How to Use the Windows Registry Editor - dummies

By Dan Gookin

Most PC troubleshooting tasks can be done using tools that come with Windows or the hardware that it runs on. But if you are absolutely bent on looking into the guts of Windows to see what is in the Registry, you can do so using the Registry Editor. To view, modify, or create information in the Registry, you use the Registry Editor program. It’s also known by its filename, regedit.

To run the Registry Editor, follow these steps:

  1. Press Win+R to summon the Run dialog box.

  2. Type regedit and press Enter.

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

    Behold the Registry Editor window on the screen.


    The Registry Editor works a lot like Windows Explorer does for navigating folders on the PC’s storage system: Open a key, or click the triangle next to it, to display the key’s contents. Values appear on the right side of the window.

    A pathname appears on the Registry Editor window status bar (at the bottom of the window), which helps you better determine which key is selected.

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

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.

  • You can also run the Registry Editor by popping up the Start menu and typing regedit in the Search box. Then click the Registry Editor icon that appears on the menu. This trick doesn’t work, however, on every PC.

  • You can explore the Registry, view things, waste time there. But don’t view the Registry as a playground or an opportunity to discover more about your computer. Use the Registry only when you need to, such as when directed to do something by documentation or technical support people.

  • Once upon a time, the program regedit32 was used to edit the Registry. That’s no longer the case. A program named regedit32 still exists in Windows, but it merely runs the regular Registry Editor program, regedit.