The tweaker's guide to the Windows Registry

Want to hack Windows? Better get familiar with the Registry first. Here's what you need to know

Editing the Registry

With all that as a background, you're ready to get down and dirty and start editing the Registry. Edit the Registry using the Registry Editor. To launch it, select Start --> Run (on XP) or Start --> Start Search (on Vista), type regedit and press Enter (you can also type regedit at the command prompt). In Vista, you'll have to click through a UAC prompt after you press Enter.

If this is the first time you've run the Registry Editor, it will open with the HKEY_CURRENT_USER hive highlighted, as shown below. If you've previously used the Registry Editor, it will highlight the last key you edited or the last place you were in the Registry.

Browse through the Registry with the Registry Editor in the same way you browse through a hard disk using Windows Explorer. Clicking a + sign (in XP) or a light triangle (in Vista) opens a key to reveal the next level down the hierarchy. Clicking a - sign (in XP) or a dark triangle (in Vista) closes the key.

You can also use shortcut keys to navigate. Pressing the right arrow key on your keyboard opens a Registry key to reveal subkeys; pressing the left arrow key closes a key and moves one level up in the key hierarchy. To jump to the next subkey that begins with a specific letter, press that letter on the keyboard.

If you're looking for a particular key, an even faster way to navigate is to use the Find command from the Edit menu. (You can also use the Find command by pressing Ctrl-F.) To find successive keys with the same value, press the F3 key.

You use the Registry Editor to edit existing keys and values, create new keys and values, or delete keys and values. Sometimes the changes take effect as soon as you make the change and exit the Registry Editor; other times, you'll have to log off and on or reboot for them to take effect.

Editing existing keys and values

To edit a value, double-click it in the right pane of the Registry Editor. A box appears that lets you edit the value. Make the change in the box and exit the Registry.

Let's try it. We'll change the click speed of your mouse by editing

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\Mouse\DoubleClickSpeed

As mentioned previously, DoubleClickSpeed determines the maximum amount of time that can elapse between two mouse clicks for Windows to consider them a double-click (for the user currently logged into Windows). To change the default amount of time, edit this value. In this case, the default is 500, measured in milliseconds.

To edit DoubleClickSpeed, launch the Registry Editor, then navigate to

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\Mouse

On the left-hand side of the screen is the key, and on right-hand side of the screen are all of the key's values and the data for each value. DoubleClickSpeed is of the type REG_SZ -- a string value, which means it's made up of numbers and/or letters and can be easily edited -- and its default measurement is 500 (milliseconds).

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