Hack Your Own PC!

Windows Registry

Messing with the Registry can be risky, but it can also yield impressive results. Wayne Williams presents the 27 best Registry tweaks to customise, enhance and speed up WindowsMany PC users deliberately avoid fiddling with the Registry, preferring to leave system tweaks to software such as CCleaner. But provided you’re careful and know how to undo any changes you make, there are plenty of benefits to delving under the bonnet of your computer, such as customising Windows to make it look and behave the way you want, speeding up your PC and turning off features you don’t need. In this feature, we’ve rounded up 27 of the best secret Registry hacks for boosting the performance of your PC without messing it up.

Over the following six pages, we show you how to speed up the Start menu, add a custom message to the Windows 10’s login screen, force Disk Cleanup to target newer files, remove unwanted entries from the right-click menu and much more.
We also explain how and why you should back up the Registry, and show you how to create your own Registry tweaks.

WARNING! The Windows Registry is where the operating system stores all the settings that are required for Windows and installed software to function properly. Every time you install a program, data about it gets written to this database. Because the Registry is such an integral part of the whole Windows set-up, it’s important to take care when making any changes to it. Any slip-up could potentially cause major problems with the operating system. For this reason, you should always back up the Registry before making any changes to it, just to be on the safe side.
When you open the Start menu or select a program in Windows, there’s a noticeable pause. This is true regardless of whether you’re using Windows 7 or Windows 10. You can remove these delays and make the menu feel faster by navigating to:HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\DesktopLocate the entry ‘MenuShowDelay’ on the right. This is the speed at which the menu opens. Right-click it, select Modify and reduce the value data from 400 to around 100. The Start menu should open significantly more quickly when you restart your PC.
When you move your mouse over the ‘Show Desktop’ button on the right of the taskbar in Windows 7, the Aero Peek feature hides everything on screen. It takes a second or two to work, but you can reduce this delay by going to:HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\AdvancedFind ‘DesktopLivePreviewHoverTime’ and double-click it, then select the Decimal Base option and change the value to 0 to remove the delay.
When you hover over a taskbar button in Windows 7, 8 or 10, you’ll see thumbnails for all the open windows relating to it. You can then select the one you require, but if you’d rather save time by just opening the last active window instead, a simple Registry tweak will change the default behaviour of the taskbar buttons. Go to:HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\AdvancedCreate a new DWORD (32-bit) on the right hand side, and name it ‘LastActiveClick’. Set the value to 1.
If you’ve had a problem uninstalling a program – for example, if the uninstall has gone wrong or you’ve simply deleted it – you may still see it listed in the ‘Uninstall or change a program’ list in the Control Panel. One solution is to try reinstalling and then uninstalling the software, but if that doesn’t work, navigate to:HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\UninstallFind the program entry you want to remove and delete it. This won’t uninstall the program, but it will remove the offending entry. It works in Windows 7 and upwards.
Windows waits for running applications and processes to end before it shuts down, but these sometimes hang and take ages to close. You can reduce the amount of time Windows waits by tweaking the Registry. Go to:HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\Desktopdouble-click HungAppTimeout and change the default value from 5000 to 1000. Do the same for the entry WaitToKillAppTimeout. Navigate to:HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Controland double-click the entry WaitToKillServiceTimeout, then change the value data to 1000.
You can also force Windows to automatically close any non-responding programs by going to:HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\DesktopDouble-click AutoEndTasks and change the value from 0 to 1.
By default, Microsoft’s new operating system uses a light theme, but you can unlock a dark alternative by using a simple Registry tweak. Navigate toHKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Themes\Personalizethen right-click in the right-hand pane and select New, DWORD (32-bit). Name it ‘AppsUseLightTheme’. Right-click it and select Modify. Make sure the Value Data is set to 0.
Restart your PC, or log off and log on again, and the dark theme will be applied. Change the value to 1, or delete the DWORD to go back to the default light theme.
If you’d prefer to have the Windows 10 logon screen display a colour rather than an image, which may make it load slightly faster, navigate toHKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\Systemand right-click in the right-hand pane. Select New, DWORD (32-bit) and name it ‘DisableLogonBackgroundImage’, then give it a value of 1. Windows 10 will use the same colour as your Desktop wallpaper. You can change this under Settings, Personalisation, Colours.
Windows 10 introduces a new, horizontal volume control. If you prefer the old up-and-down vertical style, get it back by going toHKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersionRight-click CurrentVersion and select New Key. Name it ‘MTCUVC’ and, in the right-hand pane, right-click and create a new DWORD (32-bit). Call this ‘EnableMTCUVC’. Double-click it and make sure the value is 0. You don’t need to reboot your PC to see the change.
Clicking the time in your System Tray in Windows 10 opens a transparent clock and calendar panel. We quite like it, but the ‘modern’ look won’t be to everyone’s taste. If you preferred the old design, you can get it back by navigating to:HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\ImmersiveShellRight-click in the pane on the right and select New, DWORD (32-bit). Name it ‘UseWin32TrayClockExperience’. Right-click the entry, select Modify and set the value to 1. Now, when you click the time, it will open a panel with the classic clock and calendar interface.
If you’re running Windows 8 or 10, you can adjust the horizontal and vertical spacing around icons on the Desktop by tweaking the Registry (Windows 7 offers controls to do this). Navigate to:HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\Desktop\WindowMetricsand look for the ‘IconSpacing’ and ‘IconVerticalSpacing’ keys. Increase the number for each to pad out the spacing between icons. The values are in twips (twentieth of a point). Roughly, -17 is equal to 1 pixel and -28 equals 2 pixels.
In Windows 7, you can make the size of window borders and scrollbars super-thin. Go to:HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\Desktop\WindowMetricsand set ‘PaddedBorderWidth’ to -0, and both ‘ScrollWidth’ and ‘ScrollHeight’ to -200. As with icon spacing, these values are in twips. If you want super-fat borders, change the figure to -750, or anything less than that figure.
To save you returning to the Desktop to check the Recycle Bin for your deleted files, you can add a shortcut to Computer (or This PC in Windows 10) by navigating to:HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\MyComputer\NameSpaceRight-click in the pane on the right and select New, Key. Name it {645FF040-5081-101B-9F08-00AA002F954E}. Now, when you go into Computer, you should see the Recycle Bin. This works in all versions of Microsoft’s OS, from Windows 7 to 10.
When you create a shortcut (or a program creates one for you), the icon appears with a small arrow in the bottom-left corner. Removing this will make shortcut icons look tidier. To do this, navigate to:HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Shell Icons(if you don’t see Shell Icons, you’ll need to create this key). Right-click the right-hand pane to create a new String Value. Name it ‘29’. Double-click it and change the Value Data to ‘C:\Windows\System32\shell32.dll,50’.
Close the Registry editor, click Start and type CMD. Hit enter. In the Command Prompt window, type: taskkill /IM explorer.exe /F and hit Enter. This will close Windows Explorer, so don’t be alarmed when the taskbar vanishes. Next, type the following three commands, hitting Enter after each one:cd /d %userprofile%\AppData\LocalThis final command will restart your PC. When it reboots, the shortcut arrows will be gone. To restore them, simply delete the 29-string value. This trick works in all recent versions of Windows.
You can add a message of your choice to the Windows 10 login screen that will be the first thing you see when it boots up. To do this, navigate to:HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\Current Version\Policies\SystemDouble-click ‘legalnoticecaption’ and enter a title for your message in the Value Data box. Click OK. Double-click ‘legalnoticetext’ and enter your message. Log out, and the message will appear when you log back in. To clear it each time, click OK.
The Action Center is a new feature in Windows 10 that displays notifications from apps and your system. If you don’t need it (and most people don’t), you can remove it by going to:HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\ExplorerRight-click in the right-hand pane and select New, DWORD (32-bit).
Call it ‘DisableNotificationCenter’. Double-click it and change the Value Data to 1. Click OK and exit the Registry Editor. The Action Center will vanish from the taskbar when you next restart your PC.
The right-click ‘context’ menu gives you instant access to various options that change depending on where you are in Windows and what software you have installed. The menu can become cluttered over time and fill up with entries you don’t use. To manage the context menu entries using the Registry, navigate toHKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\*\shellex\ContextMenuHandlersA list of programs that have added themselves to the context menu will be displayed. To remove an entry, just select and delete it, but make sure you know what it is before you get rid of it. This works in all versions of Windows.
Windows runs regular checks to make sure important security functions – such as your antivirus, firewall and Windows Updates – are running, and alerts you if there’s a problem. If you’ve deliberately turned off these security features, being alerted to the change can soon become annoying. To disable these alerts, go to:HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE \Microsoft\Security Center\SvcIn ‘AntiVirusDisableNotify’, ‘FirewallDisableNotify’ and/or ‘UpdatesDisableNotify’, change the values from 0 to 1. This works in Windows 7 and 8.1, but not in 10.
If you use the built-in Windows Disk Cleanup tool to remove junk files from your PC, you may have noticed that it leaves newer files behind. You can force it to clean up these more recent junk files in any version of Windows by navigating to:HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\VolumeCaches\Temporary FilesDouble-click ‘LastAccess’ and change its value from 7 (days) to 0 to delete all newer files.
Being forced to restart your PC to install updates when you’re in the middle of something can be annoying and time-consuming, but Windows Update is very persistent. You can stop it from bothering you in Windows 7 and Vista (later versions don’t have this problem) by tweaking the Registry. Go to:HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\WindowsUpdate\AUthen right-click in the right-hand pane and choose New, DWORD (32-bit) Value. Name the value ‘NoAutoRebootWithLoggedOnUsers’, then double-click it, enter a value data of 1 and click OK.
If the WindowsUpdate\AU entry doesn’t exist, right-click Windows, choose New, Key and name the key WindowsUpdate. Now right-click this key, choose New, Key and name it AU.
In Windows 7, open windows snap to the side of the screen. If you find this annoying, you can stop it happening by navigating to:HKEY_CURRENT_ USER\Control Panel\DesktopFind the entry ‘WindowArrangementActive’, double-click the value and change it to 0.
Windows 7 lets you grab a window by the title bar, and shake it about to minimise all other open windows on your screen. It’s an amusing effect, but if you don’t need it, disable it by navigating to:HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Policies\Microsoft\WindowsRight-click ‘Windows’, select New, Key, and name it Explorer. Rightclick in the right-hand pane and create a new DWORD (32-bit). Call it ‘NoWindowMinimizingShortcuts’ and change the value to 1. You need to restart your PC for the change to take effect.
When you hover your mouse over an open program or folder in the taskbar, Windows displays a thumbnail preview. This happens in Windows 7, 8+ and 10. If you find this feature annoying rather than helpful, you can disable it by navigating to:HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\AdvancedLocate ‘ExtendedUIHoverTime’ on the right (create it if it isn’t there) and double-click it. Change the value to something like 10000. This is the time, in milliseconds, before the preview appears, so a large number will stop it popping up.
Edge is still very much a work-inprogress browser, with many important features currently missing. It’s possible to change the default download location but, frustratingly, not in the browser itself. To get around this, go to:HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\User Shell Foldersand locate ‘%USERPROFILE%\Downloads’ on the right. Doubleclick the entry and change the value to a new location, such as Desktop. Restart your PC.
Microsoft’s cloud storage service is built into Windows 10. If you don’t use it, you can prevent it from being included in File Explorer (this tweak won’t actually uninstall the service). Navigate to:HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\CLSID\{018D5C66-4533-4307-9B53-224DE2ED1FE6}then double-click the value name ‘System.
IsPinnedToNameSpaceTree’ and change the value to 0. Restart your PC to make the change.
If you’d prefer not to have your most recently opened files and folders appear in File Explorer, you can remove Quick Access and keep that information private. First, hide the feature by going to View, Options. Under the General tab, change ‘Open File Explorer to’ from ‘Quick access’ to ‘This PC’. Next, open Regedit and navigate to:HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\CLSID{679f85cb-0220-4080-b29b-5540cc05aab6}Expand it and right-click ‘ShellFolder’. Select Permissions, then click the Advanced button. In the ‘Advanced Security Settings for ShellFolder’ box, click the ‘Change’ link, then click ‘Advanced’, click the ‘Find Now’ button and, in the ‘Search results’ box, select ‘Administrators’. Click OK twice, then Apply, and hit OK until the box closes. In ‘ShellFolder’, double-click ‘Attributes’, and change data value to ‘a0600000’, then click OK. Restart your PC.
Windows will notify you when you’re running out of space on your hard drive, which is helpful, but can become irritating – it’s more common on laptops than desktop PCs. You can disable this prompt in Windows 7 onwards by navigating to:HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\PoliciesRight-click ‘Policies’ and select New, Key. Call this new key ‘Explorer’, then right-click it and select New, DWORD (32-bit). Call the value ‘NoLowDiskSpaceChecks’. Double-click it and change the value to 1.
It’s very easy to knock the Caps Lock key accidentally, so that you end up TYPING WHOLE SENTENCES IN CAPITALS. It’s not vital to have Caps Lock enabled, because you can just hold down Shift when you need to type upper-case letters. To disable the Caps Lock key, navigate to:HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Keyboard LayoutRight-click anywhere in the right-hand pane and choose New, Binary Value. Name the value ‘Scancode Map’ and double-click it. Now comes the tricky part. On the first line, enter the value data: 0000 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 (the first four zeros will be filled in automatically, then it’s another eight pairs). On the second line 0008 will be filled in automatically for you; after this, type 02 00 00 00 00 00 3A 00. Finally, after the 0010 on the third line, type 00 00 00 00. Click OK to save the data, restart your PC and Caps Lock will be disabled. To turn it back on again, just delete the Scancode Map value and restart your PC.
Once you’ve applied a Registry tweak to one PC, you may want to repeat it on another computer. Instead of going through the whole process again, you can output your tweak as a Registry hack that can be run elsewhere (this will merge the changes with the target device’s Registry).
All you need to do is select the key you made the change to, right click it, choose Export and give it a name. If your tweak involves more than one key, save each one, then right-click your first saved REG file and select Edit. Open the second key and paste the main [Hkey] part below the first. You will need to have ‘Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00’ entered at the top of the page. This should only appear once in the REG file.

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