TechBite: Save your PCs Bacon – Back up your Registry


By Steve Bass

Hello ERUNT, Adios System Restore

I gave up on Windows System Restore. Yep, I turned the feature off and replaced it with a freebie I like better.

Why System Restore Isn’t So Hot

System Restore is a recovery tool built into Windows that backs up and restores the Registry. System Restore takes a snapshot of your computer — called a restore point — once a day, as well as before you perform certain tasks, such as installing a new program. If all goes well, you can use a restore point later on to bring your PC back to the state it was in when the snapshot was taken. But remember, we’re talking about computers.

Sometimes System Restore doesn’t work. You click a restore point and Windows has a hearty, gleeful laugh. The problem is that each restore point is linked to previous points; if one is corrupt or missing, you’re out of luck: System Restore won’t work. (Learn more about the ins and outs of System Restore in Bert Kinney’s smart and thorough FAQ.)

My Love Affair with ERUNT

For the last year, I’ve been using the Emergency Recovery Utility NT. Affectionately known as ERUNT, it’s a free tool that automatically backs up your Registry and allows you to restore it. And despite its name, it works with Windows XP and Vista, including 64-bit editions.

The tremendous advantage of ERUNT is that each restore point is independent of the other points. If one goes kaflooey, the others will still work. Nice also is being able to back up a restore point to an external drive or stick it onto an online storage site.
I let ERUNT do its backup thing each morning; when you install it, that’s the default. The program saves a week of restore points (plenty, in my opinion) and automatically deletes older ones. You can set a restore point manually at any time, too.


This post is excerpted with Steve’s permission from his TechBite blog.

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18 thoughts on “TechBite: Save your PCs Bacon – Back up your Registry”

  1. Well, hi to my fellow computer-users! I’ve been using pc’s and small WANs since 1987. – Yep, that’s Concurrent DOS territory! Back then, I learned about back-ups, the really hard way – DO IT! Defrags – DO IT! Keep it clean – DO IT!
    Reading all these messages says to me that hardly anybody has learned ANYTHING! This stuff is the BASIC A-B-C of computing.

    I’m by no means perfect in my usage but I do the BASICS. I use MS Office 2000 ProXP SP2, on auto update. I have at least 3 security-based FREE systems working for me in the background and use 2 others to do clean-ups on demand. PC Pitstop is just one of them. I have not had to restore ANYTHING in at least 8 years including use of the internet almost daily, including downloads! TotalCAD, powerpoint, digital photography, spreadsheets, documents, databases, family history research, guitar TABs, bluetooth & wireless, to name a few.
    I’ve avoided Vista and the “Next Generation”, sucker-traps. All the time “they” write such resource-hungry stuff, I step aside of it. THERE’s the main source of our problems and system weaknesses.
    Well, I’m a granddad and I don’t scare easily!

    I do have a full image on a 160Gb, free-standing disk and it’s seldom more than a month out of date. I’m not trying to appear “holier than thou”, folks! Just hoping to pass on the lessons learned by this lively old dog and the benefit of being sensible with what you access on such a wide-open system. Works for ME! My final shot – have a GOOD look at what you’re doing and how. Divide by two, then PROTECT IT! Simples!

  2. I do agree that it is a must for your system to be backed up, by making a whole disk image. I have been using True Image for years and it’s one of the best programs out there today to create backups! I now use True Image 2009.

  3. Just backing up the registry is definitely not enough. SR seems to backup all the files which are updated or replaced and then restores them if required (or deletes files which were added).
    While this is mostly very nice, the drawback is that may also restore files infected with viruses, and reverts the virus checker’s program/signature files to earlier versions.

  4. I have used ERUNT for about five years and it has saved my computer many times. Each automatic save is found in windows under Erunt and you click on the one you want and it installs that registry. You are back in business. I also use it to back up things I have recently added, when my computer is running great! It is my favorite program and I do not like system restore. It is turned off!

  5. Thanks for the info about why SR doesn’t work. I used to use it all the time, but when I recently tried (3 times on different days) to restore to a previous point, it said it couldn’t. Now I assume, from your info, that one of the restore points is corrupted.
    Think I’ll download ERUNT and give it a try, with periodic full backups of course.

  6. I just use Acronis True Image Home 2009 to make a set of recovery discs. I can set the PC up any way I want and once everything is configured I make an image of the partition Windows was installed on.

    If the machine fails or has issues I can toss the first disc in and reboot then click on restore and boom it’s all back to the way it was when I made the discs.

  7. steve I Need some help with blue screens on vista. I Can’t find any help googling. my codes aren’t the most common listed. Is there somewhere I Can go to get a better list of the codes ? as an example one of my codes :080a0009,another is:85cedge8, these are just a few. any help would be apperciated.

  8. I’ve not got a lot of faith in System Restore but found it’s okay for the more mundane glitches. In my opinion, I love DriveImage XML for two reasons: in case of a catastrophic failure of the hard drive or perchance some malware slips into the mix (which, after removal, would be put right back in on next reboot by SR). From a PE disk, XML will restore my complete OS in less than half an hour; however, it does take some study to get acquainted with it and automate it for regular backups to the external HD. Best of all, XML and BartPE (a necessary precursor) are freeware and decent tutorials can be found, online, on how to do it all.

  9. Second statement in continueing the first letter in regards to Image Protection (Recover verses Restore). The reason I used 10GB was because after installing all programs and there updates the disk was using 7.2 GB of space, this included some pictures, musoc and personal data. I allowed 2.5GB extra space for incremental backups. You would ask when to stop.
    well after 2 years and knowing that my computer was still running 99% effective I deleted my complete restore and then created a new one.

  10. In my opinion this is a both/and situation.

    Instead of turning System Restore off, install and use ERUNT with auto daily backups and turn System Restore way down so that it only holds a couple of restore points. That way if ERUNT shoud ever fail to do what you need (I’ve never experienced it) System Restore is standing by to pick up the slack.

    Further, it is also vital to have an imaging program set to make incremental backups to the main image at least once a day. Then, in case of hard drive failure or other serious catastrophe, the image is available for (relatively) quick recovery.

    ERUNT, System Restore, AND Drive Imaging! It’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it!

    Registry cleaners can lead to serious difficulty. I would never use one without ERUNT working for me.

    ERUNT! I won’t boot without it!

  11. I am glad that PC Pitstop is giving us such information, we all need to know. I myself have been using RestoreIt for the past for years and it has saved my computer several times. It was simple I cleaned installed all my programs which at the time where Windows XP with all the updates, Microsoft Office, Windows Live OneCare, Nero 6, Adobe. Once all was installed I ran the Disk Cleaner, Defragmenter, Disk Check and Finally reset Internet Explorer. once I was done I installed and set 10 GB of RestoreIt space, this of course requires a few ours but once it is done backing up the complete image including the operating system then at that point it is just a matter of clicking 2 options, Complete Restore or incremental restore, you set the limits or just use the complete system restore, yes of course it is on a safe and protected area of the hard drive.there are some that are better but for the cost and the headaches it is well worth the $29+.

  12. This is very interesting – unfortunately my knowledge is insufficient to understand the issues regarding what ERUNT will do compared to SR and vice versa. However in my case I’d be glad of anything that would restore the registry reliably as on my AMILO laptop SR has never worked since I first tried to use it many months ago. I always receive an annoyingly vague message at the end of each attempt informing me that “an error” has occured and that my “system is unchanged.” Extremely irritating. For several months now I’ve been using Uniblue’s Registry Booster 2009 for scanning, corecting errors, de-fragging and backing up the registry. Is there anything to be gained by me installing ERUNT and using it in future? Comments appreciated as I have slightly less than no idea!

  13. Rhonda Lea Kirk Fries

    I love and use ERUNT, but System Restore does things ERUNT cannot do. I had a failure that System Restore would have fixed (based on the outcome for another person who experienced the same failure), but ERUNT could not fix in its entirety. I still have not completely reconstructed all the shortcuts I lost (and not just shortcuts I created–my entire Administrative Tools folder and all my Accessories were gone, among many others. With SR turned on, this would not have been an issue. I would not be without ERUNT, but I will never again turn off System Restore.

  14. I’ve been using, and recommending, erunt and dix for years along with syncbackSE (free and paid), as well as mentioning them to several established columnists; it’s nice to see that someone “respectable” (Hi, Steve!) has finally seen fit to mention one of them.
    The combination of these three tools will backup and restore the whole shebang or parts thereof as needed and have saved my systems and those of my customers numerous times.

  15. Of course I agree with the above as I use Norton Ghost for the last 6 years without a problem, but with this program steve has found… it does much the same with only a small percentage of time and effort. If I have a major problem that ERUNT cant handle, then I would of course us Ghost, but in my humble opinion I see ERUNT covering most bases. For instance…many time I have installed programs only to find them useless, and so a restore point is warranted. Thanks steve,

  16. I think yr both right, an image is the best, but making one can take a few hours. Most people are not making one every day. If erunt makes a backup of the registry every day that will prob. be o.k. for 95% of any problem. And for the other 5% you have yr image back up.

  17. Interesting, but do you feel that a registry only back up is sufficient for all of the data kept on your OS drive?

    Personally I would say no. Corruption can happen to physical drives not just to a structured (if you can call the MS regsitry that lol) electronic set of data. What happens then?

    I have been using DriveImageXML for backing up my complete OS drive, containing everything and having the option if need be to go back to a clean OS install with my always used applications and necessary updates already installed after a single reboot.

    Yes the process requires a second bootable OS installation in order to overwrite the core OS partition when not in use, but by today’s computer standards of multiple physical drives and partitions it is not a big deal to create a small space for an emergency OS boot to restore your system with a couple of clicks.

    Personally I havent looked back since 😉

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