One of my friend wanted to manually backup the registry files on his computer because he wanted to mess around with the registry. The registry files are located at Windows\System32\Config\ with the filename Sam, Security, Software, System and Default without extension. If you attempt to manually copy these files to another folder and you will be prompted with a File in Use window that shows the error “The action can’t be completed because the file is open in System. Close the file and try again.” It also shows the file name, type size and date modified. You are given the choice to Try Again or Cancel. You still won’t be able to copy those files no matter which button you select.
The reason you are unable to copy the files because they are locked and in use. One of the solution to copy files in used are by using the Volume Shadow Service (VSS) to “snapshot” the disk before copying, then copy from the snapshot rather than the “live” disk. HoboCopy is one of such tool that uses this method for copying locked files.
HoboCopy is a command line tool where you will have to manually type the source and destination folder with a couple of other switches if required. The simplest command to copy a source folder to the destination folder is as follow:
HoboCopy C:\Windows\System32\config\SAM C:\Backup\Raymond\
The command above will copy the SAM file from Windows\System32\config to Raymond folder in C:\Backup. For full command, check out Hobocopy’s official website at the Usage section. If you find it troublesome in manually typing the full location of the source and destination, you can use a front-end GUI of HoboCopy called Hobo GUI to simply the task. All you need to do is specify the location of HoboCopy by clicking the Find Hobo button and then click the add button to select the source. Click on the browse button to select the destination of where the files will be copied to and finally click the BACKUP button to start the copying process using HoboCopy.
HoboCopy with Hobo GUI successfully copied system files that are in used to a backup folder
What I find it funny is HoboCopy is compressed in a ZIP file and doesn’t require installation but the Hobo GUI comes in a setup installer which by default installs in Program Files folder. If you don’t want to install Hobo GUI but want the executable file, it is possible to use 7-Zip to extract the Hobo GUI setup installer (setup_hobogui_1.02.exe) to get HoboGui.exe. Then you can save both HoboCopy and HoboGUI in a folder for future use.