Backing Up the Registry
Is The Registry?
The Registry in Win9x contains much
of the information needed for the proper setup, configuration,
initialization and execution of the hardware and applications
installed on your computer. It contains all the user preferences
and the plug and play information and resources allocated at
startup. It tells the operating system how to access the modem,
what background color is being used on the desktop, and where
to find all the files required to run an application.
The registry keeps track of all associations.
In other words, it knows which program to open when you double-click
a document file or a graphic file.
Windows 3x also had a Registry of sorts (reg.dat),
but most of the setup info was provided in initialization (.ini)
files, including the System.ini and Win.ini. This produced miles
of .ini files in the Windows directory, most of which remained,
even after an application was removed.
Windows 95 made an attempt to get rid of a
good number of these .ini files and consolodate all the information
into a single Registry.
During the crossover, there were still lots
of .ini files being written to the Windows directory. Of course,
the older DOS programs still used the .ini files, and so did
some of the newer programs that were supposed to be written
specifically for Windows 95.
It takes a while to break old habits. Besides,
people don't want to have to replace all their equipment and
programs every time they upgrade the operating system, so any
new OS is designed to maintain backward compatibility.
The odd initialization file still shows up
in the Windows directory, and some applications will put .ini
files into the program's directory for easy access to various
basic changes that can be made without changing the Registry
Remember, when you install a new program, it
can write files to many different folders on the hard drive,
and can change the contents of several files that already exist
and are required at startup, or used in the execution of other
programs. And it will make changes to the Registry.
What's The Problem?
One problem is that every application
program out there seems to consider itself to be the most important
thing on your computer! Some will make changes without any consideration
as to the impact these changes will have on the applications
Other programs might not remove
themselves properly, or the user may not remove them properly.
Over a period of time, as programs are added and removed from
a system, unassociated information and orphaned entries are
left in the Registry, bloating the files, slowing down performance,
causing erroneous errors and possibly halting the system.
Another problem is buggy programs.
When you consider the hundreds of thousands of lines of code
that go into today's programs, it's easy to believe that every
program you use has bugs in it, some more than others.
Today's large programs are generally
written by many different programmers, each working on a different
part or section. Let's take a quick look at the process!
Once a programmer completes the
code for an individual section, its checked for mistakes or
problems, and repairs are made until the code performs properly.
This is the debugging process, and is a very large and time-
consuming part of the programmer's job.
The programmer also has to create
error handlers (more code) for the many possible improper responses
or input errors that can occur when thousands of different users
interact with the program.
When all the bugs they can find
are worked out, the program is compiled into a working application
(not necessarily complete) and tested.
You've got to remember however,
that these people wrote the program. They know it inside and
out. Without conscious effort, they may be working around a
problem that isn't recognized.
So, the program is distributed
to other associated individuals that use it for a period of
time, and identify user difficulties or bugs. Enhancements or
fixes are made by the programmers. This may be done several
times, and is known as Alpha testing.
Now the application is ready for
Beta testing. Beta versions of the program can be downloaded
from the Internet by unassociated individuals and installed
on their computers for testing.
The idea is to have a wide variety
of users try it out over a period of time and report on any
problems that they find. This allows the program to be tested
alongside a multitude of other applications, on thousands of
different computers using many different hardware and software
Bugs and problems then found by
the average user can be identified and addressed by the developers.
But you take your chances. They are not necessarily complete
Here's where you find another
problem for your Registry! Beta versions have been known to
screw up the Registry and corrupt files used by other programs.
They really should be installed on computers dedicated to Beta
testing. They are not meant to be used on the typical home or
business computer that has important data on it. Beta testing
is not for everyone.
But, everyone wants the latest
version of their favorite program! The popularity of the Internet
has made Beta versions available to hundreds of thousands of
individuals that don't understand the possible consequences,
or what Beta testing is. Kids are amazingly fast at picking
up computer skills and learning to understand the Internet and
it's possibilities, but most seem to think 'Beta' stands for
"This is the new version, you must have it!"
Everyone has seen (and downloaded)
Beta versions of Windows, Internet Explorer, Netscape, ICQ and
a multitude of others on the Internet. Yes, these are often
full working programs, but they're being made available for
testing before they are released to the general public as complete
Just so you don't get confused,
there are completed versions of these programs available for
download also. If they are Beta versions, they will say Beta
What about shareware or freeware?
There are thousands of excellent programs available on the Internet.
I use them all the time. Just be aware
that ShareWare may not be complete until you register and pay
for it. FreeWare programs may have been written by a single
programmer, and might go through shorter periods of Alpha and
Please don't get me wrong, I'm
not trying to dissuade anyone from testing Beta programs or
using shareware or freeware, I'm only commenting on some of
the hundreds of ways that the Registry (or any of your files
for that matter) can become corrupted, and the importance of
properly backing it up.
Like I said before, even store-bought
programs from reputable developers, right out of the box, can
cause problems for any number of reasons.
And don't forget viruses. They
quite often attack the Registry. If your computer is suffering
from unexplainable problems, always do a virus check. Upgrade
your virus program every year, and download new virus signatures
on a monthly or semi-monthly basis.