The registry contains many many Windows settings (and changes continuously), which can be viewed with the Registry Editor. Because many pages on this site (and other websites) contain registry tweaks, you need the Registry Editor to apply those registry tweaks. The Registry Editor is started with the command REGEDIT (Start, Run…, create a shortcut if you use Registry Editor frequently). Welcome in the world of the registry entries!
Most important to remember using the Registry Editor: there is NO WAY back. If you change something, it is permanent unless you have made a (partly) registry backup (File, Export). Worst case scenario: your Windows doesn’t boot anymore! However, this is not a reason to leave the Registry Editor for what it is, frightened to do something wrong. If you carefully follow the instructions and ensure yourself you are making the right changes, nothing will go wrong. Before you make permanent major changes, it’s wise first to make a system backup, to repair any damage.
Making changes to the registry
As shown below, the registry (Start, Run, REGEDIT) contains 5 basic keys: HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT, HKEY_CURRENT_USER, HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE, HKEY_USERS and HKEY_CURRENT_CONFIG. Most suggested registry tweaks will be suggested for the HKEY_CURRENT_USER and HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE keys. The first key contains settings for the current user account while the second key contains settings for the Windows system.
Tweaks for the HKEY_CURRENT_USER keys can be safely tested by creating an extra user account (Control Panel, User accounts). Within the new test user account you can test those tweaks and remove the user account afterwards. Before you make essential changes to the registry, you can export the keys first to a *.REG file by File, Export within the Registry Editor. Later you can import those registry files by File, Import or by double clicking on them in the Windows Explorer. This way it’s easy to export registry settings from one computer to the other.
An important function within the Registry Editor is the search function (Edit, Search). Using the F3 key makes it easy to find next items in the registry.
TRACKING CHANGES IN THE WINDOWS REGISTRY :
Most tools make changes in the registry keys. If you would like to know which changes take place, you can find them with a realtime monitoring tool like Process Monitor (download: www.microsoft.com/technet/sysinternals/ProcessesAndThreads/processmonitor.mspx). If you would like to compare the difference before and after a change, you can create snapshots and calculate the changes. You can do this with trialsoftware like Advanced Registry Tracer (download: www.elcomsoft.com/art.html) or Tracker (download: www.evansprogramming.com/tracker.asp).