Windows Registry: What it is, and what you can do with it

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The Windows Registry is where much of the information for programs, hardware, preferences, and system configuration is stored. Editing settings in the Registry can enable features and change how certain things function in Windows.

You can read about what the Registry does and check out some of the useful registry hacks in this article, and a search for "windows registry hacks" will show more useful hacks. Here are some of the things registry hacks can do:

  • Speed Up Taskbar Previews and Menus
  • Disable Notification Balloons
  • Make Your Taskbar Buttons Always Switch to the Last Active Window:
  • Customize the Context Menu (adding entries like Notepad and Command Prompt here to the Context Menu and removing unwanted entries)
  • Display a Message at Sign In
  • Add "Take Ownership" shortcut to the Explorer context menu
  • Tidy up the "Open With" context menu
  • Add "Copy To" and "Move To" context menus
  • Stop Windows from adding “- Shortcut” to new shortcuts
  • Change your owner and organization name
  • Stop other user accounts from shutting down your PC

Before you make any changes to the Windows Registry you'll want to be able to back up and restore it in case something goes awry:
How to Back up the Windows Registry
How to Restore the Windows Registry

It's also a good idea to back up important file and folders or create a disk image before editing the Registry.

Many sites that have registry hacks also have small files you can download that will make registry changes as well as directions for making changes manually. The files (.reg files) I've used have all files that will reverse any changes they make. Make sure the site is reputable before using any of the files. I've used them from various sites for years with no trouble. I store all the registry hack files I've downloaded in a folder in case I want to undo a change I've made or I want to use them again. This article has a good overview of how the Registry operates and some useful registry hacks you can try out.

Windows Registry Demystified: What You Can Do With It


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Comments

I have had my hand slapped by the Windows Techs when I allowed my CCleaner to clean the registry. Had not idea what it was or what to do with it so just allowed it to be cleaned...and I deleted a couple things that caused problems in my Win7, my Media Player and IE. Since then I do not clean it and do not touch it. They told me there should be no reason to clean it or change anything in it unless I really Know What I Am Doing. Needless to say, I still am a bit tech challenged and will never attempt to change anything in it. Some of the items listed can be changed elsewhere in your settings. Thanx for the info on exactly what it is and does Rhiannon.

It's a good idea to leave the registry alone if you're not comfortable making changes. It can cause problems. :)

It's probably a good idea not to let any "registry cleaners" touch your registry database. Years ago they said CCleaner was conservative and safe to use (also regarding the registry cleaning part), contrary to some other registry cleaners that are more aggressive. I have used CCleaner (generally and the registry part) for years without any problems (as far as I know ;-)). In CCleaner there is an option shown before making changes to the registry - to backup your registry. I always use that option now.

Over the years I've heard various knowledgeable people say "don't use a registry cleaner" and "yes it's ok to use a registry cleaner". ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
It's always good to use the backup option in Ccleaner or back up the registry before using another registry cleaner.

I like to use the free version of Resplendence Registrar Registry Manager if I'm making changes in the registry. I'll add that unless you're using a known registry hack that can be undone or know what you're doing it's best not to make any changes in the registry. 

Have found that my computer's worst enemy can be me as I do not always understand complicated directions to fix/change things...or think I understand and cause a bit (?) of trouble. Altho I have come quite a ways in understanding I do have quite a ways to go...better to be safe than sorry. As for those first times cleaning the Registry, I did not know about backing things up, so there was a bit of cleanup after myself and thank goodness for those few at the MS Forum who helped me straighten everything out. I think I will stay safe for a few more years and not mess with the Registry...Thanx to you who replied.

It's good to hear you were able to get some help at the MS forum. Learning more and doing what you feel comfortable with is terrific. :)

Thanks for this article!
When I opened Gizmo's site, I was met with this message:

"Oops, it looks like you are using an ad blocker.
We work hard to provide you our software news and we keep our ads non-intrusive.
Please support us keeping our content free by disabling your ad blocker."

I'm using ABP - Ad Blocker Plus - for Chrome, but I thought I had deactivated it for Gizmo's site. Well, it was easy to deactivate it (again). You just have to click on the ABP icon, then click on "Trust site". You don't have to disable your ad blocker completely, you can do it just for this site (and other sites which you want to support). Other ad blockers may do it differently, but I believe all have the option of "white-listing" sites.

Thank you!