How to Experiment With the Windows Registry Safely

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Experimenting with the Windows registry is not recommended unless the user is comfortable rebuilding the computer from scratch. Consider using software tools like HijackThis or AdAware to identify problems with a registry using advice from a network engineer and IT specialist in this free video on computers.

Part of the Video Series: Computer Hardware Tips
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Video Transcript

First off I want to say never ever, ever mess with your registry unless you're extremely comfortable with rebuilding your machine from scratch. The registry, I'm just going to kind of give you some background, is what Windows goes to when it wants to learn how to interpret well pretty much anything. So for instance if you open up a video file and it uses Windows Media Player, how does it know to use Windows Media Player? Well it associates the file extension, .avi or .wmv with Windows Media Player program to open it. That association is actually inside the registry. You as an end user will not really see the registry that much. There are a couple of very easy registry fixers out there. Why would you need one of these? Well if your machine has been hijacked or has spyware or any other type of malware like a virus or a Trojan horse, chances are it has messed with the registry in some way or form or fashion. There's a free tool called hiJackThis that will scan your entire registry and highlight a lot of things that it thinks are pretty hinky. So if you take a look at hiJackThis, it will kind of list out everything that's on there that's in your computer, in the registry and that flags it and then you can go through it and then tell it, OK this is right, this is wrong, this is right, this is wrong. Keep in mind the registry is very much the focal point of Windows, of it's daily workings. So if you remove something that is necessary for a particular program to work, generally there's no way for it to come back unless you reinstall the program. And for things like Internet Explorer, things that are embedding in the Windows, you'll have to really know what you're doing to reinstall all those things. So I advise against messing with the registry directly and using a program like hiJackThis or even AdAware from LavaSoft to that interprets the registry for you and makes it even actually very pretty and easy for you to check off things that you know are not alright.

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