Windows

Video: Safely edit the Windows Registry with these five tips

The Windows registry is a powerful tool, but one wrong edit can make a PC unusable. Bill Detwiler shares five tips for safely editing the registry.

Editing the Windows registry is sometimes the quickest way to fix a problem or tweak the operating system to meet your needs. But unless you follow a few safety practices, it can also be a quick route to disaster. During this episode of TR Dojo, I share five tips to help you safely edit the Windows Registry.

For those who prefer text to video, you can click the Transcript link that appears below the video player window or check out Jack Wallen's article, "Five tips for editing the Windows registry... safely."

I mention the following resources during the episode:

You can also sign up to receive the latest TR Dojo lessons through one or more of the following methods:

About

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 supp...

13 comments
rjkirk
rjkirk

It's obviously not a full datacenter. It looks like a nice server room, but way too quiet to hold actual servers. Did they just set up a room and put racks of equipment in, and never turn it on just so this guy could show his demos? I don't get it.

rlindenm
rlindenm

I don't recommend Notepad for editing exported keys...seems that Windows includes hidden Null characters between the visible ASCII characters. I've had better success using a more robust editor, such as VEdit or UltraEdit. With these, it's possible to change the mode so you can see and work with all characters, hidden or not.

Bill Detwiler
Bill Detwiler

The Windows registry is a powerful tool, but one wrong edit can render a Windows machine unusable or worse ? unbootable. And during this week's TR Dojo episode, I share five tips for safely editing the Windows registry. But beyond merely editing the registry when there's a problem or to tweak the operating system, many IT pros recommend regularly "cleaning" the Windows registry with a third-party tool, such as CCleaner or Glary Utilities. Other IT pros, such as TechRepublic blogger Mike Mullins, don't believe most users don't need to clean their registry. Check out Mullins' article, "Why your registry doesn't need cleaning." (http://blogs.techrepublic.com.com/security/?p=370) What do you think? Is cleaning the registry an essential part of regular PC maintenance or a waste of time? And, do you use a third-party applications to regularly clean your Windows registry? Original post and poll: http://blogs.techrepublic.com.com/itdojo/?p=2240

santeewelding
santeewelding

That Bill stood in front of row upon row of clanking difference engines, stretching far as the eye could see, attended to by androids. It was magical, but proved to be too distracting.

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

Hollywood Magic Otherwise know as Green Screen. ;) Col

Michael Jay
Michael Jay

it is a secret, it is a picture dropped in behind the video, just a background.

balford
balford

CCleaner is an easy and safe product to clean the registry. With all the hundreds of machines over the years never having a problem make it a standard tool I use daily and recommend to everyone - no exceptions. As oldbaritone previously stated, CCleaner does not go too deep. Too many times I have done damage to a system using deep cleaners. Thank goodness I follow rule #1 and make a full registry backup before doing anything serious (Yes, I am part of the 34% who only makes backups when there is some potentially dangerous changes being made) . But I trust CCleaner and don't have to make backups.

alan
alan

A REG backup can be merged to cancel an erroneous value change or delete, but will not cancel an erroneous addition. REG cannot fix ownership/access permissions etc A hive backup cannot be read in notepad, but it can fully cancel any registry mishaps. You MUST remember where it came from. (Unlike a REG backup it does not seem to know where it came from.) Alan

konopdl
konopdl

In my experience which has been quite a while, most problems with the registry come from people trying to hack either windows keys or other programs because a friend of a friend has a friend who told them how. If you don't install and test a lot software and then uninstall it, most people shouldn't need to even bother their registries. Unless a virus infects it but they should know what signs to look for. But all in all Ccleaner is the best out there that I have seen so far and use it myself.

ian
ian

"by exporting a single branch, you can then open it in Notepad to examine its contents. Make your changes to that registry branch and then import it back into the registry." Let me get this right, you exported a single branch, made changes to that branch imported the single branch back into the registry. I hope what you meant to do was export the a single branch, make a copy of the branch, edit the copy import the copy Edit: should have posted at top level.

oldbaritone
oldbaritone

Free. Fast. Doesn't dig too deep, but far enough to fix most slowdown problems. I got the original recommendation from TR, right here. I've never had a problem with CCleaner, but I've been "burned" by other cleaners that cleaned too much. I'd recommend it, and no, I don't make anything for saying so. They make a good FREE product. What more could anyone ask?

Bill Detwiler
Bill Detwiler

I recommend backing up the entire registry before doing anything else--exporting a branch or just making an edit.

lunchbeast
lunchbeast

He's covered if he follows step 1 religiously - back up the registry before making changes. However, nothing wrong with backing up the branch too.

Editor's Picks