A reg file is one of the most useful, but dangerous components of your computer. Useful because it contains changes made to the Registry Editor; and dangerous because if those changes are not made properly, or if the wrong changes are made, it would have disastrous effects on your computer.
In this article, I will be giving a complete guide on what a reg file is, how it works, how to view and edit, and so forth. In doing so, I will be answering some of the most common questions people ask about reg files. I will begin by answering the question: what is a reg file?
What Is A Reg File? 🤷♂️
Reg files are Windows Registry files. They are files with the .reg file extension. Reg files are created when values in the Registry are exported from it. The exported files are text-based files that can then be used to make changes to your Registry or shared with others to effect changes in their Registry.
The Registry has components called keys—as will be explained soon—and when selected keys are exported from the Registry they have the .reg extension and are thus reg files. These reg files can serve as a means to back up the Registry (which is an important step before making changes to the Registry).
Many sites provide Registry hacks that you can use. These sites usually have reg files you can download and use to make changes on your computer.
In summary, reg files help you make manual changes to the Registry and also export those changes. The files can be shared with others who only need to double-click them to effect the same changes in their computer. Now, let me briefly explain what Windows Registry is.
What Is Windows Registry?
Windows Registry as the name implies is a database—or registry—where Windows and other applications store their configuration settings. Important information on how programs operate is found in the Registry.
There are countless complex entries in the Registry and it is almost impossible to keep up with all of them, hence you need an app called the Registry Editor to view and make changes to the Registry.
The view is divided into a list of keys on the left and values on the right. The keys, when exported are reg files. Navigating through Registry Editor is similar to navigating through file explorer. When you select a key on the left, you’ll see the values associated with that key on the right.
Why Are Reg Files Dangerous?
Reg files are created either by using the export option on Registry Editor or can be downloaded, or even created using a text editor. When you double-click the reg file, the computer immediately implements the changes. If the reg file is from a reliable source or contains the right information, then there will be no problems.
The danger however arises when the reg file contains errors or is downloaded from an unreliable source. It can make unwanted changes to the Registry which could potentially be harmful to your computer.
This is why it is advisable to back up your Registry before you make changes. Also, be careful about the sources you download reg files from.
How To View Reg Files
Since reg files can be dangerous, you should read them before applying them on your computer. Reading it ensures you can spot errors and understand what exactly the reg file is expected to do.
Since reg files are text-based files, they can be viewed using a text editor such as Notepad on Windows.
Once you’ve opened your file manager to where the reg file is located, right-click on the reg file, and then click “edit” to open with your default text editor.
To open with a different text editor, right-click, then click “open with” and choose the text editor you want to open the reg file with.
Note that if there is no edit option it is possibly because the reg file may be in a ZIP archive. You have to extract it to view it. Copy and paste (or drag) the file to a different folder.
If the reg file was downloaded from the web, you will see a warning as you attempt to view it. If you previously clicked “edit”, you can click “run” to continue.
If you accidentally clicked merge, or you double-clicked the file, click “no” in the prompt so that your file would not be applied in the Registry.
How To Read A Reg File
Reg files can be viewed on Notepad or any other text editor. If it is a reg file, it would contain just a few lines. If you want to be able to create your reg files or check for errors in files you download, you need to be able to understand what each line in a reg file stands for.
Here is one example of a reg file:
Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00
; created by Afam Onyimadu
; for so and so website
or an image as below:
In the first line of the reg file: “Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00” the reader is told what type of file it is.
The next two lines which begin with “;” are simply comments that do not have any effect when you run the file. They are simply meant to be readable, providing information that is only relevant to the reader, not to the operation of the Registry itself.
The last two lines are the main part of the reg file. This is the aspect you need to be most careful about. Your attention should be on these lines when you are reading or creating your reg files.
The fourth line: “[HKEY_CURRENT_USER\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Advanced]” tells Windows to make changes to that file location or key in the Register.
The last line of the reg file gives Windows instructions to create a DWORD value called LastActiveClick and set its value to 1. If such a DWORD value exists in that location, its value will be changed to 1.
A reg file that undoes this will be similar in every regard except the last line which will read as: “LastActiveClick”=-. The “-” sign tells Windows to undo the LastActiveClick value.
Here is another example of a registry file:
How To Edit Reg Files
Now you know how to view and read reg files, editing them will be easy. The first step is to open the files in Notepad.
- Go to file explorer and find the reg file
- Right-click on the file
- Click edit, or click open as and select the application you want to open it with.
After you have opened the file on Notepad, you can click on the portions of text you want to change. When you have edited, save the changes you have made.
How To Create Reg Files
These files are files with the .reg extension. There is more than one way to create such files on your computer. The first, and perhaps easiest way is to export keys from your Registry Editor.
In your Registry Editor, find the key you want to create a reg file for and select the export option. Doing this will create a reg file with the values of that key. You can edit the reg file to change the values.
A second way is to download from the web. Several sites contain hacks and reg files you could implement. You can download them and even edit if you so desire.
Since these files are text-based files, they can be created in any text editing file such as Notepad. You can modify an already created reg file or create yours from scratch.
If you are creating these files from scratch, remember that all of them have this format:
Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00
The first line tells us what type of file it is, the line [\\] tells us the location in the Registry you want to effect changes in, and the final line tells us what value you want to assign to the key with that value name.
When saving, choose the “save as” option. Use a name you will remember and save with the .reg extension name. For example, you could save your file as an Example.REG.
Executing A Reg File
Finally, to run or execute or import a reg file, follow these steps:
- Locate the file in your file explorer
- Double click on it
- Click on “run”
- Click yes.
Doing this immediately applies the changes to your Register.
Using the Registry Editor is a quick way to make changes to your computer. Asides from that, it has other uses such as deleting completely unwanted applications. The reg file is the file that stores such changes made.
I have explained all you need to know about these files, including how to view, read, edit and create it. Now you know your way around using them.
As always I would love to know how these have worked out for you. So drop your thought, and questions if any in the comments section.