How to Back Up the Windows Registry

Don't forget to back up the registry before making changes

What to Know

  • Open Registry Editor. To back up the entire registry, select Computer. To back up a specific registry key, select it.
  • Choose File > Export. Under Export range, verify All is selected, or the right path is listed for Selected branch.
  • Enter a name for backup and then press Save to export your selection to a REG file.

This article explains how to back up the Windows Registry, before you make any changes. The settings in the Registry control much of what goes on in Windows, so having it working correctly at all times is important.

How to Back Up the Windows Registry

You can back up the Windows Registry this way in any version of Windows, including Windows 11, Windows 10, Windows 8, Windows 7, Windows Vista, and Windows XP.

  1. Execute regedit to open Registry Editor. The quickest way to do this is to launch the command from the Run dialog box, which you can access via the WIN+R keyboard shortcut.

  2. 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.

    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, press the + icon is used instead of >.

  3. Once found, select the registry key in the left pane so that it becomes highlighted.

  4. From the Registry Editor menu, choose File and then Export. You can also right-click or tap-and-hold the key and then choose Export.

  5. In the new window that appears, double-check that the Selected branch identified at the bottom is, in fact, the registry key that you want to back up.

    If you're making a full backup, All should be pre-selected for you.

    Windows 10 registry backup save prompt
  6. Once you're sure you'll be backing up what you expected, choose a location to save the registry backup file to.

    We 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.

  7. In the File name text field, enter a name for the backup file. Anything is fine.

    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.

  8. Select Save. 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.

Once complete, a REG file will be created in the location you selected in Step 6 and with the file name you chose in Step 7. For example, Complete Registry Backup-mo-day-year.reg.

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.

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 it's been saved, 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.

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

Restoring the Windows Registry

See our How to Restore the Windows Registry guide 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.

Was this page helpful?