How to Edit the Windows Registry Completely Offline

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The Windows Registry is a file system that helps Windows software find the correct settings for its components. This can be important to ensure proper functioning of your PC, especially when you have problems such as failed updates or unwanted programs running in the background. However, while it’s possible to edit these files directly with a mouse and keyboard without needing an internet connection, this method has potential security vulnerabilities if you’re not careful about which keys you modify.

The “edit registry without booting windows” is a process that can be done quickly and easily. The Windows Registry is the central database for all settings, configurations, and other data related to the operating system.

How to Edit the Windows Registry Completely Offline

Have you ever made a “oops” mistake in the register, such as altering the incorrect value? And then Windows refuses to start when you restart your computer? Fortunately, you may still use an offline registry editor to change or fix the register.

Editing the registry offline may sometimes be your last choice in cases like deleting obstinate or locked registry entries owing to a probable malware infestation. Continue reading to discover how to change the Windows registry offline in this article.

Let’s see what else you can smash, shall we?

Prerequisites

Make sure you have the following items in order to follow along with this lesson.

  • A machine with Windows 10, Windows Server 2016, or later installed. The Windows 10 version 1909 will be used in this article.
  • A copy of the installation media for Windows. It should work with either a DVD or USB installation medium.

Understanding and Editing Offline Registries

The Regedit program is a common method to edit the Windows registry. This program is a graphical registry editor that enables you to make changes to the Windows registry while it’s running. Regedit, on the other hand, may be used to edit an offline registry.

An offline registry is a Windows registry that is kept in files that Windows isn’t actively utilizing (one for each Hive of Registries). As stated in the table below, each file is saved in its own place.

Hive of Registries File Path
HKEY LOCAL MACHINESAM system32configSAM% WINDIR% WINDIR% WINDIR% WINDIR% WINDIR% W
HKEY LOCAL MACHINESYSTEM system32configSYSTEM% WINDIR% WINDIR% WINDIR% WINDIR% WINDIR% W
HKEY LOCAL MACHINESOFTWARE system32configSOFTWARE% WINDIR% WINDIR% WINDIR% WINDIR% WINDIR% WINDIR
HKEY USERS.DEFAULT system32configDEFAULT % WINDIR % WINDIR % WINDIR % WINDIR % WIND
HKEY CURRENT USER NTUSER.DAT % USERPROFILE % USERPROFILE % USERPROFILE % USERPROF

You may use Regedit inside of a special Windows operating environment called the Windows Recovery Environment to edit an offline registry (WinRE).

While third-party offline registry editors exist, Microsoft’s official supported tools are WinRE and Regedit. WinRE also has compatibility for UEFI firmware and Bitlocker, which isn’t seen in most third-party tools.

BitLocker Recovery Keys: How to Save and Recover Them

In WinRE, open the Command Prompt.

You must first log into WinRE and then access the command prompt from there to modify a Windows registry offline. You can accomplish this in a few of ways, depending on whether you can get into Windows right now and whether or not you have Windows installation CDs.

The most common and simplest way to start WinRE is via the Windows power menu. This approach only works if Windows is still bootable or if you can get to the login screen, from which you can enter the power menu.

To use the power menu to boot to WinRE, follow the instructions below.

Note: If your Windows system disk (e.g., drive C:) is not encrypted with Bitlocker, this WinRE boot technique will not function. Skip to booting into WinRE with installation media if the system disk is encrypted.

1. Press WIN+L on your keyboard to lock the screen if you’re signed in to Windows.

2. Click the power button in the lower-right corner of the login screen. Next, click Restart while holding down the SHIFT key on your keyboard.

Restarting the computerRestarting the computer

3. Ignore the warning that you could lose your unsaved work and click Restart anyway. The PC will restart and boot into the WinRE automatically.

Restarting the computer anyway Restarting the computer anyway

Note: If the machine fails to boot to Windows 10 two or three times in a row, the following boot will automatically enter WinRE.

4. The WinRE menu will appear once the machine restarts, as seen in the image below. Click Troubleshoot on this page.

Troubleshoot may be accessed by clicking the Troubleshoot button.Troubleshoot may be accessed by clicking the Troubleshoot button.

5. Select Advanced options from the Troubleshoot page.

Selecting the Advanced tabSelecting the Advanced tab

Click Command Prompt on the Advanced Options page.

Command Prompt may be accessed by clicking on it.Command Prompt may be accessed by clicking on it.

7. To log in, click your account name in the Command Prompt box.

By selecting the account's name, you may learn more about it.By selecting the account’s name, you may learn more about it.

8. Finally, type in your account password and click Continue.

Entering the password for the accountEntering the password for the account

Using the Installation Media for Windows

If Windows isn’t bootable, another way to get to WinRE is to boot from the Windows installation disk. WinRE is preinstalled with it, whether you have a CD/DVD or USB installation media.

The procedure outlined below shows how to boot into WinRE using the Windows 10 installation disc. The images or actions you see in this example may change depending on your Windows installation version.

1. Turn down the computer and insert your Windows installation media (CD, DVD, or USB).

2. Turn on your computer and check to see whether it boots up to the installation disk.

3. Click Next after the PC has booted into the Windows setup.

On the Windows setup, click Next.On the Windows setup, click Next.

4. Click Repair your machine on the following page.

On the Windows setup, choose Repair your computer.On the Windows setup, choose Repair your computer.

5. Select Troubleshoot from the Choose an option menu.

Troubleshoot may be accessed by clicking the Troubleshoot button.Troubleshoot may be accessed by clicking the Troubleshoot button.

6. Select Command prompt from the Advanced settings menu.

Command Prompt may be accessed by clicking on it.Command Prompt may be accessed by clicking on it.

7. If one or more of your computer’s disks are Bitlocker-encrypted, you’ll be prompted to input the recovery key, as seen in the image below. Enter the recovery key and click Continue to unlock the disk holding your offline registry files if it is encrypted.

You won’t be able to view the offline registry files until you unlock the encrypted disk.

How to Unlock a Bitlocker Encrypted DriveHow to Unlock a Bitlocker Encrypted Drive

Identifying the Drive Letter for the Windows Operating System

You may now use Regedit as an offline registry editor after booting your machine to the WinRE and using the command prompt.

The operating system is located on drive C in a normal Windows installation. However, drive C is allocated to the System Reserved Partition in WinRE (SRP). The SRP is a secret partition that may be found just before the Windows partition.

To begin, you must first establish where the Windows installation is located. You may do so by going through the computer’s Boot Configuration Database and listing it (BCD). The BCD provides startup settings for the machine and operating system, as well as the partition that holds the operating system itself.

Run the command below on the command prompt to get a list of the boot configuration data.

Look for the osdevice property value in the Windows Boot Loader section. This number specifies which drive letter the Windows operating system is installed on. The Windows operating system is installed on drive D in the example below.

locating the operating system drivelocating the operating system drive

The Offline Registry: Loading, Editing, and Unloading

In the previous section, you’ve determined that Windows resides on the drive D in WinRE. Now you can fire up the offline registry editor and load the offline Hive of Registriess for editing. To load the offline Hive of Registriess, follow the steps below.

1. Run the command below on the command prompt to open the built-in Windows registry editor.

Now you should see the familiar Registry Editor window like the screenshot below. Since you’re in WinRE, the Hive of Registriess you’re seeing are the WinRE registry and not your Windows registry. You have to manually load the hives you want to edit, which you will do in the next step.

WinRE's regeditWinRE’s regedit

2. Next, load the Hive of Registries you want to edit. Loading a hive means opening the offline registry file from the Windows OS drive, which will then become visible in the offline registry editor.

To do so, first, click to select the key where you will load the Hive of Registries. You can only load hives under the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE and HKEY_USERS keys. The example below selects the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE key.

Selecting the key where to load the Hive of RegistriesSelecting the key where to load the Hive of Registries

3. After selecting the key, click File —> Load hive on the menu bar.

The hive is being loaded.The hive is being loaded.

4. Navigate to D:WindowsSystem32config in the Load Hive window.

Remember that, in this case, the Windows installation is on drive D, as indicated by the bcdedit command.

Next, select the Hive of Registries file that you want to load. Once you’ve selected the file, click Open. The example below will open the SOFTWARE file, which loads the HKEY LOCAL MACHINESOFTWARE Hive of Registries.

Selecting the Hive of Registries to loadSelecting the Hive of Registries to load

5. At the next prompt, enter the Key Name you want to assign to the offline registry file and click OK. For clarity, you are not creating a new key. Instead, you’re only setting a label or name to the offline Hive of Registries.

Feel free to use any name that makes sense to you. The term OFFLINE SOFTWARE is used in the example below.

 The hive's name The hive’s name

You can now view the offline registry that you’ve loaded into your offline registry editor in the Registry Editor window.

The offline registry has been loaded. The offline registry has been loaded.

You may now repeat the process to load more offline registry files if necessary.

After you’ve loaded the offline Hive of Registries, you can now edit the registry in the same manner that you would edit the registry while logged in to Windows.

6. Next, create a new key with the name ATA_WinRE_Regedit. To do so, right-click on the offline registry you want to edit —> click New —> Key. Lastly, type in the name of the new key and press Enter.

In the offline registry editor, create a new key.In the offline registry editor, create a new key.

7. Once you’ve completed editing the registry, unload the offline Hive of Registries. To do so, (1) click to select the offline registry key, click (2) File —> (3) Unload hive. Lastly, on the confirmation prompt, click (4) Yes.

The offline registry file is being unloaded.The offline registry file is being unloaded.

Close the command prompt and offline registry editor windows now.

The offline registry editor and the command prompt are now closed.The offline registry editor and the command prompt are now closed.

9. Now you may either shut down or restart your computer.

Verifying your Registry Changes in the Offline Mode

After you’ve restarted your computer and signed in to Windows, double-check that the modifications you made in the offline registry are still in effect. Take the actions outlined below.

To begin, launch the registry editor. To do so, enter the Run dialog by pressing WIN+R on your keyboard. Then, in the Open box, enter regedit and hit Enter or OK.

The Registry Editor is launched.The Registry Editor is launched.

Once you’re in the Registry Editor window, navigate to the hive you edited previously and confirm that it exists. In this example, the item to verify is the ATA_Offline_Regedit key under HKEY LOCAL MACHINESOFTWARE hive.

Remember that when you loaded the offline Hive of Registries into a new key while in WinRE, you assigned a label named OFFLINE_SOFTWARE. That key was only temporary while in WinRE and does not carry into the active registry in Windows.

Confirming the registry key's existenceConfirming the registry key’s existence

Conclusion

Knowing how to update the registry offline may save your bacon, particularly if you make a mistake and the registry becomes corrupted. You can use Regedit to edit the Windows registry offline whether the machine starts up or not, and even if the disk is encrypted.

Do you believe you can backup and import the registry offline, in addition to altering it using Regedit? What additional activities do you believe the offline registry may be used for?

The “windows registry viewer” is a tool that allows users to view the Windows Registry offline. The “Windows Registry Editor” can be used to edit the Windows Registry completely, but it cannot be used online.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I completely reset my registry?

A: If your computer has a reset button you can press it, but if not there are two ways to completely remove the registry from Windows. The first is to use an app like CCleaner which will prevent any traces of old programs left behind by other software that are no longer being used and the second one is to perform a clean install.

How do I edit Windows registry?

A: You can go to the run dialog, type regedit in the box and press enter. This will open up your Windows registry editor.

How do I access Windows registry without logging in?

A: You can access the Windows registry from within your computer without logging in, by opening a command prompt and typing regedit

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