TECHLINE by Jim Youngquist

Steps to maintaining a
healthy Windows PC

[JULY 7, 2000]  There are three ways that your Windows PC (personal computer) can get seriously injured: (1) getting struck by lightning, (2) having file corruption caused by turning the system off without properly shutting Windows down, and (3) installing and uninstalling programs.

In a previous TechLine article we have already discussed the power protection issue, and so we have already taken the first step to maintaining a healthy Windows PC (please refer to the LDN Archives, April 22, 2000, on the Weather page).

Windows 95 and 98 are incredible operating systems, but can cause a great deal of "Computer Grief" when they are broken. "Computer Grief" causes users to be morose, grumpy and generally disrupts life for everyone around them until the problem is fixed. So, we want to avoid "Computer Grief" at all costs!

There is a simple procedure that you can perform regularly which will lessen the likelihood that Windows 95 or 98 will be down for the count. It is called "BACKING UP THE REGISTRY."

The Windows Registry is a central location where Windows keeps track of just about everything: color schemes, sizes of icons, icon names, file associations, the names of all the Windows programs you have installed, the size and position of the program windows last time you opened them, what to run when Windows starts, what to shut down when Windows shuts downÖ and many other important information bits. Fifty percent of the health of Windows is based on the health of the Registry (the other 50 percent is based on the presence or absence of the appropriate program-fragment files known as DLLs), and so we want to do everything we can to protect and preserve the Registry.



There are two things we should do to preserve the Windows Registry. The first is to make sure that we do everything we can to shut Windows down appropriately. This means that every time we are ready to turn the computer off, we click on START, choose SHUT DOWN, and then choose the radio button SHUT DOWN and OK. Windows will either shut the computer off automatically, or will notify you when it is ready for you to turn the computer off. Shutting the computer off without properly shutting down Windows can corrupt the Windows Registry. There is only one exception to this shutdown rule: You may turn the computer off without shutting Windows down properly only when you have no other choice (but expect that there might be Registry damage) such as when the computer is completely locked up [completely locked up means that the computer is not responding to anything you do at the keyboard and that the mouse cursor will not move].

The second thing we should do to preserve the Windows Registry is to BACK UP the Windows 95 or 98 Registry (if you have Windows 3xx, there is a Registry but it is relatively unimportant). This backup procedure should be done regularly on all Windows PCs according to a schedule [like once every 90 days] and also should be done prior to installing or uninstalling any Windows programs. Repairing a corrupted Registry can be impossible without a Registry Backup.


(To top of second column)


Backing up the Registry is really quite easy. Here are the five simple steps to completing this all-important process:

  1. Click on Start, click on Run.  Type in the word REGEDIT in the Open dialog box, and click the OK button (donít worry, itís going fine so far).  This will run the Registry Editor program that is part of Windows 95 and 98.

  2. On the menu, do you see the word Registry.  Click on it, and then click on EXPORT REGISTRY FILE.

  3. Change the SAVE IN: destination to C: (the name for your first hard drive).

  4. Type in the FILE NAME dialog box the first three letters REG and then the current date.  It should look something like this in the FILE NAME box when you are finished: REG70600 (this means that I created a registry file on the 6th of July in the year 2000, right?)  Donít change the EXPORT RANGE setting.  When you have the file name and the location right, then click the Save button to the right of the FILE NAME box.  REGEDIT will then save the entire registry to the file you specified (it will probably take a few minutes to finish).

  5. The final step is to exit the program.  You can either click on the X in the upper right corner of the REGISTRY EDITOR or choose REGISTRY from the menu, and click on EXIT.  (See, that was painless.)

This whole backup process is safe and harmless. A properly backed up Registry can be restored to health in short order by running this process in reverse: Instead of EXPORTING the registry to a file, we would IMPORT the registry from the file you created either in Windows (if possible) or from the DOS prompt. Be sure to tell your computer professional that you have a Registry Backup if you need to bring your computer in for service. A Registry Backup made at the time that your Registry is healthy could result in a bill that is only $35 to recover a corrupted Registry rather than $185 and the prospect of losing all your information.

So, save yourself from Computer Grief and save yourself from a large repair bill. Back up your Registry today and continue to do it regularly.


[Jim Youngquist, CCA]