How to Find a Program's Registry Key

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The Registry is a database that Windows uses constantly as programs run on the computer. Each piece of software will have Registry keys. There can be multiple keys for any one specific program, sometimes hundreds of keys, spread throughout the five sections of the Registry: HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT, HKEY_CURRENT_USER, HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE, HKEY_USERS and HKEY_CURRENT_CONFIG. Finding these keys involves using the regedit.exe program and repeating a search multiple times in each section.


    • 1

      Backup the Registry using the Backup utility before doing anything with it. Follow the instructions given by the link in "Additional Resources," below, headed "How to Back up and Restore the Registry in Windows."

    • 2

      Click on "Start," choose "Run" and type "regedit" in the Run window that opens. If asked for permission to continue, click "Continue." If you are working with specific keys, export them by clicking on "File," selecting "Export" and then choosing a folder and file name that you will be able to easily find later.

    • 3

      Click on "Edit," select "Find" and type in the name of the software. Put a check mark in the box for "Match whole string only" if the program has multiple words.

    • 4

      Click "Find next." To find additional instances of the Registry key, press "F3" and keep this up until you locate all the keys.

    • 5

      Click "File," then choose "Exit" when finished searching the Registry.

Tips & Warnings

  • Save some time if you only are interested in the primary Registry keys. If you expand the different sections of the Registry listed in the Overview, there should be a Software folder. The main ones are HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE and HKEY_CURRENT_USER.

  • It is very easy to do something to corrupt the Registry, which may lead to disastrous results anywhere from a specific program not working to significant problems with your computer. Always back up the Registry as described in Step 1 before doing any tinkering with this vital area of the operating system.

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