The Windows Registry Editor does not have a Start menu entry in Windows 7, but you can locate and open it by searching for it in the Start menu’s “Search Programs and Files” box. Editing the registry incorrectly can cause a variety of problems, including rendering your computer completely inoperable, so back up your registry before changing its settings. In spite of the potential pitfalls, you can perform useful customizations using the Registry Editor that are unavailable using Windows' regular tools -- for example, to add applications you frequently use to a context menu or to disable notification balloons.
Select the "Start" menu to access the ”Search Programs and Files” text box.
Enter “regedit” in the box (without quotes), select “regedit.exe” from the search results and then press the “Enter” key. If Windows displays a User Account Control prompt requesting that you confirm making changes to this computer, then click “Yes” to display the Registry Editor.
Open the Registry Key you want to edit from the tree of folders in the left pane. The Registry contains five main folders -- also called hives -- that support various customizations.
Tips & Warnings
- To open the Registry Editor in Windows 8 and 8.1, press the "Windows" key, type "regedit" and press the "Enter" key.
- To back up the Registry, open it, then highlight “Computer” in the left pane of the Registry window. Click “File,” then “Export.” Copy the file onto an external drive in case your computer becomes corrupted. Because this file can be several megabytes in size, you can instead back up just the key that you plan to edit -- just select the key rather than "Computer" and then choose "File" and "Export." To restore the Registry from either the complete file or a single key, double-click the backup file; it automatically updates the Registry.
- You can also open the Registry Editor by typing "regedit.exe" at the Command Prompt, accessed by searching for “cmd” in the Start menu. The Registry Editor itself is located in your computer's C:\Windows\System32 folder and is called “regedit32.exe.”
- If your registry becomes corrupted, a registry cleaning tool like AML Free Registry or CCleaner might be able to repair the registry for you (see Resources).