The Windows Registry Editor makes it simple to export settings, so there really is no excuse for not doing this prior to making any change. Depending on the OS you’re running, your options will be different, however. In Windows 98/ME, you have the option of exporting Registry settings into a Registration file, more commonly known as a REG file. At the most basic level, a REG file is a formatted text file that contains information about values and data stored in the Registry, as well as the associated path to where the values and data are stored. The benefit of this file type is that Registry values contained in the file can be imported by simply double-click on the file and confirming the action.
If you’re running Windows XP, Registry information can be exported in four main formats – Windows XP REG files, Registry hive files, text files, and as Windows 9X/NT 4.0 REG files (for backwards compatibility). Only the first three types should concern you, since it’s unlikely that you’ll be trying to migrate settings from XP to a Windows 9X or NT 4.0 system.
Exporting to a REG file in Windows XP is similar to doing the same in Windows 98/ME, producing a formatted text file that can be quickly imported. Choosing to export to a Registry hive file is a very different option – it creates a binary image of whatever key(s) you have specified for export, and has a very important use that we’ll look at shortly. However, you cannot view these files in a traditional text editor like Notepad. The last option, exporting to a text file, literally creates a text file in a manner similar to a REG file, but cannot be imported – use this option for documenting settings rather than as a backup.
To export Registry settings in XP, browse to the particular key that you want to export (sub-keys, values, and data will be included), and then choose Export from the File menu. After providing a descriptive File name, click the Save as Type drop-down menu, select the appropriate option, and click Save.