The registry is a database of information Windows keeps for just about everything. Most of your settings, configuration, passwords and more are all kept in the system registry. Windows applications are also encouraged to keep their settings and configuration information there, too.
It’s a key component of Windows, and while it doesn’t happen often, sometimes changes made to the contents of the registry can cause problems, from misbehaving applications to systems that simply won’t boot.
Unfortunately, changing some settings in Windows, particularly in the Home edition, requires us to play with the registry manually, increasing the risk that something might go wrong.
The solution? Back it up first.
Become a Patron of Ask Leo! and go ad-free!
It’s no secret, I’m not a fan of System Restore. It’s proven to be unreliable (restore points seem to go missing occasionally), and it’s misleading (it doesn’t actually restore your system – only key components). In general, my preference is to use a full-fledged image backup, and have a regular backup strategy in place, instead of relying on System Restore.
There’s one exception to my preference, and that’s when it comes to fiddling with the registry.
System Restore is, in many ways, not much more than a glorified registry backup. That means, though, that it’s a great tool when you want to back up only the registry, and only for a short time, such as when you’re making simple changes to the registry by hand.
You could take a full image backup. It would take longer, but you would absolutely have everything backed up.
But if you just want to protect yourself from inadvertent errors due to a manual change you’re making to the registry, System Restore is actually a reasonable solution.
Turning on System Restore
In Windows 10, you can click on the Start menu icon and just start typing “System Restore”. The first search result will be “Create a restore point”.
Click on that to open the “System Protection” tab of your system properties.
(In other versions of Windows, you can right click on “Computer”, “My Computer”, or “This PC”, click on Properties to open this dialog, and then click on the System Protection tab.)
If System Restore is turned off, click on the system drive in the “Available Drives” list, and then click on the Configure… button.
In the resulting dialog, make sure that “Turn on system protection” is selected, and that the “Max Usage” slider is set to something greater than zero. I recommend 10% as a reasonable setting. Click OK to save these changes, and System Restore will be enabled.
Making a Restore Point
Back in the System Protection tab, create a restore point by clicking on the Create… button.
You’ll be asked to give your restore point a name or description (not shown), and once you’ve done so, the restore point is created. This can take a few minutes.
Restoring a Restore Point
Should you ever need to restore a restore point, the process is simple, though it takes slightly longer.
Return to the same “System Protection” tab of “System Properties” that we used above1, but this time click on System Restore…. This will launch the System Restore wizard. Click on Next (not shown).
Click on the restore point you wish to restore, and then click Next (not shown).
You’ll be presented with a summary of the operation about to be performed. Note: your computer will reboot during this process.
Click on Finish (not shown) for one final confirmation.
Click on Yes to proceed.
After some time, and a reboot, the restore will complete.
Your system’s registry has been restored to the state it was in when you created the restore point.
Subscribe to Confident Computing! More confidence & less frustration -- solutions, answers, & tips -- in your inbox every week.
I'll see you there!