Backing Up, Restore, and Editing Registry Files Correctly

The Registry Editor in Windows 10 is like a jungle – confusing and scary. Still, it’s packed with great tweaks that would otherwise be hard to find. Windows is a database of configuration settings for system apps, hardware devices, and even third-party apps. If you are not paying attention to the applications you install and not maintaining registry hygiene, you need to learn how to backup, restore and edit Registry Files correctly.

We recommend editing the registry files in most of our troubleshooting guides for Windows 10. The Registry contains instructions and references to system files necessary for the compatible operation of software and hardware. Most of the advanced features and settings can be enabled/disabled by tweaking the registry entries.

But what happens when you edit the wrong file or enter the wrong value? What if an unforeseen conflict occurs? This can corrupt your computer and make all data on it inaccessible. That’s why we’re sharing this guide on how to backup, restore and edit registry files.

Here’s everything you need to know about Registry Editor before you start tweaking it.

Basic Terminology

A typical registry key path looks like this.

Computer\HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE
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‘HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE’ and any other top level folders you see are called Hives. The ‘SOFTWARE’ is called the key and can go deep (many levels) with each split by a backslash. Finally, the ‘Default’ file you see on the right is called a value. For simplicity’s sake, you can think of them as folders and files.

Disclaimer: Don’t mess with registry keys and values ​​unless you know what you’re doing. Adding, deleting and editing them can break things at the system level. We strongly recommend that you avoid making changes to your single computer unless you are worried about reinstalling windows, data loss and various settings. Proceed at your own risk.

How to Edit Keys or Values ​​in Registry Editor

It is best to change these values ​​in Safe Mode. However, the more detailed answer will depend on the issue you are trying to troubleshoot. After backing up the registry using one of the methods below, restart your computer in Safe Mode before troubleshooting.

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That way, if something goes wrong, you don’t have to reinstall or reset the entire operating system. You can restore the edited/deleted registry key to get your computer working again. Opening the Registry Editor and creating/deleting/editing a key or value remains the same in Safe Mode.

Regularly Backing Up the System Registry in Windows 10

There was a time when Windows backed up the ‘system registry’ to the RegBack folder. This is no longer the case, as stated by Microsoft. Windows 10 version 1803 introduced a change to reduce the operating system’s footprint on the disk.

For those that didn’t catch it, Windows will only back up certain keys and values ​​in the system registry that are necessary for the operating system to work. This means that third-party apps will be excluded.

Fortunately, there is a way to change this system setting using the Registry Editor itself. This is ironic. The Microsoft Support team shared the steps to keep the option turned on in case someone wants to take a backup of their system registry files on a regular basis.

Go to the location below to enable the legacy method.

HKLM\System\CurrentControlSet\Control\Session Manager\Configuration Manager\EnablePeriodicBackup

If you don’t see the EnablePeriodicBackup value, create one. So, right-click on the right window pane and select DWORD (32-bit) Value and name it like that.

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Double click the newly created file and change the value from 0 (zero) to 1.

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Close the Registry Editor and restart your computer to start the backup process. Windows must have created a new task called RegIdleBackup to manage this. You can check it from Task Manager (Ctrl+Shift+Esc).

Manually Backup/Restore Registry

This is one of the two methods Microsoft recommends for you to back up registry keys and values. Search for Registry Editor in windows search and open it with administrator privileges – Run as administrator.

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Select the key you want to back up and choose Export under the File menu.

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On the next screen, you will be asked to choose a location and name the file. I suggest naming the output file the same as the key. This will make it easy to determine when you want to restore it. The export function will create a .REG file that a text editor such as Notepad can easily read.

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The export range is where you can choose to export everything or just the selected branch. Everything is always a safer bet when in doubt.

In case you messed something up, restoring it is simple. Open the path where you want to restore the key and click Import under the File menu. Select the file and the interface should add it to the Registry Editor.

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How Backup/Restore Using Restore Point

Friends at Microsoft suggest another method for this. Creating a restore point will backup the registry files as well as other important system files. Note that there is a difference between reset and restore points.

Search for ‘Create restore point’ in the start menu and open it.

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Click create here.

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Then you can follow the on-screen instructions to create a restore point.

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If you want to restore your system to a previous restore point, repeat the same process you did to create a restore point. However, click the System Restore button in the last window and follow the on-screen instructions.

Bring the Registrar

There are several third-party applications that can also be used to take backups and restore these registry keys. One of them is MiniTool ShadowMaker.

However, I trust system restore points more than anything. The process is easy, free, and the Windows operating system regularly makes a point. You can manually create one before making any major changes like editing the registry entry. It is better to restore the registry instead of reinstalling the entire operating system when losing data.

Next: Missing outdated features that are no longer available in Windows 10? Here’s how you can get some of them back. Click the link below to learn more.

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