Registry Rendezvous

How would you like to see the blue print of your operating system and learn how to tweak it, customise it, and fine tune your PC on a microscopic level? The Windows registry holds the key. Read on to get started...

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By  Matthew Wade Published  March 31, 2005

1. Registry Rundown|~|registry1-small.jpg|~||~|The registry, short for ‘registration database’, holds information about your Windows system. This crucial file is the central hierarchical database that stores information necessary to configure your system for users, applications and hardware devices. The information in the registry is constantly referenced during operation. For instance, when accessing profiles for each user, the applications installed and the types of documents each can create. In short, the registry determines everything - how your PC runs. looks, feels and works. Tampering with the registry without enough know-how can damage your PC. But the fact is, we’ve all modified the Registry before, only without realising it. Whenever you change a setting in Control Panel for example, behind the scenes a Registry change is made that puts that new setting into effect. The menus and dialog boxes you see in XP are just a visual front-end or a user-friendly interface for the Registry itself No matter what your knowledge level, we strongly recommended you back-up the Registry before you lift the hood. [Note: make sure you have an account with Administrator-level access. If it is your home PC or laptop, then technically you are already the administrator.] In Windows 95/98 and ME, simply backing up two hidden files that comprise the Registry will do the job. These are in your Windows directory, called USER.DAT and SYSTEM.DAT. Windows XP/Windows 2000 users however should back-up their registry using one of the following three simple methods: Method 1: By creating a System Restore snapshot, your PC can be restored to a previous snapshot without losing recent information such as documents, history lists, favorites, or e-mail. This feature monitors your PC and applications for changes and creates restore points. This method is less useful for rolling back registry changes made a long time ago, because the System Restore might have purged a particular restore point due to space constraints or even a Restore point corruption. Also remember that System Restore points can get deleted as hard disk space is required, making this method less reliable in the long run. Method 2: Back-up a selected registry branch by exporting it. This method is useful if you are making changes to a specific key/area of the registry. 1. Click Start, and then click Run. In the Open box, type Regedit, and then click OK (see pic). 2. Locate and then click the key that contains the value that you want to edit. 3. Click File/Export. 4. In the Save box select a location where you want to store Registration Entries. 5. In the File Name box, type a name and click Save. Now that you have created a Registry back-up for a particular key, save the REG file in a safer location in case you want to undo the registry changes you made. You can restore the settings by just double-clicking the REG file - this exports the contents to the Registry. Method 3: Another method is to back-up the registry key in the ‘Registry Hive Files’ format, which is even more reliable. When you restore a hive file containing a key, the Registry Editor completely replaces the current key and all of its subkeys with the contents of the hive file. Once you have backed up your registry using either of these methods, enter the Registry Editor. 1 Click Start/Run and enter REGEDIT. Registry Editor is an advanced tool for viewing and changing settings in your system registry. Windows stores its configuration information in a database (the registry) that is organised in a tree format and shows two panes (or sub-Windows), similar to the classic Windows Explorer interface. The left side shows a tree with folders (see structure of the registry above), and the right side shows the contents (values) of the currently selected folders (keys). There are six main branches in Windows 98/ME and five in Windows XP; each contains a specific portion of the information stored in the Registry. These branches are as follows: HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT- This branch contains all of your file types as well as Object Linking and Embedding (OLE) information. OLE is a Microsoft technology that lets software products work together. For example, allowing you to embed a graph in a word processing document. HKEY_CURRENT_USER-This points to the part of HKEY_USERS appropriate to the current user. HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE- Contains information about all the hardware and software installed on your computer. Since you can specify multiple hardware configurations, the current hardware configuration is specified in HKEY_ CURRENT_CONFIG. HKEY_USERS - This branch contains certain preferences (such as color schemes and Control Panel settings) for each user of a computer. In Windows 95/98/ME, the default branch here is for the user that’s currently logged in. In Windows 2000/XP however, the default branch contains a template to be used for newly-added users. HKEY_CURRENT_CONFIG Points to the part of HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE appropriate for the current hardware configuration. HKEY_DYN_DATA (Windows 95/98/ME only). This branch points to the part of HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE for use with Windows’ plug-and-play subsystem. To expand a particular branch, click on the plus sign (+) to the left of any folder, or double-click on the folder. To display the contents of a key (folder), just click the desired key and look at the values listed on the right. You can add a new key or value by selecting New from the Edit menu. You can rename any value and almost any key with the same method used to rename files; right-click on an object and click Rename, or click it slowly twice, or else press F2. Lastly, you can delete a key or value by clicking it once and pressing Delete, or right-clicking it and choosing Delete. As mentioned earlier, do make sure you back-up your registry before you make any changes and take utmost care when making changes - one wrong entry can affect your PC’s performance or even render it inoperable. While editing a registry key, you will come across numerous folders and cryptic key numbers, but don’t let these initimidate you. Being hierarchial, all the folders are neatly sorted alphabetically and structured as in Windows Explorer. That said, let’s crack on with our registry rendezvous...||**||Hack 1|~|pagingregistryhack1-small.jpg|~||~|Here’s how to improve the core system performance of Windows NT/2000/XP: For systems with a large amount of RAM this tweak can be enabled to force the core Windows system to be kept in memory and not paged to disk. Open your registry and find the value in the key below. Change the value to '1' to enable the tweak and stop the core process from being paged, or set it to '0' for the default. Restart Windows for the change to take effect. Note: If you use Adobe Photoshop, which relies heavily on Windows’ swap file, proceed with caution. (see pic). (Default) REG_SZ (value not set) DisablePagingExecutive REG_DWORD 0x00000001 (1) Registry Settings System Key: [HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet \Control\Session Manager\ Memory Management] Value Name: DisablePagingExecutive Data Type: REG_DWORD (DWORD Value) Value Data: (0 = default, 1 = disable system paging) ||**||Hack 2|~|speedymenureghack-small].jpg|~||~|The Windows XP start menu has a built-in delay time between your mouse pointer landing on a menu and the menu being displayed. Using the registry you can reduce the time it takes for the start menu to unfold its menus: (see pic). Open REGEDIT and Navigate to HKEY_CURRENT_ USER\Control Panel\Desktop\Edit the MenuShowDelay value. The default is 400; lower values will speed up the start menu. Try various different values between 0 and 400 to find your preferred setting. ||**||Hack 3 (Windows NT/2000/XP) |~|messengerservicesstooreghac.jpg|~||~|The Messenger service is normally used to transmit messages between clients and servers. Recently it has been employed by online marketers for sending unsolicited advertising (spam) and pop-ups when you connect to the internet. This tweak allows you to disable this service. Open your registry and find the key below. Change the value of "Start" to "4" to disable the Messenger service. Restart Windows for the change to take effect. (Default) REG_SZ (value not set) (see pic) Start REG_DWORD 0x00000004 (4) Registry Settings System Key: [HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\ Messenger] ||**||Hacks 4, 5 and more...|~|commandwindow-small.jpg|~||~|This hack allows you to open a Command Prompt to a particular directory from within Explorer. Despite the snazzy graphical user interface (GUI) of Windows, the now ancient command prompt is still useful. Any time you drop to the command prompt, you will have to navigate to the directory you need manually, instead of being able to drop into any folder you want from the desktop interface. Change that with this registry edit. (see pic). Start REGEDIT. Navigate to 'HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT \ Directory \ shell'. Create a new key called 'Command.' Edit the default REG_SZ value for this new key with the text you wish to see when you right-click a folder to open the command prompt window. Assign it a name that's appropriate, for example: 'open command prompt in this folder' or something similar. Under the new 'command' key, create another key called 'command.' Give the default value in this key the value of: cmd.exe /k "cd %L" After you restart your PC, you’ll be able to right-click on any folder and select your new command to instantly open a command prompt window specific to that folder. Hack 5 Want to burst those annoying Windows balloon tips? First open up the registry editor: 1. Click on Start 2. Choose Run 3. Type in "regedit" 4. Click Ok Follow this path to the key: HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\ CurrentVersion\Explorer\Advanced Create a new DWORD value, name it EnableBalloon Tips, and set it equal to 0. If EnableBalloonTips is already there and equal to 1, set it to 0. Then exit the registry editor, log off, and log back on. Windows will now stop nagging you or being overly friendly and offering to help. Of course there are thousands of registry tweaks or hacks you can do. On the other hand, if you are an armchair registry hacker, we suggest using the free TweakUI, PowerTools, Microsoft’s Windows XP PowerToys, XTeq, SandraSoft 2005 or one of the scores of utilities that do much of the legwork for you. These use a neat and user-friendly interface that saves you from having to edit the registry manually. If, for some reason. you are not happy with your registry changes, or you would like to restore all or part of the registry here’s how: To import some or all of the registry: On the Registry menu, click Import Registry File. Find the file you want to import, click the file to select it, then click Open. To restore the registry: Click Start/ Shut Down. Next choose Restart and hit OK. When you see the message ‘Please select the operating system to start’ press F8. Use the arrow keys to highlight ‘Last Known Good Configuration’ and then press Enter. Note: NUM LOCK must be turned off before the arrow keys on the numeric keypad will function. Use these arrow keys to highlight an operating system. When you choose ‘Last Known Good Configuration’ Windows restores information in registry key HKLM\System\CurrentControlSet only. Any changes you have made in other registry keys remain. TOP TIPS: Make sure you first back-up your registry and understand fully how to restore or import it. The registry can get filled with a lot of dead entries from uninstalled programs or unused hardware through normal use. Considering using a freeware utility such as RegClean 4.1 to erase such dead data entries. Any changes you make to the registry are saved immediately, so always proceed with caution. REGISTRY ROUND-UP SITES: Back-Up, Edit, and Restore the Registry in Win XP : Windows Registry Guide Registry Guide 200 Registry Tweaks I'm InTouch WIDER READING: Microsoft Windows XP Registry Guide Jerry Honeycutt $39.99 Microsoft Press||**||

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