General discussion

Alternative registries

My main (online) PC is now 5 years old. It was well-specified at the time I bought it, so hardware-wise I'm still entirely comfortable with it. But inevitably after 5 years hard cyber life, the Windows installation is creaking badly in various ways. In conventional terms, a re-install is overdue, but most of us postpone that evil day, don't we.

It has occurred to me: is there a short cut via the registry ? If I imported a generic newly-installed XP registry, would I have escaped all the accumulated gunk and detritus ? OK. I'd then have to reinstall all the software I really wanted, and probably my online connection, but I could have everything I needed to do so lined up on the hard-drive before I wielded the knife.

Would this work ? If, so are there any downsides I need to consider?

And speculating further: could having a menu of registries be a way of in effect having a number of different set-ups (each simpler, more focussed on particular tasks) using the same machine ?

Shall be interested to hear people's thoughts on this .....

Ian Graham
Tawe Valley,



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Re: registries

An interesting thought. But there's no such thing as a "generic registry". It's dependent on your PC, on the edition of Windows, on the service pack level and on the Windows updates done.

But shows the idea works.


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Alternative registries , continued

Thanks to both Kees and Mark for their interest.

First thing, I think, is to acknowledge there are issues of temperament and circumstances involved here, as well as hard technicalities. I understand what you're saying, Mark, although the Grungy PC link is new to me. But if a reinstall is the only way, I'm likely to go to Dr. Ganimi, our local self-employed IT/PC man, and ask him to wipe everything, and reinstall, probably with an upgrade to Win 7 into the bargain.

But short of that, the power of the registry seems to me an interesting possibility. I acknowledge your point about 'generic', Kees - need to tighten up on my language and categories if I go that way. But even so, presumably the nearer you go back to the moment of original installation/set-up, the more similar all registries are ? And taking the point of the specific PC, a quick search on mine confirms there are a lot of *.reg files on it (over a screen and a half in Windows search), some dating back to very near to the beginning. Will all *.reg files be actual registries, or do other things slip into the category?

But I suppose the bottom line is, how safe is it to experiment ? Doesn't Windows automatically back itself up anyway, so there is always the option to revert to the most recently trouble-free registry? (I am not, note, proposing to go into the Registry - just wondering about reverting to a much earlier one on the PC).

Regedit has import and export routes. If I back up my current registry to where I know to find it, and import another reg file already on the PC, what's the worst that can happen ?



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If you are confident with that

then experiment by all means, and the results might even be good information for us here.

Since you are already thinking about getting the system reinstalled professionally anyway, you might consider that you have nothing to lose.

Couple of things to note.

How well do you know your local IT repair man? Not to be offensive, but we see a lot of reports in these forums where a user has returned from a local computer repair shop only to find they have installed their own version of the OS on it, and often that version is a copy. The reason they give is, (apart from a straight pirate version), that they have a Volume License version which allows them to install the OS onto multiple machines. It doesn't. That Volume License version is for corporate business use only. So, make sure you give them your XP setup disk and drivers disk, and make sure you get those back as well.

The second point. Windows 7 would be a great way to go. But make sure your machine is compatible with the newer OS. Try the Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor first. For XP 'upgrade' is a bit misleading. The Windows 7 Upgrade Setup disk in fact overwrites XP completely, so all files are deleted, and there is no turning back, eg no System Restore back to XP.

Kees' link about recovering from a registry crash is vital if you are going to experiment. You will need to understand that if the new registry does not match what is required, you may well be locked out of the system altogether. To recover from that you would need the XP Setup disk which has the Recovery Console. If the machine didn't come with the original and genuine XP Setup disk, then you won't have the Recovery Console available. (Many manufacturer systems arrive with no disks, but with a hidden recovery partition that returns the system to factory settings. However, nowadays users are told to create their own Recovery Disks and there is no hidden recovery partition. Those created disks do not have the Recovery Console).

You ask what's the worst that can happen. The world will explode! Devil

Other than that, your system may become unusable. So, remember those backups. Not so much the registry, but your personal files. We can 'start over' with a fresh install, but losing personal files we have built up over 5 years or so is very hard.

Good luck.


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Not something I've ever seen.

Even on identical systems there will be differences in the registry, and they might kill the system dead, so I'm going with no.

If you want to try it, make sure all your backups are complete, personal files, emails, settings, and so on, before you make the attempt. But I am sure it will fail.

An option is to clone the drive and often recommended in these forums is Clonezilla, (not something I have tried yet). That way, if it fails, you can then simply restore from the cloned ISO back onto the hard drive.

Another is a fresh install. I assume you have everything you need for that, the XP Setup disk and drivers, unless this machine has a hidden recovery partition that resets to factory settings. If it doesn't then you may need to research the XP + SATA issue where XP, (no Service Packs), doesn't know what SATA drives are, and will need those drivers installed during the XP Setup process from a floppy drive, or if the BIOS allows it, from a USB stick of some sort. In addition to the SATA issue is the problem that XP, (no SPs), has a hard drive limit of 127GBs.

So, for all that, a good plan will be best.

Alternatively, if the system is still working well, what about cleanup? Removing all unwanted software, limiting Startup files, trimming Services, and things like that can help rejuvenate an older system.

And finally, when did you, (or have you ever), Clean your Grungy PC?. If you have never done, it, you may be surprised what you find.

Hope that helps.


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It wouldn't help

It wouldn't help, and would likely end up taking even longer than doing a fresh install, assuming it were possible at all.

Honestly, anyone who isn't a software developer or professional debugger, would be better off just forgetting the registry even exists. There is pretty much no reason why anyone other than a developer/debugger should ever need to be aware of the registry, let alone concoct all kinds of crazy ideas about what they can do with it based on their extremely limited, and often incorrect, understanding of the registry. I'm all for people learning new things, but I've also found that most people don't want to take the time required to really learn about the registry once they find out all the prereqs they have to learn first, and a lack of knowledge rarely stops people from doing something stupid. Armed with just the tiniest bit of information, all too many people are willing to dive in head first, make a pig's breakfast out of everything, and then don't even have the decency to try and sort the mess out themselves. Rather they expect people, like those of us here, to bail them out and get uppity when we chastise them for their rash behavior, not to mention the supreme arrogance of just assuming someone else will be willing to fix everything for you, free of charge, while being perfectly polite and charming the whole time. Maybe delusional is a better word that arrogance.

In any case, I digress. What you want to do would not work, and assuming it did, it wouldn't save you any time. It would likely do the opposite of making things take longer, because you'd be spending a lot of time trying to get things to work, ultimately find out the registry doesn't do quite as much as you thought it did, then have to start all over with a fresh install anyway. Whereas if you'd just started with the fresh install to begin with, you'd be done already.

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Alternative registries cont and conc

I think that's a consensus, then......

Thanks to mark (again) and Jimmy.

Ian G.

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