The Registry Editor (REGEDIT.EXE) is included with most version of Windows (although you won't find it on the Start Menu) it enables you to view, search and edit the data within of the Registry. There are several methods for starting the Registry Editor, the simplest is to click on the Start button, then select Run, and in the Open box type "regedit", and if the Registry Editor is installed it should now open and look like the image below.
An alternative Registry Editor (REGEDT32.EXE) is available for use with Windows NT/2000, it includes some additional features not found in the standard version, including; the ability to view and modify security permissions, and being able to create and modify the extended string values REG_EXPAND_SZ & REG_MULTI_SZ.
Create a Shortcut to Regedit
This can be done by simply right-clicking on a blank area of your desktop, selecting New, then Shortcut, then in the Command line box enter "regedit.exe" and click Next, enter a friendly name (e.g. 'Registry Editor') then click Finish and now you can double click on the new icon to launch the Registry Editor.
Using Regedit to modify your Registry
Once you have started the Regedit you will notice that on the left side there is a tree with folders, and on the right the contents (values) of the currently selected folder.
Like Windows explorer, to expand a certain branch (see the structure of the registry section), click on the plus sign [+] to the left of any folder, or just double-click on the folder. To display the contents of a key (folder), just click the desired key, and look at the values listed on the right side. You can add a new key or value by selecting New from the Edit menu, or by right-clicking your mouse. And you can rename any value and almost any key with the same method used to rename files; right-click on an object and click rename, or click on it twice (slowly), or just press F2 on the keyboard. Lastly, you can delete a key or value by clicking on it, and pressing Delete on the keyboard, or by right-clicking on it, and choosing Delete.
Note: it is always a good idea to backup your registry before making any changes to it. It can be intimidating to a new user, and there is always the possibility of changing or deleting a critical setting causing you to have to reinstall the whole operating system. It's much better to be safe than sorry!
Importing and Exporting Registry Settings
A great feature of the Registry Editor is it's ability to import and export registry settings to a text file, this text file, identified by the .REG extension, can then be saved or shared with other people to easily modify local registry settings. You can see the layout of these text files by simply exporting a key to a file and opening it in Notepad, to do this using the Registry Editor select a key, then from the "Registry" menu choose "Export Registry File...", choose a filename and save. If you open this file in notepad you will see a file similar to the example below:
The layout is quite simple, REGEDIT4 indicated the file type and version, [HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\Setup] indicated the key the values are from, "SetupType"=dword:00000000 are the values themselves the portion after the "=" will vary depending on the type of value they are; DWORD, String or Binary.
So by simply editing this file to make the changes you want, it can then be easily distributed and all that need to be done is to double-click, or choose "Import" from the Registry menu, for the settings to be added to the system Registry.
Deleting keys or values using a REG file
It is also possible to delete keys and values using REG files. To delete a key start by using the same format as the the REG file above, but place a "-" symbol in front of the key name you want to delete. For example to delete the [HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\Setup] key the reg file would look like this:
The format used to delete individual values is similar, but instead of a minus sign in front of the whole key, place it after the equal sign of the value. For example, to delete the value "SetupType" the file would look like:
Use this feature with care, as deleting the wrong key or value could cause major problems within the registry, so remember to always make a backup first.
Regedit Command Line Options
Regedit has a number of command line options to help automate it's use in either batch files or from the command prompt. Listed below are some of the options, please note the some of the functions are operating system specific.
regedit.exe [options] [filename]
filename Import .reg file into the registry
/s Silent, i.e. hide confirmation box when importing files
/e Export registry file
e.g. regedit /e file.reg HKEY_USERS\.DEFAULT
/L:system Specify the location of the system.dat to use
/R:user Specify the location of the user.dat to use
/C Compress [filename] (Windows 98)