A Full Windows Registry Tutorial (How to Use It Safely)

Every once in a while, some problem crops up that forces you to alter something in your registry. Here we provide you with a full Windows registry tutorial in order to edit or change settings in it.

Before we get started, I feel it’s important to understand that it’s absolutely crucial to backup your registry before making any changes in it.

Once you have created an export backup of your registry, take that file and copy it to a different location.

An additional method is recommended, just in case you have a situation where you aren’t able to gain access to your desktop. And that would be to create a restore point. In our other post on creating a restore point, we show you the entire process.

This way, you can restore your Windows to an exact replica to the time that you create the restore point. We cannot recommend this highly enough.

It’s quick and easy to do and will ensure that your operating system has a chance of always being restored to its former working state.

Windows registry tutorial

Let’s go from the beginning and work through to the more advanced ways to work with your registry.

How to open the registry editor

The easiest and quickest way to open your registry:

  1. Press and hold the Windows key ⊞ on your keyboard and tap the ‘R’ button, then release the Windows key.
  2. Left-click your mouse pointer in the text box next to ‘Open’.
  3. Type ‘regedit’ and left-click on the ‘OK’ button.
open regedit using the run command dialog

You will see a new window titled ‘Registry Editor’, which now allows you to work with your registry database:

new registry window

How to back up the registry (or parts of it)

The Windows Registry Editor allows you to export the whole thing, or parts that you want to backup.

To backup the whole registry:

export registry file
  1. Make sure the ‘Computer’ item in your left pane is selected. You can do this by left-clicking your mouse on the ‘Computer’ item.
  2. Left-click your mouse button on ‘File’ in the top menu.
  3. Left-click your mouse button on ‘Export’.
  4. In the export window that has appeared, the bottom area has an export range option. Left-click your mouse button on the ‘All’ radio button.
  5. Left-click your mouse button on ‘This PC’. Choose the location you wish to save your backup file to.
  6. Left-click your mouse on the ‘File name’ text box and type in the name you want for the backup filename.
name and save registry file

How to save specific registry settings

export specific registry records
  1. Left-click your mouse on the item you wish to export in the left pane. Press the right mouse button.
  2. Left-click your mouse button on the ‘Export’ item in the contextual menu.
  3. Complete the export process as shown at the end of the previous export process.

Give your computer a few minutes to complete the operation. You might find that the Registry Editor is non-responsive until the process is complete. Unfortunately, there is no progress indicator to give you an idea of how far the process is.

How to import registry files

If you have exported, or downloaded any .reg files and wish to merge them with your registry, here’s how to do that.

  1. Double click your left mouse button on the .reg file you wish to import.
  2. A warning will appear, and if you are sure that you want to import the file’s settings, confirm it by left-clicking the ‘Yes’ button with your mouse.

Different types of registry settings

There are two main elements in the registry:

  1. Keys – These look like folders that you will see in the left pane in the Registry Editor. They contain the value elements inside them.
  2. Values – These are the elements that resemble files. You can see them in the right pane after clicking on a key.

Types of keys

  • HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE (HKLM)
  • HKEY_CURRENT_CONFIG (HKCC)
  • HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT (HKCR)
  • HKEY_CURRENT_USER (HKCU)
  • HKEY_USERS or HKU

Types of values

TypeIDNameValue Description
0REG_NONENo type.
1REG_SZStandard string value.
2REG_EXPAND_SZAn expandable string value that can also contain environment variables.
3REG_BINARYBinary data.
4REG_DWORD/
REG_DWORD_LITTLE_ENDIAN
32 Bit unsigned integer.
5REG_DWORD_BIG_ENDIAN32 Bit unsigned integer.
6REG_LINKA UNICODE symbolic link to another key. It specifies a root key and the path to the key.
7REG_MULTI_SZMulti string value.
8REG_RESOURCE_LISTA resource list used by hardware enumeration and configuration for Plug-n-Play.
9REG_FULL_RESOURCE_DESCRIPTOR A resource descriptor used by hardware enumeration and configuration for Plug-n-Play.
10REG_RESOURCE_REQUIREMENTS_LIST A resource requirement list used by hardware enumeration and configuration for Plug-n-Play.
11REG_QWORD/
REG_QWORD_LITTLE_ENDIAN
64 Bit integer.

How to edit keys and values

rename registry key or value

You won’t be able to edit the names of the root keys, for obvious reasons, but this is how to rename the keys one layer or deeper in the key trees including all key values:

  1. Click on the key or value you wish to rename with your left mouse button.
  2. Left-click your mouse on the ‘Rename’ item in the contextual menu that has appeared from completing the previous step.
  3. Edit the name of the key or value using your keyboard and press enter once you are happy with the change.

How to add keys or values

create new registry key or value

If you want to create a new key, focus on the left pane, and for a new value, work in the right pane.

  1. Right-click your mouse button on any unused space in the left or right pane depending on what you want to create.
  2. In the new contextual menu, hover your mouse pointer on ‘New’ and a new menu will roll open.
  3. Left-click your mouse button on the type of key or value you wish to create.

How to delete keys or values

how to delete registry key or value
  1. Right-click your mouse button on the key or value.
  2. Left-click your mouse button on the ‘Delete’ item in the newly created contextual menu.

How to save changes

No saving is required. Once you make changes to your registry, it is changed permanently.

This is why we encourage you to back up your registry keys, or even the whole thing before you edit anything inside your registry.

In conclusion to the Windows Registry tutorial

As you can see, making changes in your registry is not difficult.

Just bear in mind that it’s not folders and files that you are working with, but rather data entries related to the operation of your operating system.

We wish you all the best in working with your registry and correcting any issue you might have.