How to REALLY backup the Windows Registry

By: Stephen Bucaro

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How to REALLY backup the Windows Registry

By Stephen Bucaro

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:windowscommand 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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