How to Edit the Windows Registry

Editing the Windows registry can be a dangerous task. The registry stores a lot of data that is required for your computer to start-up and run properly. One wrong Windows registry edit can make your computer unstable, or worse, unable to boot at all. Luckily, Windows comes pre-installed with a basic Windows registry editor called “REGEDIT” which makes the process of backing up, restoring, navigating and editing the windows registry fairly easy. With this tool you can learn to repair Windows registry or simply make changes that enhance the performance and usability of your computer.

To view the Windows registry you must use a Windows registry editor. REGEDIT will work well for most users who want to change the Windows registry, however advanced users can choose to install a more complex Windows registry editor and use that in place of REGEDIT.

To start REGEDIT, click on your “Start” button and then click “Run”. Type “REGEDIT” in the box and then click “OK”. At this point in the process you can perform your Windows registry backups. Rather than backing up the entire Windows registry, backups can be performed on single keys. Select the key you plan to modify and then select “Export Registry File” from the “Registry” menu. Before clicking “Save” be sure that “Selected Branch” is checked. This ensures that you will only export the key (as well as all subkeys and values underneath it) that you have selected. Now that you have taken all necessary precautions, you can continue view and change Windows registry settings.

Finding Entries in the Registry

The registry is large and can easily become overwhelming, especially for those unfamiliar with the different hives and keys. If you know what key you would like to manipulate, the Windows registry editor allows you to search the registry. From the “Edit” menu, choose “Find”. In the text box type in the word or filename that you are looking for and click “Find Next”. The Windows registry editor will find all references to that word. The first item that you see after clicking “Find Next” is the first occurrence that the editor found. To find the next instance, press the “F3″ button on your keyboard.

Modifying Entries in the Registry

To change an entry in the windows registry editor, navigate to the entry you would like to change and select it. Right click the entry and click “Change”. In the “Value Data” box you can change the current value of the key and select “OK”. To remove an entry, right-click on the key and click “Delete”, or press the delete key on your keyboard. Making a Windows registry edit goes farther than just manipulating what is already there. You can also add entries into the Windows registry. Navigate to the parent key that you would like your new entry to be placed underneath. Right click on the key and hover over the word “New” to open the “New” submenu. Choose the type of data you would like to add, give a name to the key and assign it a value. Once you click “OK”, you may see the entry added. If not, a reboot of your computer may be necessary.

Registry Edits to Benefit You

 Now that you know the Windows registry edit process, what can you change? There are a lot of entries in the registry and it’s unwise to change items without knowing the consequences. What changes can you make to the Windows registry that are worth the risk?

  • Prevent Windows from automatically rebooting your computer after an update.
  • Bring back the “All Programs” submenu in your “Start Menu” in Windows 7. This was a popular feature in Windows XP that was removed in later versions.
  • Customize and clean up the “context menu”, which is the menu that appears when you right-click on your mouse. You can do this for the menu that appears when right clicking on your desktop, and the one that appears when right clicking inside of Microsoft Internet Explorer.
  • Disable the “caps lock” key if you are using Windows Vista or Windows 7.
  • Make any file automatically run with administrator permissions in Windows Vista or Windows 7.
  • Add a message that displays while your computer is booting.
  • Show messages with additional details when your computer is booting. This helps greatly when your computer is having problems with the boot process. These messages show you where in the process your computer may be becoming unstable or unresponsive.
  • Change the default screen savers for your computer that are provided when a new account is created.
  • Hide drives on your computer from being seen in Windows explorer.
  • Remove the “- Shortcut” text that appears on the title for any shortcuts you create.
  • Disable notification balloons that Windows pops up on your screen from the taskbar in the lower right corner of your screen.

These Windows registry edits are easy to do if you know the keys to manipulate. In addition to better performance and usability, you can also use this knowledge to repair windows registry problems or recover a previous version using your Windows registry backups if it ever becomes corrupted or manipulated by a malicious program. Having this knowledge will help you both keep your computer clean and safe and also customize it to give yourself a faster and more comfortable experience.

More Resources

The resources below will teach you more about how to change Windows Registry.

How to Modify the Windows Registry

The 50 Best Registry Hacks that Make Windows Better

Windows 7: Editing the Registry

Registry Hacks and Other Tips

How to Change Your Windows Product Key in REGEDIT