Editing the Windows Registry

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated September 7, 2015)

4

The Registry is perhaps the most dynamic area of Windows. Because it contains all of the system settings and configuration information for your system, it makes sense that the Registry would be busy. In most cases, the Registry is updated automatically by Windows, in the course of using your system.

For instance, you may add a new hardware device that Windows automatically detects. In such a case, the drivers are loaded automatically and settings are changed. The information about these drivers, the device, and any settings is stored automatically in the Registry.

Some Registry changes, however, require some interaction on your part. Typically, you change the Registry by using the various tools made available through the Control Panel. As you make changes to your system settings, the changes are saved in the Registry. Other changes are introduced by using system tools.

Windows also allows you to make changes directly to the Registry, manually. While this is not as easy as making changes using the Control Panel (or other tools), the effect is the same. This is because you are changing system settings, and those are used to control how Windows functions.

To change the Registry manually, you use the Registry Editor. This program is not available from any of the regular Windows menus, probably due to the potential adverse consequences of misuse. Instead, you need to start the program in this manner if you are using Windows 8:

  1. Press Win+C to display the Charms bar at the right side of the screen.
  2. Click the Search option on the Charms bar. Windows displays the Search box.
  3. Type regedit. Windows should show you the regedit program in the search results.
  4. Click on the regedit program in the search results; this starts the program.

If you are using Windows 7 then the steps are different:

  1. Click the Start menu. Windows displays the Start menu, and the insertion point is blinking in the "Search Programs and Files" box at the bottom of the Start menu area.
  2. Type regedit and press Enter.

Regardless of the version you are using, you'll shortly see the Registry Editor displayed by Windows. (See Figure 1.)

Figure 1. The Registry Editor

Understand that the Registry Editor is an extremely powerful tool—it allows you to make changes directly to the database that controls how Windows and the programs on your system function. Because of this, if you make a mistake in your editing, you can really mess things up. It is a good idea to make sure you know what you are changing before you make the changes.

 This tip (10954) applies to Windows 7 and 8.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He  is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

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What is five more than 2?

2015-09-07 08:59:57

swy

To add to my other comment: Another good practice before manually editing the registry is to create a Restore Point and label it Registry Edit. If something goes bad, go to that point and restore the registry as it was before you made the edit(s).


2015-09-07 08:59:32

BHershman

I understand that a "HIVE" is a section of the Registry that can be saved/restored on its own - i.e. without saving/restoring the whole Registry.

Could you produce a tip about that, please?


2015-09-07 08:58:34

Steve

To add to my other comment: Another good practice before manually editing the registry is to create a Restore Point and label it Registry Edit. If something goes bad, go to that point and restore the registry as it was before you made the edit(s).


2015-09-07 08:48:52

Steve

Before making ANY changes directly to the registry, make a copy of the current registry. To do this, once in the registry program, click the File tab then the Export item. Export the registry to some file, preferably on a memory stick or the like. If something goes wrong, you can import that saved registry. Another suggestion is to save any entry you intend to change before the change is made to notepad or other text editor. If your change causes problems, copy the notepad line(s) back to the registry either manually or by copy/paste method. Remember, the registry is a very powerful thing which can really bite you if you don't have a recovery method.


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