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How To Back Up The Windows Registry

Just one error in the Registry will destabilize your system. Here's how to back it up.

BYTE -- Before you start tinkering with the Windows Registry, you absolutely must first back it up. Consider this a rule and a warning. Even a small mistake in the Registry will make your system unstable.

Backing it up ensures you can restore it should things go wrong later. Here’s how to backup the Registry in Windows 7 and Vista.

In Windows 7 or Vista, click Start and in the Search box type: regedit

Hit Enter.

When the Registry Editor opens, click File, then Export.

In the next screen, navigate to a folder to save the Registry file. Give this a file name that includes the date so you know when you created it.

Make sure the Save As Type is Registration Files (*.reg). Under Export Range. Also, select the radio button next to All. After you've done that, click Save.

Wait a few moments for the system to export the backup file to the directory where you're saving it.

The process won't take long. Once it's done, go back to the folder you exported it to and make sure the file is there. This is to confirm it saved correctly. You should see something like you see in my example below.

There are cleanup program for the Registry, and most allow you to to back it up before cleaning the Registry automatically or manually. Always take them up on the offer. Or back it up using the steps I just outlined. Either way, make sure you have a clean copy of the Registry at hand always, and that you know where it is.

Note: Backing up the Registry in Windows XP basically the same. You just get there a different way. Go to Start >> Run and type: regedit and follow the sames steps as outlined above.

Brian Burgess is the executive editor at BYTE. Follow him @mysticgeek. Got a comment or idea? Send it to Brian at

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