Best Practice Ezine #84 – Registry Tips

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Best Practice Ezine #84 – Registry Tips

The real message of this ezine is that with computing in general, you never know everything, even about tools you use all the time.

Registry Favorites

Now I consider myself a minor expert on the registry, but until recently I did not realize that there was a ‘Favorites’ setting in Regedit.

Last week I was a delegate in a high powered training session, sitting next to me was a real expert – Craig. He had the equivalent of green fingers, he seemed to absorb instructions by osmosis and consequently his exercises always worked perfectly – every time. During one of the labs Craig leaned over and said, ‘Guy have you seen this?’ Craig then launched Regedit and showed me the Favorites – Add to Favorites settings. ‘Do you know’ said Craig, ‘I only found out about Favorites last week’.

What I found particularly galling was that I had failed to apply a setting that I knew from one area, Internet Explorer, to another area Regedit.

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Export Registry Settings

The rest of this ezine is just a reminder of other tips and tricks with the Regedit.

Before you do anything drastic, that means before you anything at all with regedit, Export the settings so that you can recover should you make a misnake. File (Menu), Export, I often choose ‘Selected Branch’.

Windiff – Find Registry Settings

Applying Windiff to the registry settings is a most satisfying technique to master. Imagine you can see a setting in Internet Explorer, for example, Disable Script Debugging, your mission is to automate changing this setting.  You deduce that there is a corresponding value in the Registry – but where?  User configuration, Computer Configuration, Software, Microsoft, it could be anywhere. The answer for this and similar problems is a simple experiment with Windiff.

  1. Before you make any changes, export the registry with Regedit. This .reg file will be your base comparison.
  2. Go back to Windows or XP and change the value or the tick in the checkbox. For example IE settings.
  3. Launch Regedit once more and export the registry, save the same branch, but to a second .reg file.
  4. Compare the two .reg files with Windiff.
  5. Eureka you find the setting. Now you can control with a VBScript or a policy. Failing that, you can just double click the exported .reg file, which has the setting you wish to apply.
  6. In Regedit tag the newly found setting by Favorites (Menu) Add to Favorites
  7. Get Windiff here.

Remote Registry

Learning how to ‘Connect to Remote Registry’ is a method that can one day will get you out of a hole.   At least 3 times I have recovered from impossibly difficult problems with Remote Registry skills.  For example, how about if you (or Psycho) set AutoAdminLogon =1 and then disable the keyboard and mouse via the registry. When the machine reboots it logs on the user specified by DefaultUserName, but then you cannot use either the keyboard or mouse?  Gotcha – unless you can connect to the stricken machine via remote registry, find the settings and enable.  This is what you should do:
HKLM\System\CurrentControlSet\Services\i8042prt\Start\1.  I even have a script to start the Remote Registry service on a remote machine.

For me the registry is at the three-way intersection of business pleasure and exploration of the unknown.  I rarely visit the registry without learning something new, and I always have fun marvelling at the various keys and settings.

It seems a shame, but I have to to dowse the flames of excess and bring out a damp cloth called ‘warning editing the registry may harm your machine’.  The world is divided into those who are too timid to try the registry and those whose outrageous use of regedit has crippled a machine.  Obvious precautions include backing up the registry, or even making a system backup of the machine prior to experimenting.

You truly do learn more when things go wrong, and I learnt from Psycho and I have twice recovered machines that would otherwise need a complete rebuild using this Remote Registry technique. Naturally these problems were caused accident, in one instance by line a rogue service pack, and in a separate incident when installing third party software.

The only problem with this technique is that it relies on the remote registry service and if that is disabled then you have an extra problem. Fortunately, there are tools and techniques to start services on a remote machine. I will finish by issuing a challenge, start your Regedit and see if you can Connect to Remote Registry – just in case one day you need to use this technique in anger.

Windows 8 Registry

Windows 8 new features   • Windows 8 Metro UI    • AutoAdminLogon   • Win 8 Registry

Windows 8 Registry Hacks   • IP Address Manager   • Win 8 Start Menu   • E 170 Registry

Litmus Tests   • Windiff  • Regedit  • Ezines

E 107 Reg  • E 84 Reg   • E 7 Registry Tips   •E 6 Reg  • Registry