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Where’s the damned setting?

PDQ Team
Can my workstation fit in this VM box?

    Photo by crowt59

Quite often I find myself in a situation where I need to determine where a setting is located in the registry. It usually requires some detective work, but I have refined a technique that helps me find out quickly most of the time.


It’s a four step process:

  1. Export the section of the registry that I expect to contain the setting, using regedit.exe.

    Navigate to the top key of the section to export, right-click, and Export. I name this file before.reg.

  2. Make a change to the setting, making sure to apply the setting so that it’s written to the registry. Try to do as little else as possible at this time, to prevent unwanted changes to the registry.

  3. Export the same section from the registry as step 1. Name this file after.reg.

  4. Use a file comparison tool, such as 


     to see what changed.

Most of the time this takes me right to where the setting is stored. Usually if it doesn’t it’s because I’m looking in the wrong part of the registry or because the act of saving the setting changes so much else that there’s too much noise.

Hopefully this little tip will help you out at some point.

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