Windows registry Hacks: What is it and how it works

Whether it’s a particular problem or some strange setting, we more or less put our finger on the Windows registry.

Anyone with a minimum of computer knowledge knows how such operations are quite dangerous: just mistake the typing of a number and the whole operating system could be compromised … for this reason, the Windows registry is seen with a kind of justified awe: only those who have a clear idea of what they are doing can put themselves in their hands, as attempts are not allowed.

What is the Windows registry and how it works

The Windows registry is a database in which your operating system and many other programs store their configurations. You can edit the registry yourself to enable hidden features and change specific options.

There are registry settings that apply to all users and others for each individual Windows user account. All at first glance may seem rather confusing and this guide is born with the intent of trying to learn more about this potentially extraordinary tool.

Where is the register physically located?

On Windows 10 and Windows 7, the system registry settings are stored in C:\Windows\ System32\Config\, while each Windows user account has its own NTUSER.dat file containing its user-specific keys in its folder C:\Windows\Users\Username. It is not possible to act directly on these files, but this is not important: you will never need to touch them and, to act on the register, there are other ways.

When you log in to Windows, it loads settings from these files. When starting a program, you can check the log stored in memory to find its configuration settings.

Keys and values

The registry contains keys and values similar to folders within those keys that may contain numbers, text or other data. The registry consists of multiple key groups and values such as HKEY_CURRENT_USER and HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE. These groups are called hives, and owe this name to a prank: it seems that one of the original developers of Windows NT hated bees … and his colleagues have devised this term to make fun of it.

Microsoft introduced the registry in Windows 3.1, but initially it was used only for certain types of software. In the Windows 3.1 era, Windows applications frequently stored the settings in the .INI configuration files that were spread out a little throughout the operating system (some programs still use this type of extension to store settings). The Windows registry, however, has the advantage of grouping all the settings in a single point, without leaving files scattered throughout the hard disk.

Why you may want to modify the registry

Most Windows users do not need to register. Windows itself and many programs use the registry automatically and usually you do not have to worry about making changes to it.

However, it is possible to modify the register autonomously by means of a special tool, that is the famous regedit. This allows you to click on the log and change any type of data present.

As already mentioned, however, this kind of operation is quite delicate: the registry itself is a big mess of a database, and you will not find much clicking on it at random. Online, however, you can find a list of “hacks” (as they are called in the jargon the changes to the register) with lots of explanations attached.

This is especially useful when you are looking for options that are not normally seen in Windows to common users. Some things you can only get by hacking the registry.

The dangers

Editing the registry is not dangerous if you know what you are doing. Just follow the instructions and change only the settings that you are asked to change: improvising could totally compromise your operating system.

It is generally good and right to back up the registry before making any changes. If you follow the instructions correctly, you will not have any problem anyway.

How to modify the register

To get started, open the Registry Editor application. To do this, you have to press Windows + R in order to open the Run dialog. Type regedit and then press Enter. Alternatively, you can also open the Start menu, type regedit in the search box, then press Enter.

Before continuing, you will be asked to accept a user account control request. This gives the Registry Editor the ability to change system settings.

Switch to the key that you need to change via the left pane, following the directives that are given to you (on Windows 10, you can also copy and paste an address into the Registry Editor’s address bar and press Enter to reach the point at which to intervene).

To change a value, double-click the right pane and enter the new value. Sometimes, you need to create a new value: right-click in the right pane, select the type of value you need to create, and then enter the appropriate name for it. In other cases, it may be necessary to create new keys (folders).

Once the action is complete, you can click OK to save the changes and close the registry editor. Sometimes you have to restart your PC or exit and log in for the changes to take effect, but you’re done.

You can also edit the registry by downloading and executing the .reg files, which contain a change applied when you run them. You should only download and run .reg files from trusted sources: if you are unsure, you can still check the files by opening them with Notepad (right click and open with) to check the instructions contained in them.

Better yet, you can create your own registry hacking files. A .reg file can contain several different settings, so you can create a .reg file that automatically applies all your registry hack you need, perhaps temporarily, to perform certain actions.

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