If you have ever had the pleasure of messing around with your PC, then you most definitely have come across the Windows Registry. You may have only used it to tweak some settings, but the Windows Registry stores some of the most critical information needed for Windows to function correctly.
Making changes to the Windows Registry is often a simple way to fix an irritating issue. If not done carefully, changes to the Registry can have drastic implications on your PC. Today we’re going to help you understand what a Windows Registry file is and how you can safely open it.
What Is the Windows Registry?
Every software needs a set of configuration settings that allow it to function correctly. The Windows Registry is the set of basic configuration settings that allow the Windows operating systems to work flawlessly on Windows operating systems. It also contains crucial information and settings for peripheral devices, hardware components, software programs, and much more.
Whenever you install a new program, Windows needs to store important data that help the operating system understand it better. This information includes where the program is located, how it interacts with the kernel and hardware devices, and other metrics. A REG file is an executable file that can make changes to the Windows Registry.
You can access the Windows Registry through the Registry Editor (open the Run dialogue box and search for regedit.exe). The registry files themselves are scattered in various database files on the installation directory on the hard drive. The Registry Editor brings them together in a friendly and organized manner.
Potential Dangers of a REG File
As you can probably tell, incorrect and malicious changes to the Windows Registry can significantly impact your PC and can even cause you to lose important data. If you run a REG file from an unreliable source with malicious intent, things could get messy. Incorrect changes to the Windows Registry can cause programs to malfunction unexpectedly.
How to Make Sure a REG File Is Safe
To avoid potential malware, you must scan the REG file for any malware before adding it to the registry. You can do this with anti-spyware or anti-malware software. Spyware authors tend to target the Windows Registry to carry out malicious attacks.
If you need to download a REG file, we strongly recommend making sure the source is reliable and trusted by other users. You can also download the same REG file from different sources and compare their contents to reduce the risk of potential malware. We’ll explain how to understand a REG file in the next section.
It is always a good idea to back up the Windows Registry before making any changes. If you face any unexpected issue, you can always restore the Windows Registry and undo the changes.
To back up the Windows Registry:
- Search the Start menu for regedit.exe and select the Best match. Provide administrator access when prompted.
- Locate the registry key/folder that you want to back up, and click on File > Export.
- Select the save location and enter a file name, then click Save.
Understanding the REG File
To examine the contents of a REG file, right-click and select Edit, or open it with Notepad. Once the file is open in Notepad, there will be several lines. Lines that begin with a semicolon are comments that explain the source of the REG file or its purpose.
If you see something like HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE or HKEY_CURRENT_USER followed by a path, this is the exact registry key that will be modified. In the lines below, you should see different parameters of the key that the REG file will modify.
Once you are certain that the REG file is safe, double-click to add it to the Windows Registry.
REG Files Can Be Dangerous
The Windows Registry is very delicate so you should be prepared for any possible issues. Always make a backup before modifying the Windows Registry and use REG files from trusted sources only.