Five Stages of Mastering the Registry

Five Stages of Mastering the Windows Registry

I would be the last person to stop you having fun with the registry.  As you may have noticed, there are not too many health warnings or disclaimers on this site.  All the more reason then, to sit up and take notice when I ask you to when you get begin editing the registry.

New Page: Guy’s Five Stages of registry hacking

  1. Fear of the new language
  2. Wonderment at the power of Regedit
  3. Complacency – I can do anything
  4. Panic
  5. Respect for the Registry

1. Fear of the new language

Mastering the registry, means learning a new language with its own syntax.  At first there seems to be no pattern just strange words and hexadecimal numbers.  For example, HKEY_Local_Machine Dword 0x00004B. 

Activities in this first stage are confined to tentatively changing a few values from zero to one.

2. Wonderment Power Skill

After a while you begin to crack the code, HKEY_Current_User means the personal settings of the account logged on.  It hits you that a String Value is text and DWORD is a number.

As you advance from changing existing values to adding new values you realize that the words are not case sensitive and the mixed case is just to make ‘Values’ easier to read.

3. Complacency – I can do anything

Now you reach the stage where a little knowledge is dangerous, you discover export and realize that you can import settings quickly by double clicking .reg files.  Because you are having such fun you start taking risks, you cannot imagine anything can go wrong.

4. Panic – You slip on a banana skin

Complacency will inevitably lead to disaster.  Just as surely as children playing with knives get cut, or those playing with matches get burnt, so those messing with the registry will get: Machine will not boot Stop 0x0000051 error.

Stop messages like the above cause the heart to beat faster, you realize that you have gone too far and deleted or overwritten a vital section.  At this stage it is either do or die.  Either you vow never to touch Regedit again, and rebuild the machine from scratch, or you stay calm and rise to the next skill level.

5. Respect for registry editing

Knowledge, power, and respect go hand in hand.  In times of crisis you remember good practices, firstly you try F8, and Last Known Good.  If that does not work then there is safe mode.

Once safe mode gets you in then you have a variety of tactics.  Best is probably to restore the registry from the system state backup you made just before your Regedit session.  You did backup didn’t you?

If that does not work then boot into a parallel installation (if you have one).  If there is no time for a parallel installation try and get a command console session started.  Either run winnt32 / cmdcons in advance of your Regedit changes, or put a bootable OS CD in the caddy, and select Restore from the menu.

The .sav files could be your salvation I once used a parallel installation to find the original %SystemRoot%\System32\config folder and renamed software.sav and so got the machine to restart.  Once the machine started I was able to import a .reg file that I can cunningly exported before trying a risky experiment.

In this final stage, you always have an eye on safety.  Make those backups, assemble those tools, export the registry section regularly.

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Registry Best Practice Summary

  • Backup the system state before you try something new in the registry.
  • Master Import and Export in Regedit.  Then before you make changes, export the registry section you are working with.
  • Install the command console with winnt32 /cmdcons
  • Remember the Last Known Good option from the F8 safe mode menu.
  • Check out the .sav files in the \system32\config folder.
  • Windows 8 Registry Cleaner Review

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