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Backup and Restoring Windows Registry for 95, 98 & ME

This week I would like to talk about how to backup and restore the Windows Registry. I will cover the Windows 9x / Me platform, next week I will discuss Windows XP, and 2000 (the NT Platform), this will be of some real interest to all the NT Platform users. I will tell you how to make the backups. I felt the newsletter was too long to cover both Windows platforms in the same newsletter.

If you have Windows 95, 98, or ME (the Windows 9x platform) you may already know a good way to do this using third party software or the Windows system. The more backups the better, the faster and simpler the restore process is better. And let's not forget, only you know if your Windows is operating correctly and want to save the current Registry and not automatically overwrite a good backup copy, Windows doesn't.

I am going to explain how each different operating system backups up the Registry, how to restore the Registry, and an alternative way of making backups; where you have the control. An alternative way for the Windows 9x platform I suggest a third party utility such as WinSafe, I strongly recommend you also learn how to use the Windows backups as well, but  WinSafe has a very unique feature that you need to learn about and how to use it .

Windows 95, 98, ME have a system to backup the Registry already. However, it is not a guaranteed restoration. So let's go through them one at a time. If you are sing a startup diskette each step is explained below. However, you can do all this inside of Windows to if you can boot into Windows.

Windows 95 makes a backup everything you reboot your computer and enter Windows successfully. It copies the two Registry files System.dat and User.dat to System.da0 and User.da0, both are saved in the Windows folder. The problem here is that if the Registry was corrupt when you booted up then the backup is also corrupt. Windows 95 leaves you no options, if you do not boot up in Safe Mode a new backup is created, overwritting the last backup. Be sure to read the WinSafe section below for more options.

Windows 98 uses a different system, it only makes one backup per day on reboot. It will save up to 5 different copies(5 days). It not only backs up the System.dat and User.dat files, but also the Win.ini and System.ini file. All the files are saved inside a cab file to save space in the Windows\Sysbckup folder. They are named and numbered from RB000.cab to RB005.cab. Now this is a decent backup system but still not fool proof. It can still backup a corrupt Registry as well as corrupt the Registry files when making cab files out of them.

If you alter the system clock and change the date a new backup will be made. If the date is sometime in the future than this backup will not be overwritten until after that date. You see that problem can be a nightmare.

Windows ME works just like Windows 98 except it also has a third Registry file, Classes.dat and the System Restore feature. The System Restore in Windows ME backups the complete Registry, Win.ini, and System.ini as well as a snapshot file and a few other ini files. So if you have a System Restore file older then any of the RB00?.cab files you are in good shape. Hopefully you have one 7 to 10 days old. The big problem here is that if you need to restore the Registry using the System Restore you must also undo all your work since the Restore point was made. It can also backup a corrupt Registry or corrupt it when making the cab file as in Windows 98.

Now we have Registry backups but how to we restore the Registry? Actually the easiest way is with a third party utility. Easy Desk makes WinSafe, by far the easiest way to control your backups and restore the Registry. If you want to do the restoration manually here's how. You need to boot to the C:\Windows prompt with a startup diskette or the boot menu. Windows ME must use a startup diskette to get to a DOS prompt. If the commands below return an error go to the C:\Windows\Command> prompt and try it again.

With Windows 95 you will need to remove the attributes of the files first. Type:
Attrib -s -r -h C:\Windows\System.dat (press Enter)
Attrib -s -r -h C:\Windows\User.dat (press Enter)
Attrib -s -r -h C:\Windows\System.da0 (press Enter)
Attrib -s -r -h C:\Windows\User.da0 (press Enter)
copy C:\Windows\System.000 C:\Windows\System.dat (press Enter)
copy C:\Windows\User.000 C:\Windows\user.dat (press Enter)
Now Reboot. Windows 95 users should always have a third party utility as the backup is most likely going to be corrupt also.

With Windows 98 at the C:\Windows\Command prompt> type:
Scanreg /restore (press Enter)
select a date displayed and Windows will do the rest.

Your second choice is to type:
Scanreg /fix (press Enter)
This may help. I have not been to successful with the Fix command. This command attempts to find and fix the error in the Registry.

Wiht Windows ME you can do the same as Windows 98, but you still have more options open. You can use the System Restore, but remember you are undoing or deleting some of the work you have done since the restore point was make. You have a second option available that I'll bet you never know.
First you must remove the Hidden attributes to two folders. The C:\_Restore folder (C: being the drive letter Windows is on) and then C:\_Restore\Archive. To do this you will need to get to the
C:\Windows\Command folder at the C:\Windows\Command> prompt, Type:
Attrib -h C:\_Restore (press Enter)
Attrib -h C:\_Restore\Archive (press Enter)
Dir (press Enter)

Now look for a date of a RG??????????.cab file that you want to use, write the complete file name on paper. One note, do note select the same date cab file as one you already tried using with Scanreg. Now go to the C:\Windows\Sysbckup folder and type:
Dir (press Enter)

Look for the RB00?.cab files, we are not interested in the RBbad.cab files (if any are present) as they are not useable backups. Make a note of the number of a RB00?.cab file that is there, like RB001.cab. This is the file name we are going to use. You will need to rename this file. Now copy the RG??????????.cab to RB00?.cab. Remember to change the ? marks to the appropriate numbers.

At the C:\Windows\Sysbckup> prompt Type:
Ren RB00?.cab RB00?.sav (press Enter)
Copy C:\_Restore\Archive\RG??????????.cab C:\Windows\ Sysbckup\ RB00?.cab (press Enter)

Now you will need to get back to the Windows Command folder and use the Scanreg /Restore command, this time selectingthe new RB00?.cab file you just replaced, the date of the RG??????????.cab file will not be displayed. The date of the original RB00?cab file will de displayed so you must remember to make your selection in the Scanreg window based upon the file name rather than a date.

Now if you have WinSafe and all fails, Windows backups and WinSafe backups you still have one more chance. WinSafe makes an Export backup copy of the Registry and saves it in the Windows folder, it is named Backup.reg every 7 days. You could manually Export the Registry every 7 days but you will need to remember to do this.

We can simply Import the file but you really do not want to just Import the file. Importing a reg file only restores the Registry to what the reg file contains. What it does is change any information that is different or deleted. Let me explain, lets say a Key or Value (setting) has been added to the Registry since the Export copy was made. Importing it will not delete that new information. If a new driver has been installed causing your problem the Import copy is not going to fix it. However, what we can do with the Import copy is to tell Windows to build us a brand new Registry using the information in the file Backup.reg file only.

One more good thing about the Exported backup file; if a Key is damaged and cannot be read it is not Exported. Let's say that the Internet Explorer settings Key is damaged; now everytime you use the Explorer it needs to read this Key. If it is damaged it cannot be read, then what is going to happen? Maybe you cannot copy and paste for example, and you have tried to fix it to no avail. Windows cannot read or write to this Key anymore either, and it cannot create a new one as it has the same name. When we Import the new file using the command below, this Key is not installed. However Windows will automatically rebuild this Key to the default setting if it does not exist. So now we fixed the copy and pasting problem as well. Not all Key are automatically rebuilt by Windows, but many are.

To do the restoration we need to be the C:\Windows> prompt in DOS mode. Type:
Smartdrv (press enter)
Regedit.exe /C C:\Windows\Backup.reg (press enter)


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