How to Access the Computer Registry

Level of difficulty: Difficult

The Windows Registry service is actually an upgrade of the initialization files used to issue configuration commands to earlier versions of the Microsoft Windows Operating System environment. This service is generally classified as a database of the options and settings needed by the Operating System to dictate the behavior not only of the installed programs but also that of the attached hardware devices. The Windows Registry service is composed of two basic components: the Keys and the Values. It is also split into the HKEY_CURRENT_USER, HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT, HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE, HKEY_CURRENT_CONFIG, and HKEY_USERS logical sections which are often referred to as “hives”. Accessing the Windows Registry is often discouraged primarily because any undue modifications or alterations may cause the entire system to crash rendering it unusable.

Materials Needed:
- Microsoft Windows-based computer system
- registry editor
Step 1
To access the Windows Registry database under the Microsoft Windows XP Operating System platform, click on the 'Start' button and choose the 'Run' option.
Step 2
When the 'Run' window is launched, type the 'regedit' text in the open box. Remember not to include the quotations marks. Click on the 'Open' button after completely typing the text.
Step 3
This will open the Registry Editor which is normally split into two windows with a functional menu at the top part of the screen. Usually, when this tool opens, the hives are not expanded. To expand the hives and see the subkeys, click on the plus sign.
Step 4
From this screen, a user can edit or back up the registry settings. A subkey and its corresponding value may also be located, added, changed, deleted, or renamed by the user.
Step 5
It is wise to initially back up the registry prior to performing any alterations on it to make sure that it can be reverted to its original form in case of an entry error.
Step 6
The Registry Editor utility may also be used to connect to a network registry which is a form of database possibly constructed to achieve uniformity for all clients connected to a computer system.
Step 7
It is also possible to deploy a Registration Entry file which carries the .reg file extension. These types of files are usually launched similar to scripting files to allow the user to automatically implement changes to the settings of the Windows Registry.
Step 8
Because of the complexity and inherent danger associated with the modification of the Windows Registry keys, third party programs have been developed to provide users with a safe way of implementing changes into the registry without negatively affecting its functionality. Despite the presence of these types of utilities, as a general rule, it is better to stay away from accessing the Windows Registry unless the user has a full understanding of its usage and implications.