The Windows registry is an important database storing thousands of configuration options and settings that Windows relies upon to run. If it becomes damaged, programs may stop working or Windows may not start up.
It is therefore a good idea to manually backup the registry before you make any ‘high risk’ changes to your computer so you can restore it later if required – high risk actions include manually editing the Windows registry, installing/updating drivers and (un)installation of antivirus software.
It is possible to backup the registry using System Restore – a Windows service that allows you to revert your system back to a previous restore point. The registry (and some other Windows files) is backed up automatically by System Restore on a regular basis, usually every 24 hours.
Tip: To manually create a new system restore point, see my article giving step by step instructions on creating a restore point for XP, Vista and Windows 7.
However, the free utility ERUNT (Emergency Recovery Utility NT) is a long established alternative that is able to backup the registry in XP, Vista and Windows 7 and has some advantages compared to System Restore.
Advantages Of Using ERUNT
ERUNT has two main advantages over System Restore:
- Each restore folder ERUNT creates is standalone and independent of the others, minimizing the risk of restore failures – with System Restore, if one restore point gets corrupted it can have a knock on effect and make all the other restore points fail too…
- An ERUNT restore can be done from outside of Windows – useful if you cannot start Windows due to registry corruption. System Restore in Vista and W7 offers this capability, but System Restore in XP does not.
However, ERUNT is not the easiest tool as it uses the command line to change several options, not a nice GUI (Graphical User Interface). The command line is intimidating for many users so ideally a program would add a GUI to it. Step forward ERUNTgui…
ERUNTgui – GUI For ERDNT
ERUNTgui is a free program that adds a graphical user interface to ERUNT. It places all the modules that make up the original ERUNT utility into one simple user interface, making the program easier to use. It is compatible with XP, Vista and Windows 7.
1. Download ERUNTgui from Softpedia here as a zip file. (Note: ERUNTgui includes all the ERUNT programs within it, you do not need to download ERUNT as well)
2. Unzip (extract) the zip file into an ERUNTgui folder then open the Setup program and install ERUNTgui – accept the default options
3. Open the ERUNTgui shortcut on the desktop to start the program as shown below:
4. Press the ‘Options’ button to configure the program:
Advanced users can configure various options but the key ones are:
- By default, backups will be saved in the Windows\ERDNT folder. It is recommended to keep this location as it makes it possible to restore the registry outside of Windows (from the Recovery Console) if required
- Leave ‘Append Date To Folder’ ticked – this allows you to keep multiple separate (dated) backups in the same ERDNT restore folder
- For completeness, tick ‘Include other open user registries’
- Auto Backup – tick to select this and ERUNT will backup the registry automatically the first time your computer starts up each day (by adding an AutoBackup entry into the Startup folder). Although this will add a few seconds to the first startup time it is highly recommended so you have a selection of previous backups to restore from
- If you selected Auto Backup, you can change the number of days to keep previous automatic backups – the default is 30 days but to save hard drive space (each backup may take up 100MB+) you could decrease this number if required
5. Press ‘Close’ to return to the main ERUNTgui program
6. Press the ‘Backup the registry’ button to start a manual backup. When complete, press the ‘ … ‘ button if you want to browse your backup folder to check the backup worked ok – you should see a new backup folder (dated today) saved in the Windows\ERDNT folder
7. Press the ‘Close’ button to finish – you have now backed up and, if you chose Auto Backup, a new backup will be created each day
Notes On ERUNT
Per the ERUNT FAQ page here – in Vista and Windows 7 ERUNT may only work correctly if you turn off User Account Control in Windows’ Control Panel. Also, note that W7 systems may display a “RegSaveKey: 3” error message when restoring part of the registry – simply ignore this message.
The ‘Optimize the Registry’ button opens NTREGOPT – a companion program that recreates each registry hive “from scratch” to remove any slack space that may be left from previously modified or deleted keys. This can minimize the size of the files and optimize registry access, potentially speeding up a slow computer. However, it does not change the contents in any way – it is NOT a registry cleaner.
[“Detailed information” on the workings of ERUNT, NTREGOPT and examples of how to restore from outside of Windows (if Windows does not start up) are available from the ERUNT website here.]
ERUNTgui adds a nice user interface which is much easier to use and configure than the standard ERUNT utility. It makes registry backups simple and provides an optional automatic daily backup which is simple to set up.
Because each restore folder created by ERUNTgui is independent and stored separately, there is no chance that one corrupted backup folder can corrupt all the other backup folders (making restore impossible) – System Restore is infamous for this problem and frequently makes it impossible to perform a system restore back to any point in time.