How to Open Registry Editor in Windows

Detailed steps on opening Registry Editor in Windows 11, 10, 8, 7, Vista, and XP

What to Know

  • Right-click or tap-and-hold Start Run. Type regeditEnter.
  • Safely add, change, or delete registry keys and values.
  • It's a good idea to back up the registry before you edit it.

All manual changes to the Windows Registry occur in Registry Editor, a tool included in all versions of Windows. Registry Editor lets you view, create, and modify the registry keys and registry values that make up the entire Windows Registry. There isn't a shortcut for the tool in most versions of Windows, so the best way to open it is by executing it from a command line.

How to Open Registry Editor

Access Registry Editor by following this procedure:

  1. In Windows 11, Windows 10, or Windows 8.1, right-click or tap-and-hold the Start button and then choose Run. Prior to Windows 8.1, the Run dialog box is most easily available from the Apps screen.

    Windows 10 Start menu with Run app highlighted

    In Windows 7 or Windows Vista, select Start.

    In Windows XP, select Start and then Run.

    One quick way you can open the Run dialog box in any of these Windows versions is to use the keyboard shortcut Win+R.

  2. In the search box or Run window, type the following, followed by Enter:

    regedit command in Run dialog box in Windows 10

    Depending on your version of Windows, and how it's configured, you may see a User Account Control dialog box where you'll need to confirm that you want to open Registry Editor.

  3. Registry Editor will open.

    Registry Editor in Windows 10

    If you've used Registry Editor before, it'll open up to the same location you were working in last time. If that happens, and you don't want to work with the keys or values at that location, just continue to minimize the registry keys until you've reached the top level, listing the various registry hives.

    You can minimize or expand registry keys by selecting the small > icon next to the key. In Windows XP, the + icon is used instead.

You can now make whatever changes you need to make to the registry, which probably shouldn't be done unless you're versed in how to safely add, change, or delete registry keys and values. Make sure, whatever you do, that you only affect the narrow registry areas that you intend to.

Considering the significance of the registry on your Windows-based computer, we strongly recommend that you back up the registry, either the whole thing or even just the areas you're working in, before you do anything.

More Help With Registry Editor

It's important to know how to restore the Window's Registry before using Registry Editor. This lets you add a REG file backup into the registry should something go wrong during editing.

Even though Registry Editor is open and ready to be used, it's not always wise to make changes yourself, manually, especially if a program or automated service can do it for you. For example, if you're using Registry Editor to clear up residual or junk registry entries, you shouldn't do it yourself unless you're very sure that you know what you're doing. Instead, use a free registry cleaner if you want to clear out common registry junk automatically.

The same regedit command can be executed from Command Prompt. After opening Command Prompt, just type out the command and press Enter.

Although the circumstance would have to be rare, yet another way to launch this tool is from Task Manager. To do that, open Task Manager though Ctrl+Shift+Esc, go to Run new task at the top (or File > Run new task), and type regedit, followed by OK.

Windows 11 Task Manager with the regedit command

You might open it that way if you can't access the standard Run dialog box as described in Step 1 above, or if Explorer or Command Prompt won't open for some reason.

If you find yourself opening this tool often, you can make a Registry Editor shortcut on your desktop. Right-click the desktop, go to New > Shortcut, type regedit, and press Next and then Finish. In some versions of Windows, you can drag the shortcut onto your taskbar for even quicker access.

Connecting to a remote Windows Registry is a bit different of a process than the one described above for a local registry. After opening a regular Registry Editor window, there's an additional step to find the remote registry.

  • How do I turn off network access to the Windows registry?

    To turn off network access to the Windows registry, select Win+R > enter services.msc > OK. In the Windows Service Manager, double-click Remote Registry, select the General tab > Disabled.

  • Where is the Windows system registry hive?

    Registry hives appear as folders in the left pane in the Windows Registry Editor when all other keys have been minimized. All keys that are considered hives begin with HKEY and are at the top of the registry hierarchy.

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