How To Back Up the Windows Registry

Don't Forget to Back Up the Registry Before Making Changes

Screenshot showing how to back up the Windows Registry in Windows 10
Back Up Windows Registry Key (Windows 10).

Backing up the Windows Registry, before you make any changes, is a super smart thing to do. The settings in the registry control much of what goes on in Windows, so having it working correctly at all times is important.

It's too bad Microsoft didn't design Registry Editor to prompt you to back up before you make changes - they really should have.

Fortunately, it's very easy to manually export either the entire registry at once, or even just a specific registry key if you're only making changes to a few values or keys.

Once backed up, you should feel comfortable that nearly any change, so long as it was made within the scope of the backup you made, can easily be undone.

Follow the easy steps below to back up the Windows Registry:

Note: You can back up the Windows Registry this way in any version of Windows, including Windows 10, Windows 8, Windows 7, Windows Vista, and Windows XP.

Time Required: Backing up the entire Windows Registry at once usually takes just a couple minutes, while backing up a specific registry key could take a bit longer depending on how fast you can find it

How To Back Up the Windows Registry

  1. Execute regedit to start Registry Editor.

    See How To Open Registry Editor if you need help doing that.
     
  2. Now that Registry Editor is open, work your way to the area of the registry that you want to back up.

    To back up the entire registry: Locate Computer by scrolling to the very top of the left side of the registry (where all the "folders" are).

    To back up a specific registry key: Drill down through the folders until you find the key you're after.

    Not sure what to back up? Choosing to back up the entire registry is a safe bet. If you know which registry hive you'll be working in, backing up the entire hive is another good option.

    Tip: If you don't immediately see the registry key that you want to back up, just expand (open) or collapse (close) the keys by either double-clicking or double-tapping them, or selecting the small > icon. In Windows XP, the + icon is used instead of >.
     
  1. Once found, click or tap on the registry key in the left pane so that it becomes highlighted.
     
  2. From the Registry Editor menu, choose File and then Export....
     
  3. In the Export Registry File window that appears, double-check that the Selected branch identified at the bottom is in fact the registry key that you want to backup.

    If you're making a full backup of the registry, the All option should be pre-selected for you. If you're backing up a specific key, like HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Environment\, you'll see that path in the Selected branch section.
     
  1. Once you're sure you'll be backing up what you expected, choose a location to save the registry backup file to.

    Tip: I usually recommend choosing the Desktop or the Documents folder (called My Documents in XP). Both are easy to find if you run into problems later and need to use this backup to undo your registry changes.
     
  2. In the File name: text field, enter a name for the backup file. Anything is fine.

    Note: This name can be anything because it's just for you to remember what the exported registry file is for. If you're backing up the whole Windows Registry, you might name it something like Complete Registry Backup. If the backup is for a specific key only, I'd name the backup the same name as the key that you plan on editing. Attaching the current date at the end isn't a bad idea either.
     
  3. Click the Save button. If you chose to back up the entire registry, expect this process to take several seconds or longer. A single or small collection of registry keys should export instantly.
     
  4. Once complete, a new file with the REG file extension will be created in the location you selected in Step 6 and with the file name you chose in Step 7.

    So, continuing the example from a few steps back, you'd get a file named Complete Registry Backup.reg.
     
  1. You can now make whatever changes you need to make to the Windows registry, knowing full well that you can undo them all at any time you want.

    Tip: See How to Add, Change, and Delete Registry Keys & Values for lots of tips on making registry editing easy and problem-free.

See How to Restore the Windows Registry for help restoring the registry back to the point at which you backed it up. Hopefully your changes are successful and problem-free, but if not, getting things back to working order is pretty easy.

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