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Get a better registry editor

How often do you come across a great tip for Windows that starts off something like this: "All you need to do is to change a setting in the registry. Click Start (and Run in XP) and enter regedit..." It is all too common and this is because the registry is where Windows and programs store most of their configuration settings. By modifying registry values or creating new ones where they don't exist, you can customise the way Windows and programs work.

Is the registry editor that is bundled with Windows any good though? It offers a minimal set of features and really only just enough to do the job. If you find yourself frequently accessing the registry you might want to look for a more powerful or easier-to-use alternative.

There are several alternatives to regedit and they are worth considering if you don't like regedit or you need more features than Microsoft's tool offers. Here is a collection of useful registry editors that are well worth considering.

RegmagiKRegmagiK is an alternative to regidit that offers similar functionality, but also a few extras too. Instead of a two-pane view, there are three panes and the extra one, located at the bottom of the window displays different information depending on the function you are using.

Use the search facility and all the items found are listed in the bottom pane, which is much more convenient than regedit. Double clicking a found item displays that part of the registry.

Another useful feature is the Google search. You can either right click an item in the registry or select it and click the Google button in the toolbar. A browser window opens and the search results show everything Google knows about the item. One final useful feature is List Invalid CLSIDs, which are basically redundant registry entries left over after software is uninstalled.
Price: Free. Rating: 7/10

Registrar Registry Manager
Registrar Registry ManagerRegistrar Registry Manager is available in Pro ($54.95) and Lite (free) editions. There are many more features in the Pro version and you can find a comparison chart at the website. It's a good idea to start off with the Lite edition and if you need more features you can always upgrade.

The interface is very strange and there is a window at the top of the screen and a floating window in the middle. The top window isn't really a window, it's a title bar, menu, address box and toolbar. The floating window has a toolbar above the menu too. Other windows can be opened, such as Bookmarks. It's a very odd setup and it is confusing.

On the bright side though, this is a very good registry editor that is light years ahead of most rivals and regedit. One of the nice features is that there are lots of predefined bookmarks and they have simple descriptive titles. You'll find lots of interesting and useful registry locations and values just by browsing these bookmarks. The search facility opens another window, but it has useful features and there are more search options than with rivals. It can monitor the registry and display a live list of the programs accessing it and what they are accessing. Select a key in the registry and often you'll get a description telling you what it's for. There's a registry defragmenter to optimise the registry too. This is a great program.
Price: Free Lite/$54.95 Pro. Rating: 9/10

Registry Workshop
Registry WorkshopRegistry Workshop is not free, but you can download a free trial if you want to test it before handing over your money. It is similar to RegmagiK and there is a three pane view. Keys are on the left, subkeys and values on the right and there's a pane at the bottom that displays search results, a history and other items.

The search facility is good and there is an option to find items that were written to between certain dates, you can limit searches to specific data types and more. There are both Bookmarks and Favorites, which is confusing and it's not clear why you have both or what the difference is, apart from being able to jump to Bookmarks using keyboard shortcuts.

You can create backups and snapshots of the registry, and there is a defragmenter that can optimise it for speed. An interesting feature is the ability to open multiple copies of the registry on different tabs. This enables you to view different locations, or to explore another part without losing the first. You can compare two registries or locations and see the differences. It's a reasonable tool, but Registrar Registry Manager is sligtly better. However, this is cheaper.
Price: $29.95. Rating: 8/10