The Windows Registry is a fickle beast – a cavernous, confusing database of crucial information relating to your programs that’s been codified and complicated to be more or less unreadable to the human eye. (This isn’t, as far as I’m aware, intentional.)
But sometimes we need to dive into this mysterious place and tweak things, perhaps to change the behaviors of certain applications or to change functions such as disabling the Action Center or automatically hiding certain folders. Even if we’re not doing this, things can go wrong in the registry, and we need to be prepared. So either way, we need to have our registries backed up and safe.
Basic Method: Create a Restore Point
The simplest and broadest way to back up your registry is to create a system restore point so that if you start getting errors on your PC, or you play around with the registry but things go wrong, you can easily rewind your PC back to a time before you made those changes.
To do this, hit the Start button, type “restore” and click “Create a restore point.”
In the new window in the System Protection tab, click “Create” and follow the instructions. To restore Windows to the restore point you’ve just created, come back to the System Protection tab and click “System Restore.”
Create a Backup File of a Registry Key
If you’re about to edit a specific registry key, then it’s a good idea to get a backup of that specific key. (Creating a system restore point is probably a bit overkill in this situation, unless the registry key is crucial to Windows working properly, in which case be VERY CAREFUL about how you go about it.)
To back up a registry key, go to the registry editor by pressing “Win + R” and typing
regedit. Once in the registry editor, navigate to the key you want to create a backup of, click “File -> Export” then give the file a name and save it where you want it.
You can now make edits to the original registry key, and if something goes wrong, just come back to the registry editor, click “File -> Import” and restore the backup you made.
Create a Backup of the Entire Registry
This is functionally similar to creating a system restore point but has the advantage of giving you a tangible file that you can store on your hard drive, a flash disk, or wherever. To back up your entire Windows registry, go to the registry editor, click Computer in the pane on the left, go to “File -> Export,” then give your backup a name and save it wherever you like.
You now have a backup file for your entire registry on standby for when everything goes horribly wrong!
Whether or not you like to dabble a lot in your Windows registry, creating backups of it is important because quite often things can go wrong in it through no fault of your own, so do it regularly! Keys for old drivers you don’t need, for example, might interfere with newer ones, or you may have duplicate keys overlapping each other. For tips on how to deal with a faulty registry once stuff does go wrong, take a look at this guide on how to fix common registry errors.