For many of us nonprogrammers, the registry is not the most user-friendly feature of Windows NT. In fact, it can be downright complicated and confusing. However, with a bit of practice and patience, you can learn to work with the registry and do pretty amazing things. The following tips won’t make you a registry master overnight, but they are useful and illustrate the registry’s power. Let’s get started by making a backup.
Before we begin…
Warning: The following article involves editing your system registry. Using the Windows Registry Editor incorrectly can cause serious problems requiring the reinstallation of your operating system. TechRepublic does not and will not support problems that arise from editing your registry. Use the Registry Editor and the following directions at your own risk.
Make a backup!
Because the registry is an essential Windows NT component, any file corruption can cause serious problems. To avoid headaches, always back up the registry before making any significant changes. To back up the registry, follow these simple steps:
- Click Start | Run to open the Run pop-up box.
- Type regedit and click OK or press [Enter] on the keyboard.
- From the Regedit window, click Registry | Export Registry.
- Select the location where you want to save the registry backup and click Save.
Your registry is now safely duplicated. If you are running Windows NT, you should also update your Emergency Repair Disk (ERD) at this time.
Not just for your registry…
This advice is not only applicable to the registry. Backing up system critical files prior to changing them should always be your first step. If something goes wrong, and it eventually will, a recent backup is your quickest, and often only, solution.
Starting Registry Editor (Regedt32.exe)
There are two applications you will generally use when working with the Windows registry—Regedit, which we just used to make a backup of the registry, and Registry Editor (Regedt32.exe). Both have their strengths and weaknesses, but for the following procedures, we will be using Registry Editor (Regedt32.exe) exclusively. To run this application, click Start | Run, type regedt32 and click OK or press [Enter].
Setting the initial [Num Lock] position
To set the [Num Lock] key automatically to ON when Windows NT boots, open Registry Editor and navigate to the following key:
Set this value to 2.
Hiding the last login user ID
When logging on to Windows NT, the user ID of the last successful logon is displayed in the Login dialog box. To disable this so that no user ID appears, open Registry Editor and navigate to the following key:
\Windows NT\Current Version\WinLogon\
Add a new value called "DontDisplayLastUserName" as a REG_SZ data type, with a value of 1.
Disabling CD-ROM Autorun
Windows NT automatically runs CD-ROMs placed in the CD-ROM drive. To disable the CD Autorun feature, open Registry Editor and navigate to the following key:
Set the Autorun value to 0.
Removing uninstalled applications from the Add/Remove Programs box
Sometimes after uninstalling an application, it’s not always removed from the Add/Remove Programs box. The uninstall may have failed or just not finished. If you then try to remove the program from the Add/Remove Programs box, you may get an error message. If you know you’ve already uninstalled a program and need to remove it from the Add/Remove Programs box, open Registry Editor and navigate to the following key:
From here, you should see a list of all applications appearing in the Add/Remove Programs box. Delete the desired program’s folder, and it’s gone.
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Bill Detwiler has nothing to disclose. He doesn't hold investments in the technology companies he covers.
Bill Detwiler is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager, database administrator, and desktop support specialist in the social research and energy industries. He has bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Louisville, where he has also lectured on computer crime and crime prevention.