What is a Registry Editor?

A registry editor is a software application allowing people to make changes to the registry, the database where basic configuration information for a Windows operating system is stored. People can edit the registry directly from the command line or use a utility on the computer, and it is also possible to use a third party application to access the registry and make changes. It is important to be aware that altering the registry can render a computer nonfunctional, and changes should be made with extreme care.

In the registry, basic information about applications, drivers, and users is stored, including data related to how the computer boots up. Usually, people do not need to make changes to the registry. When programs are added and removed, the utilities used for installation and removal make any needed changes on their own, without the need for manual changes by the user in a registry editor. People sometimes need to access the registry to deal with problems caused by a virus, or when they are having trouble addressing an application problem any other way.

In a registry editor, people can do things like telling applications not to open at startup, or changing the configuration of the system for different users. In workplaces, where the information technology department handles computer maintenance, many users may not have registry editing privileges on their computers. This is designed to prevent situations where people accidentally or maliciously damage the registry and make a computer stop working. Someone with administrative access will be needed to make changes.

Before entering a registry editor, it is advisable to back up the registry. Windows computers have backup utilities for this, and some registry editors may also offer backup options. If a problem develops while making changes, the system can be rolled back to the older version and restored. The computer will usually seek out the most functional and recent version of the registry, but sometimes changes compromise this function, making it important to back up the registry before starting.

Sometimes, people will be directed to make a registry fix or repair in a registry editor as part of cleaning up after a virus or other problem. Usually, step-by-step directions will be provided. It is very important to follow these directions exactly; a misspelling or skipped step could result in compromises to the integrity of the operating system. People who aren’t comfortable making system changes can ask for assistance from a computer repairperson.