor and creating/deleting/editing a key or value is the same in Safe Mode.

How to Backup System Registry in Windows 10 Regularly

Windows used to back up the system registry to the RegBack folder, but Microsoft has made a change in Windows 10 version 1803 to reduce the disk space used by the OS. Now, only essential keys and values in the system registry are backed up, excluding third-party apps. However, there is still a way to change this setting using the Registry Editor. The steps have been shared by the Microsoft Support team for those who want to regularly backup system registry files. To enable the legacy method, navigate to the following location.

To review the given text and make it more concise and impactful, here are the revisions:

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1. If you don’t see the EnablePeriodicBackup value, create one by right-clicking on the right window-pane, selecting DWORD (32-bit) Value, and naming it.

How to Backup, Restore, and Edit Registry Files the Right Way

Double-click the newly created file and change the value from 0 to 1.

How to Backup, Restore, and Edit Registry Files the Right Way

Close the Registry Editor and restart your computer to initiate the backup process. Windows should have created a new task named RegIdleBackup to manage it. You can check it in the Task Manager.

How to Backup/Restore Registry Manually

Microsoft recommends the following method to back up registry keys and values: search for Registry Editor, open it with administrative privileges (Run as administrator).

How to Backup, Restore, and Edit Registry Files the Right Way

To backup a key, go to File -> Export and select the desired key.

How to Backup, Restore, and Edit Registry Files the Right Way

In the next screen, choose a location and name the file. I suggest naming the output file the same as the key for easy identification when you want to restore it. The export function creates a .REG file that can be easily read in a text editor like Notepad.

How to Backup, Restore, and Edit Registry Files the Right Way

The export range allows you to export everything or just the selected branch. Choosing “all” is safer if you’re unsure. Restoring is simple if you’ve made a mistake. Open the desired path, go to the File menu, and click on Import. Select the file, and the Registry Editor will add it.

How to Backup, Restore, and Edit Registry Files the Right Way

How to Backup/Restore Using Restore Point

Microsoft recommends another method for creating a restore point. It will back up registry files and other important system files. Note the distinction between reset and restore points. Find ‘Create a restore point’ in the Start menu and open it.

How to Backup, Restore, and Edit Registry Files the Right Way

Click Create.

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How to Backup, Restore, and Edit Registry Files the Right Way

To create a restore point, follow on-screen instructions. To restore your system to a previous restore point, repeat the same process, but click on the System Restore button on the last window.

There are a few third-party apps available for backing up and restoring registry keys. One option is MiniTool ShadowMaker.

However, I rely on system restore points more than anything else. The process is easy, free, and Windows OS regularly creates a point. You can manually create one before making any major changes, like editing the registry entry. It is better to restore the registry than reinstall the entire OS and lose data.

Next up: Missing old features no longer available in Windows 10? Here is how you can get some back. Click the link below to learn more.

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