The Windows Registry is a database in which Windows and many programs save their configuration settings. You can edit the registry yourself to enable hidden features and optimize certain options. These enhancements are often referred to as "registry hacks."
What is the windows registry and how does it work?
The Windows registry is a collection of multiple databases. There are system-wide registry settings that apply to all users, and each Windows user account also has its own custom settings.
Under Windows 10 and Windows 7, the system-wide registry settings are stored in files under
] C: Windows System32 Config while each Windows user account owns its own NTUSER.dat file containing its user-specific keys in its directory
contains C: Windows Users Name . You can not edit these files directly.
However, it does not matter where these files are stored because you never have to touch them. When you log in to Windows, the settings from those files are loaded into memory. When you start a program, it can check the registry stored in memory to find its configuration settings. If you change the settings of a program, the settings in the registry can be changed. When you log out of your PC and shut down, the status of the registration is saved to disk.
The registry contains folder-like "keys" and "values" within these keys, which may contain numbers, text, or other data. The registry consists of several groups of keys and values, such as HKEY_CURRENT_USER and HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE. These groups are called "beehives" because one of the original developers of Windows NT is hated bees. Yes, seriously.
Microsoft has introduced registration in Windows 3.1, but it was originally used only for certain types of software. In the Windows 3.1 era, Windows applications often stored settings in INI configuration files that were distributed throughout the operating system. The registry can now be used by all programs and helps to gather the settings that would otherwise be distributed in many different locations on the hard disk.
Not all programs save all their settings in the Windows registry. Each program developer can choose to use the registry for each setting, just a few settings or no settings. Some programs store all (or only a few) of their settings in configuration files, such as: In your application data folder. But Windows itself uses the registry extensively.
Why You Want to Edit the Registry
Most Windows users never have to touch the registry. Windows itself and many programs use the registry, and you do not usually have to worry about it.
However, you can edit the registry yourself using the Registry Editor, which is included with Windows. You can click through the registry and change individual registry settings.
The registry itself is a big mess of a database, and you will not find much by clicking through it yourself. However, you can often find "registry hacks" online that tell you which settings you need to change to perform a specific task.
This is especially useful if you are looking for options that are not normally available in Windows. Some things you can only do by hacking the registry. Additional settings are available in the Professional Editions Group Policy in Windows, but you can change them in a Home edition of Windows by tweaking the registry.
Is that safe?
Editing the registry is not dangerous if you know what you are doing. Just follow the instructions and change only the settings you want to change.
However, if you go into the registry and arbitrarily delete or change things, you can mess up your system's configuration and may even not start Windows.
We generally recommend backing up your registry (and your computer, from which you should always have backup!) Before you edit the registry, just in case. But if you follow legitimate instructions correctly, you have no problem.
How to Edit the Registry
Editing the registry is fairly straightforward. All of our registry editing articles show the whole process and it's easy to follow. But here's a basic look at the process.
To begin, open the Registry Editor application. To do this, press Windows + R to open the Run dialog box. Type "regedit" and press Enter. You can also open the Start menu, type regedit.exe in the search box, and then press Enter.
You are prompted to agree to User Account Control before proceeding. This allows the registry editor to change system settings.
In the left pane, navigate to the key that you want to change. You'll know where you need to be because you'll be told the instructions for the registry hack you want to apply.
On Windows 10, you can also simply copy and paste an address into the address bar of the Registry Editor. Enter
To change a value, double-click it in the right pane, and then enter the new one Value. Sometimes you need to create a new value, right-click in the right pane, select the desired value type, and then enter the appropriate name. In other cases, you may need to create new keys (folders). The registry hack will tell you what to do.
You're done. You can click "OK" to save your change and close the registry editor. Sometimes you need to reboot your PC or log off and log back in for your change to take effect, but that's it.
That's all a registry hack entails – you've now opened the registry editor and found the value you need to make the change and change it.
You can also edit the registry by downloading and running REG files that contain a change that is applied when you run it. You should download and run REG files only from trusted sources, but they are text files, so you can right-click them and open them in Notepad.
Better yet, you can create your own registry hack files. A REG file can contain several different settings, so you can create a .reg file that will automatically apply all your favorite registry hacks and configuration changes to a Windows PC when you run it.
Some cool registry hacks for you  We've written over a ton of registry hacks. Here are some of our favorites:
- Make your Taskbar buttons always the last active window: This is my personal favorite. On Windows 7 and Windows 10, clicking the taskbar buttons will normally display a thumbnail list of all open windows for that application when multiple windows are open. The LastActiveClick hack opens a single click to open the last active window for this application. This saves you one click when switching Windows. You can hover over a taskbar icon to preview the open windows.
- Turn off the Windows 10 lock screen: If you do not want to wipe the lock screen in tablet style and want to see a traditional logon screen, time you boot, log off, or lock your PC is this registry hack for you. It was created for Windows 8, but still works with the latest versions of Windows 10.
- Adding ownership to the context menu: On Windows, the files belong to the users. If you're an advanced user who frequently changes file ownership, you can add the Take ownership command to the context menu.
- Disabling Aero Shake Minimizing Windows: You can stop Windows 7 or Windows 10. Minimize any open windows when you shake the title bar of a window with this setting.
- Get the old volume control back on Windows 10: If you miss the Windows 7-style volume control, this registry hack returns you to Windows 10.
We have handled many other useful registry hacks in the past. If you want to tweak something on Windows, just do a quick web search, and there's a good chance you'll find a registry hack that tells you how to do it.