Do not touch the registry

You may have googled your problem with your operating system and have found countless of “fixes” which involved changes in the Windows Registry (regedit.exe). This article will tell you about the registry and which parts of it you should not touch under any circumstances.

What is the Registry?

The Windows Registry stores very low-level settings of your Operating System. There are settings in there which you can set over the graphical interface and some that you can’t. It basically just stores all the Windows Settings.

All settings are divided in subcategories (Keys). Only two of those may interest you (As in – DO NOT TOUCH THE OTHERS). There is:

  • HKLM (HKey_Local_Machine)
    • This tree stores all settings of your local machine. Like energy saving modes or network settings. It also houses all the software settings which are set for all users.
  • HKCU (HKey_Current_User)
    • This tree stores all settings of the currently logged on user. Like how the Desktop looks like and how it’s configured. It also stores your own software settings that only apply to you.

Windows loads these settings upon boot or login of a user.

Why you should not touch it!

The registry is very fragile. A small change in the wrong place can bring your whole computer down. All keys have their own permissions set. Windows needs the permissions to be correct to read the values. If you change permissions to registry keys – you may break the way windows behaves.

And the fun thing is – Windows will not warn you about this! You can make changes – break your computer – and not even realize it.

I’d say changes in HKLM and HKCU are not “that bad”. If something happens you can probably fix it again. But if you go ahead and try to change something in the trees normally only windows itself touches, you will break your whole operating system.

I’ll give you an example. HKCC (HKey_Current_config) stores all the Hardware Settings of Windows. Imagine you go in there and change the value of how Windows loads Files to your Harddisk. The result would be that Windows doesn’t know anymore how to do this and it won’t ever boot again.

To sum this up

If you can’t solve your issue using the graphical interface or maybe even the command line, you should probably go see a professional IT tech. Or come over and ask us in /r/techsupport about the issue.

99% of all issues you google – which come up with “change this registry key” – have a simpler solution. Most just need a “click” on the right button.


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