How to Modify the Windows Registry - dummies

By Dan Gookin

Most PC troubleshooting tasks can (and should) be done using tools that come with Windows or the hardware that it runs on. If you must view, modify, or create information in the Registry, you can do so.

You can make a number of modifications within the Registry:

  • Add a new key.

  • Add a new value.

  • Rename a key or value.

  • Change an existing value.

  • Delete a key or value.

All the information organized into keys and values is vitally important to Windows. Don’t experiment with the Registry by modifying values to see what happens. Doing so can have adverse effects on your computer.

If you must boldly go into the world of Registry modification, follow these steps:

  1. Open the Registry Editor.

    1. Press Win+R for the Run dialog box. Type regedit. Press Enter.

    2. In Windows 7 and Vista, click Yes or Continue or type the administrator’s password.

      Behold the Registry Editor.


  2. Back up the Registry.

    1. Choose File→Export.

      The Export Registry File window appears.

    2. Choose a location for the backup.

    3. Type a name for the backup. Click Save.

  3. Open the key containing the item you want to modify.

    The higher authority tells you the key’s pathname. For example:


    Start at the top level, the hive. Then open successive folders until you find the key you’re looking for. The key just mentioned contains numerous settings for Windows.

  4. To create a new key:

    1. Choose Edit→New→Key.

      The new key appears, with its name (New Key #1) selected for editing.

    2. Type the key’s name and press Enter.

    The key is created, but it’s empty; it contains no values.

  5. To create a new value:

    1. Choose Edit→New.

    2. Select the data type from the New menu.

      The higher authority you’re referencing should specify which data type to choose. After you choose the data type, the new value appears in the key. Its name is selected, ready for renaming.

    3. Type the value’s name.

      Creating a value doesn’t set the value’s data. (Well, actually, it sets the data to zero.) See Step 7 to set a value.

  6. To rename a key or value:

    1. Select the key or value to rename.

    2. Press the F2 key.

    3. Type the new name and press Enter.

  7. To change a value:

    1. Double-click the value to summon an editing dialog box.

      The Edit dialog box that appears is customized for the type of data the value stores. Sometimes, it’s a simple numeric value or string, but the Edit window can be quite complex when editing raw binary data.


    2. Type the new data.

    3. Click OK.

  8. To delete a key or value:

    1. Select the key or value.

    2. Press the Delete key on the keyboard.

      Deleting a key deletes all the key’s values and all the subkeys and all their values.

    3. Click the Yes button to confirm.

  9. Close the Registry Editor.

The changes you make to the Registry may require a Windows restart to take effect.

  • Only when you can confirm directions from two separate sources on the Internet should you consider following those directions to modify the Registry. Even then, be sure to check that the two sources aren’t just duplicate copies of the same information.

  • One of the best sources for Registry information is the Microsoft support site.