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Editing with Regedit

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Navigating Regedit

Figure 3.2 shows what Regedit looks like on your desktop. You see its menu bar across the top of the window and its status bar across the bottom. The status bar displays the fully qualified name of the selected subkey. You're familiar with most of the items you see in the program's window because you know how to use Windows Explorer. You can certainly use Regedit with its default window size, but maximizing the window makes viewing subkeys and values much easier.

Figure 3.2 Navigating Regedit's window is much like navigating folders and files in Windows Explorer.

Within the window, you see two panes, which Regedit separates with a divider that you can drag to change the size of both. The left pane is the key pane and contains the Registry's hierarchy. The right pane is the value pane, and it contains the values in the selected subkey. In the key pane, click a subkey and then Regedit displays its values in the value pane. Drag the divider to the left to make the key pane smaller and the value pane larger, or drag it to the right to make the key pane larger and value pane smaller. I prefer a larger key pane so that I can easily see the Registry's hierarchy. The following sections describe each pane in more detail.


If the key pane isn't big enough to see the subkey's fully qualified name, look at its full name in the status bar. To copy to the Clipboard the subkey's fully qualified name, click Copy Key Name on its shortcut menu.

Key Pane

The key pane shows the organization of the Registry—its hierarchy. Regedit displays subkeys immediately under their parent keys and indents them to show their parent-child relationship. It looks similar to an upside-down tree or an outline. Even though Windows 2000 stores the Registry in separate hive files, Regedit displays the entire Registry as one logical unit. When you update a subkey in Regedit, the operating system automatically updates the appropriate hive file. Changes to HKU are in users' hive files, UserProfile\Ntuser.dat, and changes to HKLM are in the appropriate per-computer hive file, SystemRoot\System32\config. For more about hive files, see Chapter 1.

The first item in the key pane is My Computer. Its children are the root keys in the local computer's Registry, and Regedit represents them as folders. Each root key contains subkeys, which Regedit also represents as folders. Click plus signs (+) to expand subkeys, or click minus signs (-) to collapse subkeys. If you'd rather use the keyboard to explore the Registry, use the shortcuts listed in Table 3.1 to move around Regedit. These keyboard shortcuts are often the quickest way to navigate because using Regedit can be a mouse-intensive activity that's likely to wear out your wrist. Collapse an entire branch by pressing the left-arrow key, for example, and press the left-arrow key again to select the parent key.

Table 3.1  Keyboard Shortcuts






Opens the Find dialog box


Repeats the previous search




Deletes the selected subkey or value


Displays Registry Editor Help


Renames the selected subkey or value


Refreshes the key and value panes


Opens the main menu of Regedit


Displays the shortcut menu (right-click) for the selected subkey or value


Closes Regedit



Keypad +

Expands the selected subkey's children

Keypad -

Collapses the selected subkey's children

Keypad *

Expands all the selected subkey's children


Selects the previous subkey


Selects the next subkey


Expands the selected subkey if collapsed; otherwise, selects its first child


Collapses the selected subkey if expanded; otherwise, selects the subkey's parent


Selects the key pane's topmost subkey


Selects the key pane's bottommost subkey

Page Up

Moves up one page in the key pane

Page Down

Moves down one page in the key pane


Toggles between the key and value panes


Toggles between the key and value panes

Regedit has one feature that makes navigating much quicker, particularly in subkeys with a lot of children or values. In the key pane, begin typing the name of a subkey. Regedit selects the first open subkey that matches the characters you've typed. It won't match subkeys that are hidden beneath others, however; it just matches subkeys that are visible in the key pane. For example, open HKCR, type .ba, and Regedit selects the first matching subkey, HKCR\.bat. You mustn't dawdle; pause too long and Regedit assumes you're starting over. This feature is an incremental search, and it works equally well in the value pane of Regedit. In a long list of values, you can press the down-arrow key as many times as it takes to get to a value, mouse around the scrollbars, or press one or two letters—take your pick.

Value Pane

The value pane shows the selected subkey's values. Each row is a single value. The Name column contains each value's name, the Type column contains each value's type, and the Data column contains each value's data. Regedit usually but not always presents data in a format suitable to the value's type. Resize columns by dragging the dividers between them left and right. To see more of each value's name and data, for example, drag the divider between the Type and Data columns to the left so that the Type column disappears. To restore the Type column, drag the same divider to the right.

Regedit supports editing only REG_BINARY, REG_DWORD, and REG_SZ values. Try editing any other type of value, and it opens the value in the Edit Binary Value dialog box. In this particular arena, Microsoft made a big mess. The Type column is new. Earlier versions of Regedit didn't have it, so users relied on the icons shown in Table 3.2 to determine values' types. Beside the names of REG_SZ values, Regedit displayed the icon shown in the first row of Table 3.2. Beside the names of all other values, it displayed the icon in the second row. Users knew that Regedit supported only the big three, so they expected to edit values other than REG_DWORD and REG_SZ using the Edit Binary Value dialog box. Now, the Type column shows the names of all the types that the Registry supports. This leads users to believe they can edit values such as REG_FULL_RESOURCE_DESCRIPTOR and REG_MULTI_SZ in Regedit, but they can't. To make matters more confusing, Regedit displays the icon shown in the first row of Table 3.2 next to REG_MULTI_SZ values, but it opens them in the Edit Binary Value dialog box. Give me a break!

Table 3.2  Icons in the Value Pane




String values (REG_SZ, REG_MULTI_SZ, and so on)


Binary values (REG_DWORD, REG_BINARY, and so on)

The first value in the value pane is always (Default). It's the selected subkey's default REG_SZ value that you learned about in Chapter 1. All subkeys have it, whether it contains data or not, but some subkeys don't contain additional values. Including the default value, each subkey can have one or more values that have names, types, and data. To edit any value, double-click its name in the value pane or, on the Edit menu, click Modify. Note too that you can choose a variety of commands from each value's shortcut menu.


Regedit gets confused. Columns sometimes disappear and you can't restore them through the user interface. You must restore them by removing the program's configuration from the Registry. To do so, close Regedit and use Regedt32 to remove HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Applets\ Registry from the Registry. You must use Regedt32 to remove this subkey because Regedit saves its configuration each time you close it.

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