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How to backup and restore the registry in Windows 10 and Windows 11

Updated January 30, 2024

Everyone knows that when you make any significant change to your computer, you must backup the registry first. But not many casual computer users understand what the registry is and how to back it up. So here's how to backup and restore the registry in Windows 10 and Windows 11.

How to backup and restore the registry in Windows 10

So, what is the registry? The registry is a database that contains information on the hardware, software, and user(s) installed on your computer. Even though it may sound like a single entity, it consists of several different files. The collection of these files is called the registry hive.

FYI: The information in the registry hive is stored in two (2) essential elements: Keys and Values. Keys are like folders; they can contain values and keys. Values are like files; they contain data in various formats.

Automatically backup and restore the registry in Windows 10 and Windows 11

The System Protection tab of the System Properties dialog box inside of Windows 10
The System Protection tab of the System Properties dialog box inside Windows 10

Now, the simplest way to backup the registry is to create a restore point. Restore points contain backup copies of the registry, most drivers, and files with particular extensions.

Restore points can be a lifesaver if your system fails to start after a change or modification. Just make sure to create a system repair disk or recovery drive (instructions below) and have it on hand only in case your system won't start up correctly. You can use it to boot your computer and access a restore point.

How to create a restore point in Windows 10 and Windows 11

  1. Bring up the System > About page by either:
    • Pressing the Windows logo key Windows logo key + Pause.
    • Pressing the Windows logo key Windows logo key + X to bring up the Power User menu and press Y to select System.
    • Right-clicking on the Windows logo Windows logo key on the Start menu to bring up the Power User menu and select System.
  2. In the right-hand column, left-click on the System protection link.
  3. In the Protection Settings field, check and ensure system protection is enabled. If it is not, then highlight the drive's name and left-click on the Configure ... button. Once you have verified that system protection is enabled, proceed to the next step.
  4. Highlight the C: (System) drive, and left-click on the button labeled Create ....
  5. Type in a descriptive title for your restore point (the date and time are automatically added).
  6. Left-click on Create.

How to use a restore point in Windows 10 and Windows 11

  1. Bring up the System > About page by either:
    • Pressing the Windows logo key Windows logo key + Pause.
    • Pressing the Windows logo key Windows logo key + X to bring up the Power User menu and press Y to select System.
    • Right-clicking on the Windows logo Windows logo key on the Start menu to bring up the Power User menu and select System.
  2. In the right-hand column, left-click on the System protection link.
  3. At the top of the System Protection tab, left-click on the button under the System Restore section labeled System Restore ....
  4. When the starting screen appears, left-click on Next >.
  5. Highlight the restore point you want to use, then left-click on Next >.
  6. When the confirmation screen appears, left-click on Finish.
  7. A warning should appear telling you not to interrupt the system restore process. Left-click on Yes to proceed.
  8. Your computer will start restoring the system (including the registry) to how it was when the restore point was created and reboot.

Creating a system repair disk or recovery drive in Windows 10 and Windows 11

System repair disks and recovery drives are essentially the same thing. They are bootable drives that contain the essential system tools to repair your Windows installation. The only difference is the media they use; system repair disks use CDs/DVDs, and recovery drives use USBs. Recovery drives can also reinstall Windows. Click here for more on Recovery Drives for Windows 10 and Windows 11.

How to create a system repair disk for Windows 10 or Windows 11 (requires a blank CD/DVD)

  1. Bring up the Run dialog box by either:
    • Pressing the Windows logo key Windows logo key + R
    • Right-click on the Windows logo Windows logo key on the Start Menu or press the Windows logo key Windows logo key + X and then select Run
  2. In the Run dialog box that appears, type recdisc and select OK. If you're prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation. Just follow the prompts.

How to create a recovery drive for Windows 10 (requires an empty USB drive 16GB or larger)

  1. Left-click on the Start button Windows logo to bring up the Start menu.
  2. Scroll down the list of programs and left-click on Windows Accessories.
  3. Double left-click on Recovery Drive. Just follow the prompts.

How to create a recovery drive for Windows 11 (requires an empty USB drive 16GB or larger)

  1. Left-click on the Start button Windows logo to bring up the Start menu.
  2. In the upper right-hand corner of the Start menu, left-click on All apps.
  3. Scroll down the list of programs and left-click on Windows Tools.
  4. Double left-click on Recovery Drive. Just follow the prompts.

Manually backup and restore the registry in Windows 10 and Windows 11

The Registry Editor interface inside of Windows 10
The Registry Editor interface inside of Windows 10

Another way to backup the registry is to use the built-in Registry Editor. The beautiful thing about using the Registry Editor is that you don't have to backup the whole registry if you don't want to. You can just backup any key or value you want.

There is a downside to using the Registry Editor to manually backup the registry. To restore anything with the Registry Editor, you must boot your computer in either standard or safe mode. A system repair disc doesn't have the Registry Editor included.

How to manually backup the registry using the Registry Editor in Windows 10 and Windows 11

  1. Bring up the Run dialog box by either:
    • Pressing the Windows logo key Windows logo key + R
    • Right-click on the Windows logo Windows logo key on the Start Menu or press the Windows logo key Windows logo key + X and then select Run
  2. In the Run dialog box that appears, type regedit and select OK. If you're prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.
  3. When the Registry Editor appears either:
    • Highlight Computer in the left-hand column to backup the complete registry.
    • Highlight the key or value you want to backup.
  4. Left-click on the File pull-down menu and left-click on Export.
  5. Select the location and a descriptive file name for the backup file, and then left-click on Save.

How to manually restore the registry using the Registry Editor in Windows 10 and Windows 11

  1. Bring up the Run dialog box by either:
    • Pressing the Windows logo key Windows logo key + R
    • Right-click on the Windows logo Windows logo key on the Start Menu or press the Windows logo key Windows logo key + X and then select Run
  2. In the Run dialog box that appears, type regedit and select OK. If you're prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.
  3. When the Registry Editor appears either:
  4. Left-click on the File pull-down menu and left-click on Import.
  5. Navigate to the location of the REG file you want to import and left-click on it.
  6. Left-click on the Open button. You should get a confirmation screen telling you successfully imported the file.

How to disable or enable auto-start programs and drivers in Windows 10 and Windows 11

Updated March 26, 2024

In doing computer repair, I often get asked, "Why does my computer take so long to start up?". Quite frequently, it turns out there are items set to auto-start that don't need to or don't exist anymore. Here's how to disable programs, drivers, and services that auto-start in Windows 10 and Windows 11.

How to disable or enable auto-start programs and drivers in Windows 10 and Windows 11

Now, this one doesn't cost any money and can dramatically improve the time it takes for your computer and programs to start up. By minimizing the number of applications that launch at startup, you can also free up memory.

Now, there are three (3) programs I use to enable or disable programs, drivers, or services that start up in Windows 10 and Windows 11. The built-in programs (Task Manager and System Configuration) are pretty safe to use but still can degrade performance if not used properly. The third program (Autoruns / Autoruns64) can be dangerous because not only can it enable or disable entries, but it can also delete them.

Note: I recommended that you make changes one at a time and restart between them. That way, you can find out if you need that program or service you just disabled. Yes, it's time-consuming, but sometimes you have to do it.

Task Manager (Auto-start programs)

The Startup tab inside of Task Manager
The Startup tab inside of Windows 10 / Windows 11 Task Manager

Using Task Manager is the most comfortable and safest way to enable or disable programs that auto-start with Windows 10 and Windows 11. None of the programs listed here are going to prevent your computer from starting if disabled. You will not find any program listed here that Windows 10 or Windows 11 requires to operate.

Now, for those of you who are not familiar with Task Manager, it's a built-in program that does a lot of different things. It monitors running programs, system performance, and active processes. And it also manages programs that auto-start with Windows.

How to start Task Manager in Windows 10 and Windows 11

  1. Right-click on the Start Windows logo key button to bring up the Power User menu.
  2. Left-click on Task Manager.

or

  1. Press CTRL + ALT + DEL all at the same time.
  2. From the security screen that appears, left-click on Task Manager.

or

  1. Right-click on an empty area of the Taskbar.
  2. On the context menu that appears, left-click on Task Manager.

Sometimes, the first time you run Task Manager, it will only display running apps. You have to left-click the More details arrow to view all the tabs. The location of the tabs varies from Windows 10 (across the top) to Windows 11 (down the left side).

Once the tabs are displayed, left-click on Startup (Windows 10) or Startup apps (Windows 11). From here, all you have to do is highlight the program name and select the Enable / Disable button.

System Configuration (Auto-start services)

The Services tab inside of System Configuration
The Services tab inside of System Configuration

This program is used mainly for diagnostics, so there are no splashy graphics. With System Configuration, you can change the services that auto-start with Windows. Be careful about making changes here, as they can have a significant impact on system performance.

How to start System Configuration in Windows 10

  1. Left-click on the Start button Windows logo and scroll down the list of applications to Windows Administrative Tools.
  2. Left-click on Windows Administrative Tools to expand the contents.
  3. Scroll down and left-click on System Configuration.

How to start System Configuration in Windows 11

  1. Left-click on the Start button Windows logo to bring up the Start menu.
  2. In the upper right-hand corner of the Start menu, left-click on All apps.
  3. Scroll down the list of programs and left-click on Windows Tools.
  4. Left-click on System Configuration.

How to start System Configuration in both Windows 10 and 11

  1. Press the Windows logo key Windows logo key + R to bring up the Run dialog box.
  2. Type in MSCONFIG and left-click on OK.

From the default dialog box, select the Service tab. There, you will find all the services that auto-start with Windows. Remember that some of the Microsoft services listed cannot be disabled, so it's always best to select the Hide all Microsoft services checkbox at the bottom of the services section.

Once you have made your changes left-click on the Apply button, then left-click on the OK button. You will get a dialog box prompting you to either Restart or Exit without restart. Left-click on Restart, and you're ready to go. Remember to make changes one at a time and restart in between changes.

Autoruns / Autoruns64 (Auto-start programs, drivers, and services)

The Everything tab inside of Microsoft Autoruns
The Everything tab inside Microsoft Autoruns

Autoruns.exe (32-bit) and Autoruns64.exe (64-bit) are part of Microsoft's Sysinternals Suite of troubleshooting utilities and do not come with Windows 10 or Windows 11. But they are free, require no installation, and can be downloaded separately or with the complete suite (see links below).

Now Autoruns.exe will only run on 32-bit versions of Windows 10, and Autoruns64.exe will only run on 64-bit versions of Windows 10 and Windows 11. Windows 11 does not come in a 32-bit version. Most versions of Windows 10 are 64-bit, so if you have any doubt about what version of Windows 10 you have, download Autoruns64.exe first.

This program is the most complex of them all. And the most dangerous! Why do you ask? Besides being able to disable programs, drivers, and services that auto-start, you can also delete their load points altogether. So be careful!

Once you have downloaded the files and extracted them to a permanent location, open that folder with File Explorer. Locate either Autoruns.exe or Autoruns64.exe (depending on your version of Windows 10). Right-click on the release of Autoruns for your version of Windows 10 / Windows 11 and select Run as administrator from the context menu.

When you start Autoruns, it automatically scans your computer for auto-start programs, drivers, and services. Autoruns has multiple tabs for the different Windows auto-start locations (logon, services, drivers, etc.), including one called Everything. And if you select the User pull-down menu on the toolbar on top of the program, you can also select the different user profiles.

If you want to disable/enable a program or driver, left-click on the checkbox on the left-hand side of the entry. You can also delete an entry, but I recommend that you back it up first, just in case. If you find you don't need the backup, you can delete the file later.

To back up an entry in Autoruns, you right-click on it, and a context menu will appear. Left-click on Jump to entry ... and the Registry Editor opens to the location in the registry of that entry. Right-click on the selected entry in the Registry Editor, and a context menu appears. Left-click on Export and select a location and file name for your backup file.

Autoruns
Sysinternals Suite

How to use Libraries in Windows 10 and Windows 11

Updated October 2, 2022

Remember the old saying, "A place for everything and everything in its place"? The same holds for your files inside of Windows 10 and Windows 11. And managing your data in Windows 10 and Windows 11 can be a breeze when you use Libraries.

One of my favorite Windows file/folder organization features has to be Libraries. Libraries are nothing more than a collection of shortcuts to the original file/folder locations. But the places can be on your local computer or a network drive. Once you add a location to a library, it's just one click away inside of File Explorer.

Now let's not confuse user file folders with Libraries. User file folders are actual folders; Libraries are collections of shortcuts to user file folders. Your user files are already included in the Libraries by default. User file folders must be located on your computer, but Libraries can be shortcuts to both local and network file folders.

It's somewhat ironic that one of the coolest features that I can think of inside of Windows 10 and Windows 11 is hidden by default. But you can un-hide Libraries in just seconds. Here's how:

How to enable the Library view in Windows 10

  1. Open File Explorer by either
    • Left-clicking on the File Explorer icon (manilla folder) on the Taskbar.
    • Left-clicking the Start button, scrolling down and expanding the Windows System folder and left-clicking on File Explorer.
    • Right-click on the Start button and left-click on File Explorer from the Power User menu.
    • Press the Windows logo key Windows logo key + E.
  2. Left-click on the View tab on the top of the Ribbon.
    How to enable the Library view in Windows 10
  3. Left-click on the Navigation pane button and left-click on Show libraries.

How to enable the Library view in Windows 11

  1. Open File Explorer by either
    • Left-clicking on the File Explorer icon (manilla folder) on the Taskbar.
    • Left-clicking the Start button, left-clicking on All apps, scrolling down and left-clicking on File Explorer.
    • Right-click on the Start button and left-click on File Explorer from the Power User menu.
    • Press the Windows logo key Windows logo key + E.
  2. Left-click on the See more three horizontal dots (...) in the upper right-hand corner
  3. In the context menu that appears, left-click on Options.
    Where to find Folder Options in Windows 11 File Explorer
    The Folder Options dialog box will appear.
  4. On the Folder Options dialog box, left-click on the View tab.
    Folder Options inside of Windows 11
    Scroll to the bottom of the Advanced settings, select Show libraries, and then left-click the Apply button.

How to modify Library properties in Windows 10 and Windows 11

We are all familiar with files and folders, but when Windows 7 came out, we got another way to manage them, Libraries. Libraries are where you go to manage your documents, music, pictures, and other files. You can browse your data the same way you would in a folder, or view your files arranged by properties like date, type, and author.

In some ways, a Library is similar to a folder. For example, when you open a Library, you'll see one or more files. However, unlike a folder, a Library gathers data stored in several locations. This is a subtle but significant difference. Libraries don't hold your files, just shortcuts to them. Libraries monitor folders containing your data and let you access and arrange the files differently. For instance, if you have music files in folders on your hard disk and an external drive, you can access all of your music files at once using the Music Library.

Windows 10 and Windows 11 have four (4) default libraries (Documents, Music, Pictures, and Videos) and include links to your user files by default. Remember that you can add up to fifty (50) folders to a Library. And if you like, you can also create your own Libraries. Here are some other ways you can modify an existing Library.

  • Include or remove a folder. Libraries gather content from included folders or Library locations.
  • Change the default save location. The default save location determines where an item is stored when it's copied, moved, or saved to the Library.
  • Change the type of file a library is optimized for. Each Library can be optimized for a specific file type (such as music or pictures). Optimizing a Library for a particular file type changes the available options for arranging your files.

How to add a folder to a Library in Windows 10 and Windows 11

  1. Open File Explorer (see enabling Library view).
  2. Right-click on the Library you'd like to change and select Show more options (Windows 11), Properties.
  3. Below the Library Locations box, click on Add, navigate to and highlight the folder you want to add to the Library, and left-click on Include folder.
  4. Left-click OK.

How to change a Library's default save location in Windows 10 and Windows 11

A Library's default save location determines where an item will be stored when it's copied, moved, or saved to the Library. You will need two or more folders in a Library to change the default save location.

  1. Open File Explorer (see enabling Library view).
  2. Right-click on the Library you'd like to change and select Show more options (Windows 11), Properties.
  3. Select the Library location you want as default, left-click on Set save location, and then left-click Apply.
  4. Left-click OK.

How to change the type of files a Library is optimized for in Windows 10 and Windows 11

Each Library can be optimized for a specific file type (such as music or pictures). Optimizing a Library for a particular kind of file changes the available options for arranging the data in that Library.

  1. Open File Explorer (see enabling Library view).
  2. Right-click on the Library you'd like to change and select Show more options (Windows 11), Properties.
  3. In the Optimize this library for list, select a file type and then left-click Apply.
  4. Left-click OK.

How to create a new Library in Windows 10 and Windows 11

  1. Open File Explorer (see enabling Library view).
  2. Right-click on Libraries and select Show more options (Windows 11), then New, then Library.
  3. Enter a name for the new Library, and then press Enter.

How to remove a folder from a Library in Windows 10 and Windows 11

If you don’t need a folder in a Library anymore, you can remove it. When you remove a folder from a Library location (shortcut), the folder and everything in it is still kept in its original location. Remember that when you delete a folder from a Library (folder), the folder and everything in it is deleted in its original location.

  1. Open File Explorer (see enabling Library view).
  2. Right-click on the Library you'd like to change and select Show more options (Windows 11), Properties.
  3. In the Library Locations dialog box, left-click on the folder you want to remove, left-click Remove, and then left-click OK.

How to add a network folder that is not indexed to a Library in Windows 10 and Windows 11

There will be times when you cannot get a shared network folder added to a Library due to indexing issues, and I found a way to get around this problem by creating a symbolic link.

  1. Open File Explorer (see enabling Library view).
  2. Left-click on This PC and create a folder on your drive for your network folders, for example, c:\share.
  3. Create another folder within that folder, for example, c:\share\music.
  4. Right-click the subfolder you just created and select Show more options (Windows 11), Include in library, and then select the library to which you want to add the folder or create a new Library.
  5. Delete the folder.
  6. Open a Command Prompt with Administrator privileges
  7. Enter mklink /d, and then enter the path of the folder you just deleted and the path of the network folder. For example, mklink /d c:\share\music \\server\music. If either of the folder names has spaces, encase the path(s) inside of quotes. For example, mklink /d "c:\shared files\music" "\\server\shared music". This creates what is called a symbolic link.

Here's how to create a symbolic link in Windows 8. It's the same procedure for Windows 10 and Windows 11.

Manage your Windows computer with the Microsoft Management Console

Updated October 5, 2022

Have you ever had a problem finding some of Windows' built-in administrative tools? Don't you wish you could have them in one easy-to-find location? You can do just that and more with the Microsoft Management Console.

Manage your Windows computer with the Microsoft Management Console

The Microsoft Management Console (MMC) is a program you can use to create and save collections of administrative tools called Consoles. Consoles contain items such as snap-ins, extension snap-ins, monitor controls, tasks, wizards, and documentation required to manage many of the hardware, software, and networking components of your Windows system.

Microsoft Management Console inside of Windows 11
The Microsoft Management Console inside of Windows 11

Here is a list of some of the more useful MMC Snapins:

  • Computer Management
  • Device Manager
  • Disk Management
  • Event Viewer
  • Link to Web Address
  • Performance Monitor
  • Print Management
  • Services
  • Shared Folders
  • Task Scheduler
  • Windows Defender Firewall

Using the Run dialog box to start the Microsoft Management Console

All versions of Windows:
On the keyboard, press the Windows logo key Windows logo key + R

Windows 8.1, Windows 10, and Windows 11:
Right-click on the Windows logo Windows logo key on the Start Menu or press the Windows logo key Windows logo key + X and then select Run

For all the different ways you can bring up the Run dialog box, check out How to get to and use the Run dialog box in Windows.

In the Run dialog box that appears, type mmc and select OK. If you're prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation. When the Microsoft Management Console appears, it is time to add some content.

How to add or remove Microsoft Management Console snap-ins

  1. Left-click on the File pull-down menu and select Add/Remove Snap-in
  2. In the list of snap-ins that appear, left-click the snap-in you want to add to your console and then left-click on the Add button
  3. If prompted, select either Local computer or Another computer. If you choose Another computer, you will have to browse your network for that computer. Be sure to select the checkbox for Allow the select computer to be changed when launching from the command line.
  4. Then left-click on Finish. This will bring you back to the Add/Remove Snapin screen. When you finish adding snap-ins, left-click on the OK button in the screen's lower right-hand corner.

How to add, edit, or remove a Microsoft Management Console Taskpad View

  1. Open a previously saved console, right-click on the console name and left-click either New Taskpad View, Edit Taskpad View, or Delete Taskpad View from the dialog menu that appears. If you do not have any Taskpad Views already inside the console, the only option that will appear is New Taskpad View.
  2. If you are creating a new Taskpad View, the New Taskpad View Wizard will appear. Just follow the prompts and choose the Taskpad default settings. If you don't like how it looks, you can always go back and edit the layout later. If you select a Taskpad View, the general settings and associated tasks will appear.
  3. When you finish creating a new Taskpad View, you can create a new task to go inside it. If you edit an existing Taskpad View, you can go to the Tasks tab and select the current Tasks.
  4. When adding new tasks, the New Task Wizard will appear. Just follow the prompts and select the command type you want to use. You can run a command from a menu, run a script or program, open a web page, or open a tree item from your MMC favorite list.

When you are finished setting up your console, don't forget to save it in a place where you can quickly access it, like your Desktop.

Using special font characters in Windows with Character Map

Updated October 23, 2022

Have you ever wanted to insert a letter or symbol into a Windows document that you could not find on your keyboard? Maybe a copyright, trademark, or tolerance symbol? You can do just that and more with Windows built-in Character Map.

Believe it or not, but Windows fonts can have more characters than your keyboard has keys. Most Windows fonts do have more characters than your keyboard can create. And that doesn't even include the unique font characters you can create with Private Character Editor. So how do you access and insert these characters? By using Character Map.

Character Map inside of Windows 11
Character Map inside of Windows 11

Character Map is one of those hidden gems inside Windows, that once you find it, you wonder how you lived without it. I remember first using Character Map inside Windows 3.1 and was amazed at what font characters I could insert into a Microsoft Word document. And the cool thing is you can add them to almost any Windows program (HTML editors excluded).

Character Map inside of Windows 3.11
Character Map inside of Windows 3.11

How to start up Character Map

You can start Character Map in two different ways: Windows built-in shortcut or from the Run dialog box.

Character Map in Windows 11

  1. Left-click on the Start menu
  2. Left-click on All Apps
  3. Scroll down and left-click on Windows Tools
  4. Left-click on Character Map

Character Map in Windows 10

  1. Left-click on the Start menu
  2. Left-click on All Apps
  3. Scroll down and left-click on Windows Accessories to expand it
  4. Left-click on Character Map

Character map in Windows 8 and Windows 8.1

  1. Swipe in from the right side of the screen or press the Windows logo key Windows logo key + C to bring up the Charm bar
  2. Left-click on Search button in Charm Bar.
  3. Left-click on Apps in Search.
  4. Type Character Map in the Search field on the Search pane
  5. In the results on the left-hand side, left-click on Character Map.

Character Map in Windows 7 and Windows Vista

  1. Left-click on the Start menu
  2. Left-click on All Programs
  3. Scroll down and left-click on Accessories to expand it
  4. Left-click on System Tools to expand it
  5. Left-click on Character Map

Using the Run dialog box to start Character Map

All versions of Windows:
On the keyboard, press the Windows logo key Windows logo key + R

Windows 8, Windows 8.1, Windows 10, and Windows 11:
Right-click on the Windows logo Windows logo key on the Start Menu or press the Windows logo key Windows logo key + X and then select Run

In the Run dialog box that appears, type charmap and select OK.

How to insert a special character into a document

  1. Left-click the Font pull-down menu and left-click the name of the font you want to use.
  2. Left-click on the special character you want to insert into the document.
  3. Left-click Select and then left-click Copy.
  4. Open/switch to your document and left-click the location in the document where you want the special character to appear.
  5. Left-click the program's Edit menu or right-click the location where you want the character to appear and select Paste.
  • Many programs allow you to drag and drop special characters into documents. To do this, click the character you want to copy. When the character appears enlarged, drag and drop it into the open document.
  • If you do not delete previously copied characters in the Characters to copy box, they are copied along with any new characters you select.
  • If a private character does not appear correctly in a document, select the character in the document, and change its font to match the font you chose in Character Map.

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