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Editing with Regedit

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Editing with Regedit

Introducing Regedit

Remember the Newhart TV show with the brothers Larry, Darryl, and Darryl? Each time they introduced themselves, Larry would say, "This is my brother Darryl and this is my other brother Darryl." Likewise, Registry Editor is the name of two different programs—both have the same name, both have similar features, but each has unique capabilities. Regedit is the program you learn about in this chapter; Microsoft Windows 3.1, Microsoft Windows 95, and Microsoft Windows 98 also include it. This basic Registry editor is easier to use and has a better search feature than its sibling, Regedt32. Regedt32 is the other Registry editor, which every version of Microsoft Windows NT includes. Regedt32 can change subkeys' permissions, can edit advanced data types such as REG_MULTI_SZ, and has other features that make it more of a power tool than Regedit. Despite that, Regedit is still the appropriate choice for most editing jobs because it's quicker and easier to use.


Throughout this book, I distinguish between the two registry editors only when necessary to avoid confusion or whenever you must use a particular program to perform a task. In most cases, when you read Registry Editor, you can use either Regedit or Regedt32. Regedit and Regedt32 aren't arbitrary names; they are the names of each program's executable file.

Microsoft doesn't treat all users equally. The company's attitude about Regedit is that if users don't know about it, they won't miss it. When users install Microsoft Windows 2000, the setup program doesn't copy a shortcut for Regedit to the Start menu, and Microsoft doesn't say much about it. For that matter, Windows 2000 Help contains barely a handful of screens that describe how to use Regedit. That's probably just as well; Microsoft wants to prevent inexperienced users from accidentally harming their configurations by tampering with the Registry, so the company doesn't provide encouragement by over-documenting it. Administrators and power users can't avoid Regedit, however. It's their window into their computer's configuration—Windows 2000's heart and soul—allowing them to fix many problems and customize the operating system in a variety of ways. Use Regedit to customize Windows Explorer, for example, or use it to customize files' shortcut menus. Many articles in Microsoft's Knowledge Base require you to use Regedit to make subtle changes to the registry.

Regedit is a powerful but simple program. It has no toolbar; its menus are straightforward. It has two panes, displaying the registry's organization on the left side of the window and actual configuration data on the right side—not too complicated. This is the program you learn to use in this chapter. You also learn varieties of helpful tips that come from my own agonizing experiences with Regedit. The program is so simple, however, that it's not useful for certain tasks. If you must change subkeys' permissions or edit data types other than REG_BINARY, REG_DWORD, and REG_SZ, use Regedt32, which you learn about in Chapter 4, "Editing with Regedt32."

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