How to Restore Default Registry Settings

By Michael G. Sanchez

If you've been editing your system's registry, then you likely count yourself among the ranks of Windows "power users." Even experienced Microsoft experts occasionally get in over their heads, though. When it comes to modifying the Windows operating system, the registry editor is one of its most powerful -- and complex -- tools. Fortunately for long-time users, the Windows 8 version of regedit works much the same as its predecessors did. When things are going wrong and you just want to start over fresh, restoring the registry to its default settings is always an option.There are two methods you can employ to restore the registry. The first method is quite simple and easy, but requires an existing backup file. Using regedit's "import" function, you reinstate a saved set of registry values. If you didn't make a backup, though, all is not lost. You can use the System Restore application to take Windows back to a time before the registry started having problems.

Restoring the Registry from a Backup

Step 1

Naturally, this method works only if you backed up your registry when your computer was new or, at least, before you started having registry-related issues. This is not something that Windows does automatically; you have to think ahead and remember to do it yourself. If you did this, proceed to the next step. If not, skip to Method 2.

Step 2

Press the "Windows Key-R" to open the "Run" dialog box. Type in "regedit.exe" and press "Enter" to open the Regedit program.

Step 3

Select "File" and then "Import." Navigate to and select your backup registry file. Click "Open" and Regedit will restore your backed-up registry settings.

Turning Back the Clock with System Restore

Step 1

Press the "Windows Key-R" to open the "Run" dialog box. Type in "systempropertiesprotection", then press "Enter" to launch the System Properties utility.

Step 2

Select the "System Protection" tab and then click the "System Restore..." button.

Step 3

Click "Next>" to go past the introduction screen. The following screen displays a list of dates on which Windows made a record of its configuration. Select a listing that predates when you started having registry problems, or just select the earliest available listing. Each listing represents a "snapshot" of Windows on that date.

Step 4

Click "Next>." System Restore will reinstate your previous Windows settings, including the old registry.

Tips & Warnings

  • It's always smart to back up your registry before editing it.