Before you play around in the Windows registry whether it’s to edit keys or delete them, having a backup on hand just in case disaster strikes is absolutely essential. It doesn’t take much and accidentally deleting or changing only one or two keys is enough to paralyse the system and stop Windows from booting. Most experienced users will be required to enter the registry to repair other people’s computers if not their own, and you never know when a backup could come in handy.
Frequent visitors to Raymond.cc will know that several fixes and Windows repairs will often need access to the registry and sometimes it just cannot be avoided to cure the problem. Also, go to the Microsoft website for support, and a large number of their repair solutions are also related to editing the registry, or at least offer registry fixes as a manual repair method.
It may sound like we’re repeating ourselves because we mention this whenever possible, but it is always recommended that you don’t go into the registry unless you know what you are doing and have adequate backups to hand. Obviously, this is where system images or restore points can be a useful fallback just in case the worst should happen.
If you just want to backup the registry itself before making any necessary changes, many users will remember the old utility ERUNT. Over the years it’s been a great little tool to backup your registry files, but hasn’t been updated for several years and is getting a bit outdated now. The people responsible for the great utility Windows Repair (All in one), Tweaking.com, have a program to backup and restore registry files called Registry Backup.
Tweaking.com make a point of informing users on their website that Registry Backup uses the Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS) to create its backups which is what Microsoft themselves recommend to backup and restore system files and registry hives. This is a safer and more reliable method than using the RegSaveKey function ERUNT and other utilities sometimes rely on.
Registry Backup comes in both installable and portable flavours making it an essential addition to anyone’s USB toolkit. I must admit to not being a fan of the small and often difficult to read text in some of the program’s windows, and the retro early Windows looking interface.
When the program loads, the main window lists all the registry hives that can be backed up. Each one can be disabled and removed from the pending backup, so if you only want to backup the ‘Software’ hive because all changes to be made to the registry are in HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE, then you can do that.
Before you make a backup, it’s probably best to check the ‘Settings’ tab so the location for the backups can be chosen. To be able to do this, the ‘Change Backup Location’ box needs to be ticked and then you can click the button to browse for a folder, or type one directly into the box.
Another option worth noting is that old backups can be setup to be deleted automatically after a set period of days, the default is 30. Each sub folder the backup saves to is timed and dated so are easy to identify. There is also the ability to start the program under the System account if the current user account does not have administrator privileges. A backup schedule can be created, but this is done through the Windows Task Scheduler and requires a little bit of knowledge on how to configure a scheduled task.
There is an ‘Open Advanced Settings’ button but the options in there really don’t need touching unless there’s a problem with Registry Backup functioning correctly. If there is a problem using the VSS, the program will fallback to an alternate backup method which you can disable. And if there is a problem identifying which Windows VSS version is required, you can manually select one from the dropdown to match your operating system.
Returning to the ‘Backup Registry’ tab, once you have chosen what registry files to backup, press the Backup Now button. The good thing here is all user profile NTUSER.DAT files can be selected for backing up if you wish, if not deselect the ones not required. After a short while, the process should have completed successfully.
The restore procedure is similar to the backup apart from you select which one to restore from the dropdown first. Then tick or untick the hives to restore and click ‘Restore Now’. After a restore, the computer will need to be rebooted for the changes to come into effect.
Tweaking.com Registry Backup is freeware and works with Windows versions from XP up to Windows 7 and 8 32bit and 64bit.