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How to backup and restore the registry in Windows 10

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

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 it is a single entity, it actually 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) basic 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

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 of 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 life saver if your system fails to start up after a change or modification. Just make sure to create a system repair disk (instructions below) and have it on hand just 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

  1. Bring up the System 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. Left-click on the Advanced system settings link.
  3. Left-click on the System Protection tab of the System Properties dialog box.
  4. At the bottom of the System Protection tab left-click on button under the Protection Settings section 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

  1. Bring up the System 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. Left-click on the Advanced system settings link.
  3. Left-click on the System Protection tab of the System Properties dialog box.
  4. At the top of the System Protection tab left-click on button under the System Restore section labeled System Restore ....
  5. When the starting screen appears, left-click on Next >.
  6. Highlight the restore point you want to use, then left-click on Next >.
  7. When the confirmation screen appears, left-click on Finish.
  8. A warning should appear telling you not to interrupt the system restore process. Left-click on Yes to proceed.
  9. Your computer will now start restoring the system (including the registry) to the way it was at the time the restore point was created and then reboot.

How to create a system repair disk in Windows 10

  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 and you should be good to go.

Manually backup and restore the registry in Windows 10

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. Nice 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.

Now there is a down-side to using the Registry Editor to manually backup the registry. To restore anything with the Registry Editor you have to be able to boot your computer in either normal 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

  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

  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

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

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

Now this one doesn't cost any money and can dramatically improve the time it takes for your computer and programs to start up. Also by minimizing the amount programs that launch at start up, you can also free up memory that would be otherwise used by them.

Now there are three (3) programs I use to enable or disable programs, drivers or services that start up in Windows 10. 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 / Autoruns32) can be dangerous because not only can it enable or disable entries, it can also delete them.

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

Task Manager (Auto-start programs)

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

This is the easiest and safest way to enable or disable programs that auto-start with Windows 10. None of the programs listed here are going to prevent your computer from starting if disabled. In fact, you will not find any program listed here that Windows requires to operate.

Now for those of you that are not familiar with Task Manager, it's a built-in program that does allot of different things. It monitors running programs, system performance and active processes. And it also manages programs that auto-start with Windows 10.

How to start Task Manager in Windows 10

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

The first time you run Task Manager, it only displays running apps. You have to left-click on the More details arrow to display all of the tabs. Once you have the tabs displayed, left-click on Startup.

From here all you have to do is highlight the program name and select the Enable / Disable button located in the bottom right-hand corner.

System Configuration (Auto-start services)

The Services tab inside of Windows 10 System Configuration
The Services tab inside of Windows 10 System Configuration

This program is used mainly for diagnostics, so there are no splashy graphics here. With System Configuration you can change the services that auto-start with Windows 10. Be careful making changes here, as they can have a major impact on system performance.

How to start System Configuration in Windows 10

  1. Left-click on the Start Menu 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.

or

  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 of the services that auto-start with Windows 10. Remember that some of the Microsoft services listed cannot be disabled, so it's always best practice to select the Hide all Microsoft services check box 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 be prompted 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 of Microsoft Autoruns

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

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

Once you have downloaded and unzip the files to a permanent location, open Windows Explorer and navigate to that folder. Now right-click on either Autoruns.exe or Autoruns64.exe (depending on your version of Windows 10) and select Run as administrator from the context menu that appears.

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, just left-click on the check box 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 just 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

Navigating Windows 10

Seems nowadays everyone is looking for ways to get things done quicker. The same holds true for your computer. The faster you can open a program or document, the better. So here's my favorite tips for navigating Windows 10.

Navigating Windows 10

Since I do computer repair for a living, I've had to find ways to navigate around the different versions of Windows. With Windows 10, Microsoft keep some of the cooler features while adding some new ones. And they even brought back one feature from previous versions. Let's take a look at my favorite ways to get around inside of Windows 10.

Power User menu

This little pop-up menu is the fast way to find some of the core features inside of Windows 10. It first appeared in Windows 8 to supplement the loss of the Start Menu. It never got the publicity it deserved and only real geeks knew it existed. My customers are still amazed the first time I use it in front of them.

Lucky for us Microsoft decided to keep the Power Users menu in Windows 10. It is still the fastest way to get to features like the Control Panel, Programs and Features and Computer Management. Here's how to display the Power User menu in Windows 10.

Windows 10 Power User menu

There are two (2) ways of displaying the Power User menu in Windows 10: Mouse or Keyboard.

Using your mouse to display the Power User menu in Windows 10

Right-click on the Windows logo Windows logo key on the Start Menu

Using your keyboard to display the Power User menu in Windows 10

Press the Windows Logo key Windows logo key + X

If you use the keyboard to bring up the Power User menu, you'll find that the programs / features listed have a single letter in their name underlined. These are also keyboard shortcuts to that particular program / feature. Here's a link to the complete list of the Power User menu keyboard shortcuts for Windows 10.

Power User menu keyboard shortcuts

Windows logo key shortcuts for Windows 10

Here's is another really useful feature that nobody really knows about, the Windows logo key. I have customers ask me all the time "What does that key with the Windows logo do?". Well, its primary use is to bring up the Start Menu, but it does more. Allot more.

The Windows logo key was introduced over twenty (20) years alongside of Windows 95 and the new Start Menu. There were only a handful of Windows logo key shortcuts at that time and you had to purchase a Windows 95 compatible keyboard to use them. Now you can't find a Windows compatible keyboard without it.

There are now close to forty (40) Windows logo key shortcuts in Windows 10. Once you try them out you'll wonder how you lived without for so long. Here's a link to the complete list of Windows logo key shortcuts.

Windows logo key shortcuts for Windows 10

Shortcut keys in Windows 10

This is one of those 'old school' features that I love to use. Did you know that you can open almost any shortcut with just your keyboard? By simply editing a shortcut, you open it with a combination of three (3) keys.

Now if you have used Windows for a while, you know what a shortcut is. And if not, no biggie. Here's how to create a shortcut in Windows 10.

Allot of people don't know that they can edit a shortcut and change the way it works, including adding a keyboard shortcut to it. The keyboard shortcut for your shortcut needs to be a combination of three (3) keys and the first two (2) keys have to be CTRL and ALT. The third key is your choice, but I try to use either the first letter of the program / file or a letter close to CTRL and ALT keys.

The shortcut key field inside of the properties a shortcut
The shortcut key field inside of the properties of a shortcut

How to add a keyboard shortcut to an existing shortcut

  1. Right-click on the shortcut you want to modify and from the context menu that appears select Properties.
  2. When the properties dialog box appears, make sure the Shortcut tab is selected.
  3. Go down to the Shortcut key field and left-click inside of the field (the cursor will blink).
  4. Press the CTRL key and the key you want assigned to the shortcut at the same time (Windows will automatically add the ALT).
  5. Left-click on Apply and you are done.

Start Menu

And last but not least is the Start Menu. After a brief disappearance in Windows 8, Microsoft decided to bring it back. It's now got a slightly different look and feel, but it still does what it is supposed to do: Navigate.

How to clean up an old joystick or game controller

Do you have an old PC joystick or game controller you haven't used in a long time? Did the buttons or the gamepad start to stick? Here's how to clean up old PC joysticks and game controllers.

If you're like me, you hate to get rid of anything that still works. So when I wrote the DosBox and Internet Archive articles, I started to think about the old game controllers I have. There is really nothing wrong with them, just a little dirt and grime.

And how much fun would it be to actually play the original DOS version of Doom with an original Gravis Gamepad Pro from the mid '90's. Gravis made couple variations of the gamepad with a couple of different connectors (USB and joystick port). I had both types, but only have the USB version now.

After a little research I found I could actually use a Gravis Gamepad Pro, as long as it had a USB connection. In fact, Microsoft still includes support for the Gravis Gamepad Pro inside of Windows 10.

The Gravis Gamepad Pro icon inside of Windows 10 Devices and Printers
The Gravis Gamepad Pro icon inside of Windows 10 Devices and Printers

And to top it off, DosBox does support USB game controllers, so I am almost ready to start playing games with my gamepad. But first I need clean it up, as some of the buttons have gotten kind of sticky.

Now when you start talking about disassembling and reassembling any piece of electronics, always remember to never work on anything that is plugged in (energized). Always disconnect the device from any connection and de-energize it before working on it. Never work on a device that is live (energized)!

The follow procedures are the same for almost any computer device, except for Hard Disk Drives (HDD). HDD's have to be disassembled / reassembled in an environment that is free of contaminates, like a clean room.

Now before I start tearing down my gamepad, I will need some basic tools. First and foremost is a digital camera or smartphone w/ camera and a notepad. Remember the old saying 'A picture is worth a thousand words'? Same holds true here. With no service manual or online instructions, I'll be tearing down the gamepad blind. The photos and notes will be my guide for reassembly.

This is a simple tear down and I'll only need a Philips head screw driver (Ph.1), couple of brushes, some cleaning solution, paper towels and some compressed air. Tweezers or needle-nose pliers may also come in handy but are not required.

First thing I'll do is take photos of the top, bottom and sides of the gamepad. That way I have a record of how the completely assembled gamepad should look. Next I'll start removing the screws on the bottom and checking to see if all of them are the same size. If any are different, I'll make note of it and place them separate from the rest.

Screw hole locations on bottom of Gravis Gamepad Pro
Screw hole locations on bottom of Gravis Gamepad Pro

Once I have all of the screws out of the bottom, I can carefully separate the top and bottom of the gamepad chassis. I can see there are two (2) screws that hold the main circuit board in place. After I remove the two (2) screws I carefully remove the main circuit board from the chassis. Remember to take photos of everything you do!

Main circuit board screw locations inside of the Gravis Gamepad Pro
Main circuit board screw locations inside of the Gravis Gamepad Pro

Now I can access all of the buttons and the rubber castle switch tops. I first inspect the tops of castle switches for any damage. They have no physical damage and appear to be pretty clean. Since they are almost twenty (20) years, I've decided they really don't need to be cleaned.

The Gravis Gamepad Pro completely disassembled
The Gravis Gamepad Pro completely disassembled

Now on to the buttons. As I remove them I can see some gunk that has built-up around the sides of the buttons and the adjacent holes in the chassis. A quick cleaning of the button and chassis will take care of this and should fix the sticky button problem.

A gunked up button from a Gravis Gamepad Pro
A gunked up button from a Gravis Gamepad Pro

When it comes to drying all of the parts off, I usually use paper towels to get the majority of moisture off and then use some compressed air to get any moisture out from the cracks and crevices.

Once all of the parts are clean and dry, refer to your photos and notes to reassemble. Remember not to over tighten any screw and/or nut, you can always make a second pass around and snug up any screws and/or nuts that need it.

Download old software and play old video games at the Internet Archive

Have you ever wanted to play an old video game from your past? Maybe play Pitfall on the Atari 2600 or Super Donkey Kong on a Colecovision? You can all that and more at the Internet Archive.

The Internet Archive logo

The Internet Archive (IA) is an online digital library with all sorts of free ebooks / text, videos, audio recordings, software and images. But they are best known for their history of websites from over 20 years.

Websites

The IA has a cool archive of websites going back over twenty (20) years. Do a search in the Way Back Machine for Microsoft.com or Facebook.com and you can find their very first website. I actually found one of the first versions of my own personal domain from 1998.

But since these pages are cached versions of the originals, some elements might be missing. Photos, videos and Flash / Java elements have a tendency not to get cached. But it's still fun to see what the Internet looked like a couple of decades ago.

eBooks and Text

With over ten million titles in their library, you would be hard pressed not to find something that interests you. Keep in mind that some these titles are old, but you can still find all sorts of cool publications. Hey, where else are you going to find a copy of Family Computing from December 1983?

The cover of Family Computing from December 1983
The cover of Family Computing from December 1983

The IA even has the ebooks / texts broken down into collections. I found a copy of The Principle of Relativity from 1920 in the MIT Library. There are all sorts of hidden gems here. All you have to do is search through them. And with over 10 million titles, that may take some time.

Videos

This is my second favorite collection and I have spent hours going through them. There are films, movies and videos ranging from old-time movies to classic cartoons. When was the last time you saw an old Popeye or Woody Woodpecker cartoon?

And if you're a computer geek like me, you'll just love the Computer & Technology collection. From old episodes of the Computer Chronicles and Net Cafe to made for TV movies like the Pirates of Silicon Valley from 1999. With over 2 million titles, you know I'll be spending more of my free time going through them.

Audio

The collections here range from old-time radio programs like Dragnet from the '50's to Grateful Dead concerts from the '70's. The quality of the audio will vary from file to file, but that is to be expected. Some of these recordings are quite old.

Also mixed into this collection you'll find audio books and poetry readings. I even found some recordings from the Spin Doctors and the Gin Blossoms. With around 3 million audio files, there should be something for everyone.

Software

Now I guess that I don't have to tell you that this is my favorite collection of all. The software here ranges from video game consoles from the '70's - '90's to old DOS and Windows games / programs. Most of the DOS games and video game consoles are emulated, so you can play these games right from inside your browser.

The Atari 2600 version of Pitfall
The Atari 2600 version of Pitfall

Anybody remember Tucows? Tucows was the place in the '90's to go for shareware / freeware software. Well they donated all of their software titles a decade or so ago to the IA and they are all here available for download.

The Colecovision version of Super Donkey Kong
The Colecovision version of Super Donkey Kong

Now you can download most of the Windows software, but be aware that some of them are 16-bit and will not run on 64-bit operating systems. If you really want to run some of the old Windows software, you will need to set up a virtual machine like VirtualBox running that particular operating system.

Images

This collection is kind of a mixed bag. You have images from the USGS (United States Geological Survey), the Metropolitan Museum of Art and album cover art all in one place.

But the best image collection I think is the one from NASA. Some of the images are quite incredible. If you get a chance, check out the Moon - False Color Mosaic image.

Now before you go checking the IA out, I want to let you know that they are a non-profit organization (501C) and all donations are tax deductible. So if you find it useful and fun as I do, please make a donation.

To get the most out of the IA, it is recommended that you register for a virtual library card. For more information on the Internet Archive, just follow the link below.

Internet Archive: Digital Library of Free Books, Movies, Music & Wayback Machine

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