Want to dig deep into Windows settings and make changes to just about its every option? Find out below how to edit the registry on Windows and find registry keys, add values and edit data.

First, 65,535 Characters of History

When Microsoft introduced Windows 3.0 in May 1990, the new version’s novelties included a “Program Manager” that showed applications as icons—and something decidedly textual behind all the graphical display: initialization (*.ini) files that contained nothing but plain-text characters.

Nothing but plain-text characters and, alas, not enough of them: Windows 3.0 INI files were limited to below 64 KB or 65,535 characters.

This size restriction was not the INI file’s only problem, of course. So, with 1992 and Windows 3.1 came the first seedlings of a universal, portable and structured configuration database, the Windows registry. You can as easily edit that registry today as you could then:

How to Edit the Registry on Windows

Open the Windows Registry Editor (Regedit)

To launch the built-in application to edit registry values on Windows 10:

  1. Click the Start menu.
  2. Start typing regedit.
  3. Select regedit from the search results.
  4. Click Yes under Do you want to allow this app to make changes to your device?.

To start Registry Editor on practically any Windows version from Windows 95 to Windows 10:

  1. Click on the Windows Start button with the right mouse button
  2. Select Run… from the menu that has appeared.
    • Keyboard shortcut: You can also press Windows R to bring up the Run window.
  3. Type regedit.
  4. Click OK.
    • Keyboard shortcut: You can also press Enter.
  5. If prompted, click Yes for the User Account Control prompt.

Find Windows Registry Keys

The Windows registry uses a hierarchical tree-like structure. To find any key:

  1. Traverse the key hierarchy by expanding nodes with clicks on ˃.
    • Note: Clicking ˅ will collapse the node and all nodes beneath it while remembering which nodes were expanded.
    • Keyboard shortcuts: You can use the right arrow () key to expand and the left arrow key () to collapse; the up () and down () keys will move the highlight.
    • Tip: Start typing a word to jump straight to the node that starts with the letters you have typed; type a letter repeatedly with a little pause to jump from one entry that starts with the letter to the next.

Find Windows Registry Values

Each Windows registry key can contain multiple values. A value is the configuration variable that can take up variable, well, values.

Each registry key has a default value that bears no special name; it is displayed as (Default) in Registry Editor.

To find a value:

  • If you know the key that holds the value, navigate to that key in Registry Editor.
  • To jump to a value, use Windows Registry search as above.
    • Note: Make sure Values is checked.

Find Windows Registry Data

Data is the changeable entry associated with a value under a registry key.

To find specific data in the Windows Registry:

  1. Use Windows Registry search. (See above.)
    • Note: Make sure Data is checked.
    • Tip: Try starting with the part of the tree you want to search highlighted in the key pane; highlight HKEY_CURRENT_USER­Software, for instance, to search for your software settings more quickly, for example. You can always continue your search from the beginning.

Edit the Data for a Value under a Registry Key

To edit the data for a Windows registry value in Registry Editor:

  1. Find the desired value in Registry Editor.
  2. Double-click the value whose data you want to modify in the Name column.
  3. Make any changes under Value data: in the Edit ___ Value window.
    • Tip: See below for Windows registry data types.
  4. Click OK.

Add a New Value for a Registry Key

To add a new value and data to a key in the Windows registry using Registry Editor:

  1. Navigate to the registry key where you want to add the new value.
  2. Select Edit | New from the menu followed by the data type for the new value.
    • Note: See below for possible data types and their restrictions.

Add a New Key to the Windows Registry

To create a new key (under which to add value) to your Windows’s registry in Registry Editor:

  1. Open the registry key under which you want to add the new key.
    • Note: The new key will be a sub-key of the one you select.
  2. Select Edit | New | Key from the menu.
  3. Type the name for the new key over New Key #1.
  4. Hit Enter.
    • Tip: Repeat the last 3 steps to create a key tree yourself.

Delete a Windows Registry Key or Value

To delete a value or even an entire key from the Windows registry using Registry Editor:

  1. Click on the key or value you want to delete with the right mouse button.
    • Important: If you delete a key, all values in it as well as all keys (and values) nested under it will be removed as well.
  2. Select Delete from the context menu that has appeared.
  3. Click Yes to confirm removing the key or value.

Back Up and Restore the Registry to .Reg Files

Before editing it, do back up your Windows registry. You can also save individual keys and values to .reg files and, of course, import or restore from these.

How to Edit the Registry on Windows: FAQ

What are the possible data types in the Windows registry?

The Windows registry knows six types of data you can create and edit:

Type Display Use
String REG_SZ String of characters (text using Unicode or ANSI encoding) terminated with NULL
Multi-String REG_MULTI_SZ Multi-line text terminated with two NULL characters (i.e. an empty REG_SZ string)
Expandable String REG_EXPAND_SZ Line of characters that contains environment variables that have not been expanded (i.e. the string will grow when these are replaced with their full values); terminated with NULL
DWORD REG_DWORD A 32-bit number (0 TO 4,294,967,295); can be entered as decimal or hexadecimal value
QWORD REG_QWORD A 64-bit number (0 to 18,446,744,073,709,551,615); can be entered as decimal or hexadecimal value
Binary REG_BINARX Any binary data
Link REG_LINK A file path
Resource List REG_RESOURCE_LIST A list of device driver resources

(How to edit the registry on Windows tested with Windows 10 1803; updated June 2018; title image: StockUnlimited)