12 Most Useful Registry Tweaks

Tweaking Registry settings can make Windows faster and smarter. Let's reveals 12 safe and easy hacks to improve PC performance.

Back Up Your Registry

Before you make any changes to the Registry, back up your settings in case something goes wrong. The easiest way to do this is to create a System Restore point. In Windows XP, go to Start, Programs, Accessories, System Tools, System Restore and select 'Create a restore point'. Enter a name for the restore point and click Create. In Windows 7 and Vista, right-click Computer, choose Properties, 'System protection' and click the Create button

Speed up the Start menu

If your Start menu is slow to launch when you click the Start button, a Registry hack will speed things up. To open the Registry Editor in Windows 7 and Vista, go to Start, type 'regedit' (without the quotes) and hit Enter. In Windows XP, go to Start, Run, and ‘regedit' (without quotes), navigate to the folder HKEY_CURRENT_ USER\Control Panel\Desktop, and double-click the entry MenuShowDelay. Set the value to a figure lower than the default of 400 milliseconds (100, for example) to launch the menu faster.

Faster XP shutdown 

When you shut down your PC, Windows XP waits for a maximum of 20 seconds for programs and services to close. Reducing this limit will switch off your computer faster. Navigate to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\ Control Panel\ Desktop, then double-click the keys WaitToKillAppTimeout and HungAppTimeout, and change their value data to 2000 (two seconds). Next, double-click AutoEndTasks and set its value to 1, and then go to HKEY_ LOCAL MACHINE\ SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control, double-click the key WaitToKillServiceTimeout and set its value data to 2000.

Turn off balloon tips 

If the pop-up notifications that appear above your System Tray get on your nerves; turn them off via the Registry. Navigate to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Advanced, right-click the right-hand pane and choose New, DWORD Value. Name the value EnableBalloonTips, double-click it and set the value data to '0'. Restart Windows and the balloon tips should no longer appear. You can turn them back on again by deleting the value.

Speed up previews and pop ups 

You can reduce the length of time Windows 7 takes to display thumbnail previews and other pop-up information that appears when you hover your mouse over an item.

Go to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\ControlPanel\Mouse, double-click MouseHoverTime and change the value from 400 (milliseconds) to a figure lower than 100. Restart your PC for the change to take effect.

Change the name of your PC's owner 

If you've bought a second-hand PC or laptop, it might still be registered in the name of the previous owner. You can fix this with a quick Registry tweak. Go to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion, double-click the key RegisteredOwner and enter the name you want to use.

Copy and move files by right-clicking 

One of the most useful Registry hacks is the ability to customize your right-click menu by adding Copy To and Move To options. This makes it faster and easier to copy and move files to specific folders on your hard disk. To apply the tweak (which works in all versions of Windows), browse and right-cl ick the key HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\AllFilesystemObjects\shellexContextMenuHandlers. Choose New, Key and name the key Copy To. Double-click the Default value in the right-hand pane and enter: {C2FBB630- 2971-11D1-A18C-00C04FD75D13}.

Next, create a key called Move To, double-click its Default value and enter: {C2FBB631- 2971-11D1-A18C00C04FD75D13}. Close the Registry, right-click a file and you should now see Copy To Folder and Move To Folder options in the context menu.

Change the number of Recent Items 

By default, Windows 7 and Vista list the 10 files you viewed most recently in the Recent Items section of the Start menu. To increase or decrease this number, go to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\ Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\ Policies\Explorer. Right-click the right-hand pane and select New, DWORD (32-bit) Value. Name the value MaxRecentDocs, double-click it and change the base to Decimal. In the 'Value data' box, choose how many recent items you want to appear in the Start menu (such as 50 or 5, for example) and click OK.

Prevent Windows from automatically rebooting

Waiting for Windows to restart in order to finish installing updates can be annoying. A simple Registry tweak can prevent the operating system rebooting until it's convenient for you. Navigate to the key HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\WindowsUpdate\AU. 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. This will stop Windows restarting automatically after installing updates.

If the WindowsUpdate entry doesn't exist, create it by right-clicking in the right-hand pane, selecting New Key and naming the key WindowsUpdate.

Get the classic Start menu in Windows 7

If the shorter Start menu used in Windows 7 and Vista isn't to your taste; you can tweak the Registry to revert to the Windows XP-style All Programs list. Navigate to HKEY _CURRENT_USER\ Software\Microsoft\Windows\ CurrentVersion\ Explorer\Shell Folders. Double-click Favorites and change the value data to C:\ProgramData\ Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\ Programs. Repeat the steps for the key HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\ Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\ Explorer\User Shell Folders. Now, right-cl ick the Start button, choose Properties and click the Start Menu tab. Click Customize, select the option 'Favorites menu' and restart your PC.

Encrypt files by right clicking them

One of our favorite Registry hacks lets you protect your privacy by adding an Encrypt option to your right-click menu. Browse to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Advanced. Right-click the right-hand pane and choose New, DWORD Value. Call this entry EncryptionContextMenu, double-click it and enter a value of 1. Right-click a file and you will now see an Encrypt option in the context menu. Select this to encrypt just the file or its parent folder, too.

Skip the Windows 'web service' option

When you double-click a file with an extension not recognized by Windows, you're given the options of using the 'web service' or a list of installed programs to try to open the item. The web-service option never works, so it's worth disabling in order to skip straight to the software. Go to HKEY_LOCAL MACH IN E\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\ Windows\CurrentVersion\Policies\ Explorer, right-click the right-hand pane and create a new DWORD Value called NolnternetOpenWith. Give this entry a value of 1.

Turn your Task Manager back on

Some software disables the Windows Task Manager, making the option greyed out and unclickable when you press Ctrl+Alt+Del. This can prove frustrating if you need to close a problematic program or service. To enable the Task Manager again, browse to HKEY_ CURRENT USER\Software\Microsoft\ Windows\CurrentVersion\Policies\System, double-click DisableTaskMgr and set the value to 0.

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