How to Use the Find Command in the Registry Editor - dummies

How to Use the Find Command in the Registry Editor

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. Occasionally, you know that something exists in the Registry but you don’t know where. In these instances, the Registry Editor’s Find command can help you locate the information. Once you have the information, you can proceed to troubleshoot using your standard tools.

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.

To find something in Windows Registry, 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.

    If there is any chance that you will make a change (intended or not), 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. Scroll to the top of the left side of the window and click the word Computer.

    By selecting Computer, you ensure that your search starts at the beginning of the Registry.

  4. Press Ctrl+F.

    The Find dialog box appears.


    Enter the text you want to find — for example, the name of a file that appears in a most recently used (MRU) list.

  5. Click the Find Next button.

  6. Review the key or value to ensure that it’s the one you’re looking for.

    Depending on how detailed you were, some false positives might occur in the search.

  7. Click the Find Next button, if necessary, to locate the next tidbit in the Registry.

  8. Do whatever task needs completing when you find what you’re looking for.

  9. Close the Registry Editor window when you’re done.

Indeed, the Registry is huge. Sometimes, a search can take a long time to complete. Yet that’s why the Find command exists.

  • Close the Find dialog box after the first find result. You don’t have to close the dialog box, but it does get in the way.

  • You can press the F3 key to repeat the last Find command. The F3 shortcut is handy because it lets you repeat a search without reopening the Find dialog box.