Most experts recommend that you make a backup of the Registry before you make any changes to it. Fortunately, backing up the Registry is as simple as setting a System Restore point before you make an edit. The System Restore point contains a backup of the Registry; if you have problems following a Registry edit, you can simply restore the Registry to its pre-edit state using the System Restore utility. (Learn how to use System Restore in Chapter 19, “Backing Up and Restoring Data.”)
Most of the time you won’t need to bother with the Registry—it operates in the background, automatically updated whenever you change a Windows setting or install a new piece of software or hardware. However, if you want to speed up Windows’ performance or customize some hard-to-find settings, editing the Registry may be the only way to do it.
Launching the Registry Editor
You edit the Registry with a utility imaginatively called the Registry Editor. This utility is included with all versions of Windows, including Windows 7, even though you won’t find it anywhere on the Start menu or in the Control Panel. Instead, you launch Registry Editor by entering regedit into the Search box and pressing the Enter key.
As you can see in Figure 27.1, the Registry Editor window has two panes. The left pane displays all the Registry’s hives and keys. All keys have numerous subkeys. The right pane displays the values, or configuration information, for each key or subkey. You display the different levels of subkeys by clicking on the right-arrow next to a specific item.
Figure 27.1: Editing the Windows Registry with the Registry Editor
Editing and Adding Keys, Subkeys, and Values
You edit a particular Registry value by highlighting the subkey in the left pane and then double-clicking the value in the right pane. This displays the Edit Value or Edit String window, like the one shown in Figure 27.2. Enter a new value in the Value Data box, and then click OK.
Figure 27.2: Editing the value of a key
To add a new value to a subkey, right-click the subkey and select one of the New, Value options from the pop-up menu. Type a name for the new value, and then double-click the value to display the Edit Value (or Edit String) window. Enter the new value in the Value Data box, and then click OK.
Registry settings are changed as you make the changes. There is no “save” command in the Registry Editor. There is also no “undo” command. So be very careful about the changes you make—they’re final!
You also can add new subkeys to the Registry. Just right-click the key where you want to add the subkey, and then select New, Key from the pop-up menu. A new subkey (with a temporary name) appears. Type a name for the new subkey, and then press Enter.
To delete a subkey or value, right-click the item and select Delete. Remember, however, that all changes are final. Once a subkey is deleted, it’s gone!
Editing the Registry to Speed Up Windows
Now that you know how to edit the Windows Registry, let’s examine a handful of Registry tweaks that can speed up Windows performance on your PC. They’re easy to do—as long as you’re comfortable using the Registry Editor.