How to Backup the Pinned Start Menu Shortcuts in Windows 7/Vista/XP

The Pinned items listing which you see at the top of the Start menu is stored in the registry as a REG_BINARY value, and Windows provides no GUI to backup and restore the Pinned items configuration. In case you want to transfer the Pinned items configuration to another user profile, you need to use the Registry Editor and backup the settings in the source profile.

There is an additional step involved if you’re using Windows 7, wherein the Pinned shortcuts are actually maintained in the following folder, and are referenced in the registry:

%AppData%\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Quick Launch\User Pinned\StartMenu

Backing Up Pinned Items in the Start Menu

1. Start Regedit.exe and go to the following branch:

Windows XP

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\StartPage

Windows Vista and Windows 7

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\StartPage2

windows start menu pinned items backup

2. Click File, Export and save the branch to a REG file. (e.g. sm-pinned-list.reg)

3. Open the REG file using Notepad and delete the following values (if present) and their corresponding data.

  • FavoritesResolve
  • ProgramsCache
  • ProgramsCacheSMP
  • ProgramsCacheTBP

Note that you’ll have to a lot of scrolling in the text file as some values occupy too many lines.

windows start menu pinned items backup

I couldn’t find any info about the significance of "FavoritesResolve" value. But when I looked at the its binary data, I could see absolute path references that included the computer name followed by the current user profile folder. Hence I chose not to export the "FavoritesResolve" binary value (which worked out well at the end.) There were two other values "FavoritesChanges", "FavoritesRemovedChanges" which I left unaltered in the REG file.

windows start menu pinned items backup

4. Save the REG file and store it in a removable media or to a common location in the hard disk so that you can access the REG file from another user account.

Additional Step: For Windows 7 Only

5. Open the following folder:

%AppData%\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Quick Launch\User Pinned

You can access the path by typing it in Run dialog, or from the Address bar in Windows Explorer.

6. Copy the folder "StartMenu" and store it in a removable media or to a common drive/directory where other users have access.

windows start menu pinned items backup

Now you have the REG file and copy of the "StartMenu" folder stored in a separate location. (e.g. D:\Pinned Items Backup)

windows start menu pinned items backup

Restoring Start Menu Pinned Items Listing from Backup

7. Logon to the user account where you want to restore the Start menu Pinned items configuration, and complete the steps given below.

8. Terminate the Explorer Process. (Instructions for: Windows XP, Windows 7/Vista)

windows start menu pinned items backup

9. Press CTRL+SHIFT+ESC to launch Task Manager

10. Click the File menu, New Task (Run…) and type:

REGEDIT.EXE "Path to the REG file"

For example:

REGEDIT.EXE "D:\Pinned Items Backup\sm-pinned-list.reg"

11. Click Yes and click OK.

Additional Step: For Windows 7 Only

12. Copy the "StartMenu" folder that you earlier backed up, and place it in the following location:

%AppData%\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Quick Launch\User Pinned

13. Choose to overwrite the existing "StartMenu" folder if prompted.

14. Click the File menu, New Task (Run…) and type: EXPLORER.EXE

windows start menu pinned items backup

15. Press {ENTER}

This restarts the shell and your new Start menu settings should be applied.

Screenshots

This is from the source user account from where you backup up the data.

windows start menu pinned items backup

The following screenshot is from the newly created user account where I restored the Pinned items list to.

windows start menu pinned items backup

Only glitch that I noticed is that some Windows Installer based shortcuts didn’t seem to work well. They showed up with generic icon, and some of the items displayed the error "This action is only valid for products that are currently installed" when clicked, while some other Windows Installer shortcuts worked just fine. If this happens to you, simply Unpin the affected items and create new ones.

Windows 10

Are you using Windows 10? If so, check you’d like to read this article: How to Backup the Start Menu Layout in Windows 10? which tells you how to completely backup your Start screen layout which is stored in a database file.

About the author

Ramesh Srinivasan founded Winhelponline.com back in 2005. He is passionate about Microsoft technologies and has a vast experience in the ITeS industry — delivering support for Microsoft's consumer products. He has been a Microsoft MVP [2003 to 2012] who contributes to various Windows support forums.

9 thoughts on “How to Backup the Pinned Start Menu Shortcuts in Windows 7/Vista/XP”

  1. My WinXP Pro does NOT have
    HKEY_CURRENT_USER \ Software \ Microsoft \ Windows \ CurrentVersion \ Explorer \ StartPage2
    ONLY
    HKEY_CURRENT_USER \ Software \ Microsoft \ Windows \ CurrentVersion \ Explorer \ StartPage

    Happy Trails!
    Kurt

  2. But ideally it should be as easy as backing up the folder where the shortcuts are stored. Was it so difficult in XP to back up the Quick Launch? No. Why make things complicated for no reason? Does the registry store the order of the pinned shortcuts? And maybe jumplist info?

    • @anon: Yes. The registry value stores the order of the pinned shortcuts. I think jumplists are kept separately (under “AutomaticDestinations” directory under Recent).

  3. I’m running Win 7-64 Enterprise, and all of this process works, until I re-run Explorer.exe. If I leave RegEdit open on the StartPage2 file, I can see the Favorites line update when I import the copied file. But as soon as I re-run Explorer and refresh the RegEdit, I can see the Favorites line go right back the way it was. Needless to say, there are no pinned items in my Start menu. I’ve checked the Start Menu folder in my User folder, and the shortcuts are all where they should be. Any ideas?

    • @MattP: May be additional explorer.exe processes are running? Close each instance using Task Manager.

  4. I wanted to do this but had to abandon at the first step because I don’t have StartPage2, only StartPage. You said if on Vista to go to StartPage2. I only have StartPage. Vista Ultimate x64. Should I follow the steps using StartPage then?

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