How to REALLY Backup the Windows Registry

In Windows 3.x configuration information was stored in human readable text files like win.ini, system.ini, config.sys, and autoexec.bat. But that method of storing configuration was inadequate to store configuration for the enormous amount of bloat Microsoft put into Windows 95 and higher.

In Windows 95 and higher, configuration information is stored in the "registry". The word "registry" rarely appears without being accompanied by the word "warning", and a vague description of how your computer will go up in smoke if you even think about messing with the registry.

The registry is bloated and overcomplicated, but since it is the central repository for almost all of Windows configuration information, you will probably have to deal with it sooner or later. In fact, if you ever require the assistance of a support technician, the first thing they will instruct you to do is open registry editor.

It is perfectly safe for you to work with the registry, provided that you back it up first (and you know how to restore it). Windows automatically creates a backup of the registry every time you start your computer. But when you are making configuration changes, you usually have to reboot your computer several times, possibly writing bad data to the backup.

To make your own backup of the registry, start your system with your startup floppy disk. (If you can’t find your startup disk, use the Add/Remove utility in Control Panel to make a new one. Place a copy of the file attrib.exe from the c:\windows\command folder on the disk.)

After you start your system with your startup disk, use DOS to change to the C:\WINDOWS directory (type c: then cd windows). Then carefully type in the following DOS commands.

attrib -s -h -r system.dat
attrib -s -h -r user.dat
copy system.dat c:\
copy user.dat c:\
attrib +s +h +r system.dat
attrib +s +h +r user.dat

Note: if your system is Windows Me, also back up classes.dat

Then remove the startup disk and restart your system.

Why did I put you through such a laborious method just to make a copy of two files? Could you just use Window's Explorer to copy the files? Could you use the Registry Editor (Regedit) to back up the registry (or Windows Me System Restore)?

Yes, you could. But what if your system crashed so that it can't even start in Safe Mode? Then you can't use any of those Windows programs to restore the registry. I put you through the DOS method to make sure:

1. The boot sequence in your BIOS is setup to boot from the A: drive.
2. You have the minimum proficiency with DOS to restore the registry if required.
3. To make sure that you have a copy of attrib.exe on your startup disk.

To restore the registry, start your system with your startup disk. Use DOS to change to the c:\windows directory. Then type in the following commands.

attrib -s -h -r system.dat
attrib -s -h -r user.dat
del system.dat
del user.dat
cd \
copy system.dat c:\windows
copy user.dat c:\windows
cd windows
attrib +s +h +r system.dat
attrib +s +h +r user.dat

Then remove the startup disk and restart your system.

My advice is to frequently use Windows Explorer to make copies of the registry files. Make copies of the registry files before you install any hardware or software or make any changes to the registry. Make sure you are prepared to use your startup disk and DOS to restore the registry.

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