The Registry Editor, or regedit.exe, allows the import and export of Windows registry entry files from the command line. It’s usage though, could prove to be a bit restrictive from the command line. From Windows XP edition onwards, Microsoft has included another command line tool called REG, or reg.exe. This tool is able perform almost all the tasks as it’s GUI counterpart – regedit.exe.

Query the Registry

REG allows you to query specific keys and values. It also allows recursive and case sensitive searches.

To get a list of programs that are run when your computer starts, run REG as:

C:\>reg query "HKLM\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run"

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run
    Windows Defender         REG_EXPAND_SZ    %ProgramFiles%\Windows Defender\MSASCui.exe -hide
    ccApp                    REG_SZ    "C:\Program Files\Common Files\Symantec Shared\ccApp.exe"
    Google Desktop Search    REG_SZ    "C:\Program Files\Google\Google Desktop Search\GoogleDesktop.exe" /startup
    SunJavaUpdateSched       REG_SZ    "C:\java\jre6\bin\jusched.exe"
    Acrobat Assistant 8.0    REG_SZ    "C:\Program Files\Adobe\Acrobat 8.0\Acrobat\Acrotray.exe"
    (Default)                REG_SZ
    NvCplDaemon              REG_SZ    RUNDLL32.EXE C:\Windows\system32\NvCpl.dll,NvStartup
    NvMediaCenter            REG_SZ    RUNDLL32.EXE C:\Windows\system32\NvMcTray.dll,NvTaskbarInit

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run\OptionalComponents

To query a specific value, run REG as:

C:\>reg query "HKLM\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run" /v ccApp

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run
    ccApp    REG_SZ    "C:\Program Files\Common Files\Symantec Shared\ccApp.exe"
Add to Registry

To add a new software to the startup list, run REG as:

C:\>reg add "HKLM\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run" /v MySoftware /t REG_SZ /d "c:\path\to\software.exe"
The operation completed successfully.

Note that you will need an Administrator Command Prompt to add entries to the registry.

Delete from Registry

To delete the entry we have created in the example above, run REG as:

C:\>echo Y|reg delete "HKLM\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run" /v MySoftware
Delete the registry value MySoftware (Yes/No)? The operation completed successfully.

Note the presence of the command ‘echo Y|’ piped to reg. This sends the ‘Y’ character to the delete confirmation prompt. To delete without the prompt, run REG as:

C:\>echo Y|reg delete "HKLM\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run" /v MySoftware /f
The operation completed successfully.
Alternative Ways to Access the Registry from the Command Line

If you have Cygwin installed, you can access the registry from the directory /proc/registry/, which is part of the /proc virtual filesystem. Another tool under Cygwin is regtool. To find out more about regtool, refer to the man pages.

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Mohamed Ibrahim

Ibrahim is a Telecom Engineer by profession. A technology enthusiast with great interest in open source projects.