Tech & Work

Get IT Done: Tweak the registry with WinGuides' Tweak Manager

Easier editing of the Windows registry file with Tweak Manager

Tweak Manager from WinGuides can help you quickly and easily tweak the registry. For novices, Tweak Manager provides an idiot-proof interface for making various registry modifications. For experts, Tweak Manager doesn't give you anything that you can't already do with Regedit, but, even so, I have found Tweak Manager to be a huge timesaver when compared to making manual registry modifications.

It works with Windows 95/98/Me/NT/2000/XP and you can download a trial version from the WinGuides Web site. The trial version has most of the full version's features, but it lacks the full version's live-update feature and has a smaller library of built-in tweaks. A single-user license for the full version will cost you $29.95 and volume pricing is available. Let's take a look at what Tweak Manager has to offer.

Installing Tweak Manager
To install Tweak Manager, you must download a self-extracting executable file from the WinGuides Web site. For the trial version, the file is named WTM2DEMO.EXE and is 1.72 MB in size. After downloading the file, save it to an empty folder and double-click it to begin the installation process.

After confirming that you do wish to install the software, the first screen that you will see is the installer's Welcome screen. Click Next to move on to the following screen, which contains the end user license agreement. Accept the license agreement and click Next. You will now be asked which folder you wish to install the software into. The software requires 4.3 MB of disk space when installed. Click Next and you will see a screen that asks which Start menu folder the software's shortcut should be placed in. Make your selection and click Next. You will then have the option of creating a desktop icon or a quick start icon. Click Next to begin installing the software. When the installation completes, click Finish to close the Setup wizard.

Using Tweak Manager
When you run Tweak Manager, you will see a screen that asks for some registration information and a product key. If you want to continue to run the free trial, just click the Continue Evaluation button. You will now see the main Tweak Manager screen, shown in Figure A.

Figure A
Tweak Manager's main screen is well laid out and easy to use.

As you look at this screen, you will notice that the column to the right contains a large area with buttons for purchasing or registering the software. Below that is the live update button, which doesn't work in the trial version.

If you look at the top of the figure, you will notice the View button and the Profile button. The Profile button is used to select which user profile you want to modify. Remember that many registry settings, such as those found in HKEY_USERS, are user specific. Therefore, it's very important for you to select the appropriate user profile before beginning. The software defaults to the user who is currently logged in.

The View button is also worth taking a look at. The View button allows you to control which registry tweaks are available to you. There are lots of choices, including Unused Tweaks, Applied Tweaks, and All Tweaks. By default, the Popular Tweaks option is selected. This means that there are some tweaks that will be unavailable to you unless you select the All Tweaks option.

Now, take a look at the big pane on the left. This is the area where you actually make the various registry tweaks. To make the user's life easier, this section is organized into sections such as Windows, Hardware, Network, Security, and Software. I will discuss each of these areas in the sections below.

The Windows section contains settings that deal directly with the way that Windows looks and performs. For example, if you look at Figure B, you will notice that there is a subsection called Desktop. Within this section, you can control things such as which icons appear on the desktop and whether the user and computer name should be displayed on the desktop.

When you select a particular tweak, the pane on the right will change. Most of the pane on the right is used for allowing you to set the appropriate options for your tweak, and there is an Apply Changes button just below this area. What I like most about this section is that at the top of this pane there is a detailed explanation of what the tweak does. Obviously, changing desktop icon visibility is self explanatory, but there are some tweaks that aren't quite so obvious. In these cases, the explanations really help.

Figure B
The Windows section allows you to control the way Windows looks, feels, and performs.

In the trial version, the Hardware section is much smaller than the Windows section. The Hardware section is subdivided into areas for disk drives, keyboards and mice, processors and motherboards, and video and graphics. Each area contains settings designed to improve hardware performance or compatibility. For example, there is a setting that allows you to offload network-related functions from your system's CPU to the CPU on your network card. Another setting fixes a problem with Athalon machines hanging when AGP is used.

I found the Network section to be very useful. This section contains all of the settings that you would expect, such as sections for controlling browser elections. However, there are also sections for speeding up browsing and for speeding up Web access. Within these sections are several individual registry tweaks that you can use to directly control performance in these areas. When you are working manually, the problem with these helpful tweaks is that they are scattered throughout the registry. It's really nice to have them all in a single location in Tweak Manager.

The Security section contains all of the registry tweaks that deal with security. As you would expect, this section contains settings for disabling the Control Panel or controlling what applications a user can run. There are even settings for displaying a legal notice prior to login and for changing the text of the login prompt.

The final section is for Software. While I was hoping that this section would allow me to tweak all of my applications, it only pertains to Internet Explorer, Media Player, Outlook Express, and Windows Messenger. Even so, there are some very handy tweaks in this section. For example, the Internet Explorer section contains a setting that allows you to remove the Content Advisor's ratings and password. The Media Player section allows you to enable the playback of DVDs.

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