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What you need to know about the Windows Registry part 2

If you read the first part of our two-part series on ‘What you need to know about the Windows Registry’, you will already know the basics about what the registry is and what it does. Now we get into accessing it, copying it and making changes. First, let’s take a look around.

Type ‘regedit’ into the Windows Search box and select Registry Editor. A new window should appear. This is the registry editor window. From here you can make changes to how your computer looks, feels and behaves. Before we do that, let’s take a copy of it just in case.

Take a backup of your registry

Taking a backup of your registry means that if we mess up we can import the copy and return things to normal.

From the registry editor:

  1. Select File and then Export.
  2. Select All as the Export range at the bottom of the new window.
  3. Select a place to save the copy and select Save.

Should anything get messed up, you can repeat the above only select Import instead. Select the copy you just made and Import. You will need to reboot your computer afterwards and everything should return to normal.

Modifying the registry

Using the example from before, let’s change a mouse setting from the registry. It’s a relatively harmless change that won’t seriously impact your computer. Despite that, it will show you exactly how the registry works.

From within the registry editor:

  1. Select ‘HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\Mouse’ in the left pane.
  2. Double click SwapMouseButton.
  3. Change the Value data from 0 to 1.
  4. Select OK.
  5. Reboot your computer.
  6. Click your mouse button.

You should find that your left mouse button now works as your old right button and vice versa. This is a simple demonstration of how changes in the registry can affect how your computer works. It might be a good idea to change that setting back unless you like it.

When you boot your computer, Windows loads a copy of the user’s registry into memory. It will stay there until you log out or reboot again. That’s why whenever you make a change to the registry, you have to reboot in order for it to make the change.

Here’s a more practical change that can enable autologin in Windows 10.

  1. Open the registry editor.
  2. Navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Winlogon.
  3. Double click ‘DefaultUserName’, add your own username and select OK.
  4. Double click ‘DefaultPassword’, add your account password and select OK.
  5. Select Edit and New.
  6. Select String Value and name it ‘AutoAdminLogon’.
  7. In Edit String, give it a value of 1 to enable it.
  8. Exit the registry editor and reboot your computer.

You should now automatically log in to your computer without having to do anything. This is mainly useful if nobody else uses your computer and you can undo it all by changing the ‘AutoAdminLogon’ string to ‘0’.

This page is one of many that have some neat registry tweaks you can make to customize your computer how you like it. Remember to always take a backup of your registry before making changes and that you will need to reboot your computer in order to see those changes.

The Windows registry is complicated but when you break it down into manageable chunks it becomes much easier to manage. Also, once you know you can back it up and restore the original, playing around with it becomes safer. You still have to be careful but you can have an explore if you want to.

If you have any issues with the Windows registry, bring your computer to the computer repair guys at Dave’s Computers in New Jersey. We can help with any computer or networking issue you may have!