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I would like to know if there is any (especially free) solution to back up and restore settings from applications (even if only from a whitelist of the most popular ones), both for XP and further versions of Windows.

Most of the applications I see are designed to work in XP solely for the purpose of upgrading to Windows 7 - I would like one that could also transfer settings to Windows XP.

I know XP is an old system, and that new installs of it are not recommended. This recommendation makes a lot of sense depending on the country, and it does not apply to this case; I'm simply asking for an XP-friendly solution.

Do note that I'm not asking for a way to transfer applications or documents, just settings is more than enough. Anything else is a bonus.

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The problem is with the definition of “settings”. There are countless “settings” in Windows both system-wide and user-specific. And that’s just with Windows itself, let alone settings related to third-party programs. Unfortunately you really will need to be more specific as to your needs. –  Synetech Feb 11 '12 at 4:34
    
@Synetech Any kind of support would be appreciated, for example, just being able to back up settings of popular applications (browsers, IM clients, VoIP, etc) along with simple OS settings such as wallpapers and user account settings (maybe whole user accounts?) would help already. You see, when people call me because "the browser's home page is not the same and I can't figure out how I changed it before" after a reformat, then any help is help I appreciated, even a software that backs up really rudimentary settings is welcome as a suggestion. –  Camilo Martin Feb 11 '12 at 5:00
    
Sadly, settings are scattered throughout the system in numerous formats and places. Some are stored in the registry, some in files, some in this folder, others in a different one. Some in binary files, while yet others in plain-text ones. Unfortunately there is no single repository of setting-locations or backup program that can do-it-all. You best bet is to search for a backup program that supports third-party apps and/or look for application-specific information. –  Synetech Feb 11 '12 at 5:09
    
@Synetech I understand no solution will do-it-all. I understand that settings for some applications could even be quite hard to extract. But a solution for common applications would already be quite nice. Also, maybe somebody has thought about making it extensible. For example, take a look at CCleaner. It cleans settings for many applications (therefore it knows where these are), and some people have extended it to a point where even some obscure programs are covered. Something extensible would be cool. –  Camilo Martin Feb 11 '12 at 9:07
    
Yes, that would certainly be sweet. In fact, a long time ago (10+ years) I had the idea of just writing my own backup program that can be easily extended to support any program. Unfortunately I never had enough time to do much work on it. –  Synetech Feb 11 '12 at 21:55
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1 Answer

up vote 1 down vote accepted

If you want to do it manually, here are the locations most software store their data at -

%AppData% -

  • C:\Users\AppData\Roaming in Vista and Windows 7
  • C:\Documents and Settings\Application Data in XP

%LocalAppData% -

  • C:\Users\AppData\Local in Windows 7
  • C:\Documents and Settings\Local Settings\Application Data in XP

C:\ProgramData in Windows 7.

C:\Program Files, and C:\Program Files (x86) (64-bit systems only)

Settings at Registry are stored mostly inside -

  • HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\
  • HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\

This is just a manual effort, I'll post of any software I come across that does the same job.

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Thanks a lot, this made me think about writing a tool to do this. It could prove trivial, considering the benefits (I'll have to re-format a lot of computers in the near future), and if there's really no free, open-source alternative, it'd be a cool project! –  Camilo Martin Feb 11 '12 at 9:10
    
By the way, by trivial, I mean a tool which would take a snapshot of the system, then the user would change settings in his application, and take a second snapshot, then record the places where the application stored the settings. So basically it would be a semi-automated process of adding "supported applications" to a list, and using that list to migrate settings on real machines (the recognition process could be done in a VM), in case anyone's wondering. I understand blindly copying these folders and registry keys would cause havoc. –  Camilo Martin Feb 11 '12 at 21:19
    
I just wanted to note a couple of things: on Linux, backing up configurations is as simple as backing up the home dir. It's effing sweet, everything backed up without a single problem, and quite some applications even. Another thing is that in the future I'll be making my own (humble) app to take care of this, so your answer mostly covers it. –  Camilo Martin Mar 12 '12 at 5:55
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