If you’re anything like me, you will like fiddling with your PC and making changes just to see what happens. Usually that requires frequent rebuilding of the operating system to undo the changes you just made or the culmination of a series of changes you made when experimenting. That doesn’t always have to be the case as you can backup and restore the registry before and after each change.

The Windows registry

The Windows registry is a database within the operating system that contains file locations required for programs and configuration settings for apps, programs and for Windows itself. It is made up of keys and values. A registry key is like a folder that contains the information required by programs. The value is a setting contained in a file within that folder.

How to back up the Windows registry

Making a backup of the registry is actually pretty straightforward. You don’t have to back up the entire registry, just the parts that you as a user can make changes to. However, some programs spread their seeds across multiple parts of the registry so I always suggest having at least one recent copy of the entire thing, even if you take copies of individual sections later.

  1. Type ‘regedit’ into the Search Windows/Cortana box to open up the registry.
  2. Highlight Computer in the left pane.
  3. Right click and select Export.
  4. The file will save to a location of your choice.

This kind of backup will take a while and a lot of disk space. However, it saves all of the registry rather than just some of it like a System restore Point does.

How to restore the Windows registry

Restoring the registry is essential the reverse of the steps above.

  1. Type ‘regedit’ into the Search Windows/Cortana box to open up the registry.
  2. Click Files and Import in the top menu.
  3. Select the file and click OK to import.

Or you can just double click the backup file for it to reload itself.

Messing around with the registry isn’t something I would suggest a new Windows user try right away. It is something you need to build up to once you have an idea of how each program uses the registry and what ramifications such changes will have on your system as a whole.

At least now if something goes wrong when you’re messing around with it you can quickly restore a known working registry quickly!