As users of Windows 9x, we’ve heard of the Registry; maybe we’ve even seen the Registry. Since it has such a shady existence, what should we do when it breaks? To safeguard the Registry’s continued performance within Windows 95, users would have to play hit-and-miss in many instances to find and correct any errors with the Registry. If all else failed, a restoration of SYSTEM.DAT and USER.DAT would follow. It’s not a pretty sight. Although Windows 95 was kind enough to back up the Registry, the restoration process required some serious research. With the introduction of Windows 98, Microsoft has added a new utility, Registry Checker, which performs backups when users want them and makes restorations of the Registry much easier than Windows 95 did.

What Registry Checker can do for you
Like Windows 95, Windows 98 makes a copy of the Registry each day after a proper startup. In Windows 95, the SYSTEM.DAT and the USER.DAT files were copied and stored as SYSTEM.DA0 and USER.DA0. Now, in Windows 98, those files are copied, compressed, and, along with your SYSTEM.INI and WIN.INI, stored as RB0##. The files are stored as Cabinet (CAB) files in the Sysbckup folder of the Windows directory. Unlike Windows 95, Windows 98 maintains a default setting of five days’ worth of copies with a good startup. Then, Registry Checker will replace the oldest with the next day that has a clean boot. It doesn’t keep the files in the order of 0 being the newest. The most recent could be any of the files.

With the Registry Checker utility, Microsoft has added the functionality of checking the Registry for errors and even optimizing the Registry for better performance. This Registry scan is part of the startup process when the computer is first turned on. Or users can force the scan while Windows is running.

Using Registry Checker
To get to the Windows version of Registry Checker, click Start. Then, select Run and type ScanRegw. After you click OK, the utility will begin to scan for any problems within the Registry. At the same time, the scan checks for any areas that can be optimized. When the scan completes and everything has checked out, you will be asked if you wish to make a backup of the Registry. In most cases, if you turn your computer off daily, the message box will state that the Registry already has a backup. But you can still make a copy if you need to.

If the scan finds any areas that are corrupted, you’ll see a message stating that there was a problem and that you need to reboot the system. It also informs you of any areas that need to be optimized. When you restart Windows, ScanReg, the MS-DOS-based version of Registry Checker, starts. If the Windows scan found corruption problems within the Registry, the MS-DOS version of Registry Checker will restore the most recent backup of the Registry. If there aren’t any backups available, ScanReg will try to correct the error by removing the corrupted data. When it’s a case of optimization, the MS-DOS version will take care of the problem at the restart. As it works with Registry Checker in the MS-DOS environment, this utility will be using its real-mode drivers, which means that ScanReg can be used only from the command prompt and won’t even run under Safe Mode.

Command-line options
You don’t always have to go through Windows to get to the MS-DOS version of Registry Checker. In some cases, a user may need to restore backups without entering Windows. For example, installing a program may make changes to the Registry and corrupt some areas, or the install could be causing some strange behavior in the system. In either case, a restore of the Registry can be accomplished by going directly to the MS-DOS version of Registry Checker at the command prompt. While booting the system, hold down the left [Ctrl] button and, at the Startup menu, boot to the command prompt. Once you reach the command prompt, type ScanReg /Restore. The command-line option of /Restore is used only with the MS-DOS version of Registry Checker. Next, you’ll be given a menu of Registry backup files from which to choose. In most cases, you’ll choose the most recent date to use as the restore. But you can always go further back. Also, do not use Registry backups of Windows 95 as a restore for your Windows 98. If you do, Windows 98 will no longer run.

Along with the command-line option of /Restore, other options offer you more control over the Registry Checker utility. You can use command lines in both the MS-DOS version and the Windows version. When using the command-line options in Windows, you’ll place the text after ScanRegw in the Run program.

If you want to back up the Registry and skip the scan, you should use the /Backup command. This option will make a backup of the Registry that replaces the oldest backup file. You can use this option in either the MS-DOS or Windows environment. If you run this command line in the MS-DOS environment, the backup won’t be compressed like it is in the Windows version.

You also can place comments with backup files. If you place the /Comment= option with the ScanRegw command, a comment will be added to the backup, and it will be viewable under the /Restore command. An example would be:
/Comment=new backup

This command can be used under both the Windows and MS-DOS versions.

If you’re interested in scanning the Registry and skipping the backup phase, you should use the command /Scanonly. It will tell Registry Checker to scan for, and report, any problems but not to make a backup of the Registry and other files. When you use the command-line option /Autoscan, Registry Checker will run a full scan and make a backup of the Registry and the files, but the backup is done only once for that day. That way, you can run Registry Checker many times throughout the day without making backup copies of the Registry each time. This command-line option is used only in the Windows version of Registry Checker.

When you’re in the MS-DOS version of Registry Checker, you can add the command option /Fix. Using this option will force the repair of the Registry from the beginning, skipping the scanning stage altogether. Use this command option only if you’re sure that there’s an actual problem with the Registry and you’re certain that you want to skip the restore process. The /Fix command can be used only in the MS-DOS version of Registry Checker.

Other adjustments you can make
Besides typing command options, you can make other adjustments within the SCANREG.INI file. By opening the SCANREG.INI file with either Notepad or WordPad, you can modify some of the traits of the utility. You can change the number of backups that are kept by changing the number associated with MaxBackupCopies=. The default value is 5 but ranges from 0 to as high as 99.

You also can change the directory where the backups are stored by changing the path that is currently attached to BackupDirectory=. The default path for the storage of the backups is in the SysBackup folder under the Windows directory. This folder may be hidden. If so, remember to change the view settings under Options in Explorer’s View menu to View All Files. If you change the path and, for some reason, it isn’t valid, Registry Checker will place the backups in the Windows folder by default.

The operation of ScanRegw that occurs each time at system startup can be turned off. Simply set the value of Backups= to 0 (by default set to 1), and the system will no longer run the scanning and backup process at the system startup. The portion of the scan process that determines if the Registry needs optimization can be turned off, too, though you can still allow the corruption scanning and backup processes to continue as normal. When you change the value of Optimize= to 0, the scanning will skip the optimization portion.

Users also may add further system files to the backup group. The settings for Files= designates the system folders and filenames that will be added to the backup. Through the use of special numerical codes, Windows determines the location of the folder and then uses the filenames that are listed. The sequence for designating the files for backup goes like this: Files=[(num code)]filename. Users can add more filenames by using a comma to separate the different files. There is no setting listed in the configuration file of Registry Checker by default. The backup of the WIN.INI and SYSTEM.INI files is built into the program itself. However, the configuration file does list the numerical codes for the various areas that Registry Checker will back up. The numerical codes are as follows:
10—Windows Directory
11—System Directory under the Windows folder
30—Boot Directory
31—Boot Host Directory

Any changes of the configuration file for Registry Checker will begin once the computer is rebooted. If you’ve added files to the backup, you may need to force a backup after the restart, depending on the last time that your computer was restarted.

With the inception of the Registry in Windows 95, we found ourselves with a new system area that contained the building blocks of our computer. At the same time, our computer became vulnerable to errors. If there were problems, fixing the Registry was out of the question for most of us. Now, with Windows 98, Registry Checker takes some of the worry out of working with the Registry. With its ability to back up and restore the primary parts of the Registry and system files, we can feel a little more at ease if a problem exists. Even when we don’t have backups, we still can use the utility to fix errors, which goes to show that Microsoft wants to put more abilities for solving system problems into the hands of the end users—making us all technical gurus.

Paul Suiter received his first taste of the deadline rush as a photographer for the Montgomery Advertiser, where he earned four photography awards. After receiving degrees in economics and business management from Auburn University, Paul entered the college book business. After managing two bookstores for three years, Paul became a business analyst for EDS. Four years later, Paul continues with EDS, taking its equipment apart, while working with G3 switches and advanced imaging programs. But he’s finally getting back to one of his favorite pastimes—writing. (Of course, he also enjoys spending time with his wife and son.)

The authors and editors have taken care in preparation of the content contained herein, but make no expressed or implied warranty of any kind and assume no responsibility for errors or omissions. No liability is assumed for any damages. Always have a verified backup before making any changes.