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Using the Registry to change the Look of Windows

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12 Apr 2012CPOL 3K  
An article on Changing the Windows Environment setting using Registry

Sample Image

NOTE: Modifying the registry is dangerous. If you make any mistake you may corrupt your registry. This may cause your system to crash or become unstable. I will not be responsible for that.


There are a lot of settings we want to change in Windows. You may want to change the background of Explorer's Toolbar, as shown in the picture given above. Or you may want to remove the Shutdown option from the Start menu, and so on. This article is on how can we use the Windows Registry to change the default settings.

First of all let me describe what the Registry is. The registry is actually a database (so called) which is used to keep the information about the Operating System and Software installed on it. Is it enough?

Let's start with the very basics. Lets say you want to see or change the windows owner, or Company Name or ProductKey using the Registry. You can do this very simply. Run the Registry Editor using Start->Run and then type "regedit" and Enter. You will come up with a windows with title Registry Editor. You will see that something like this.

OK. (I am going into details so that beginners may use this article) Here is a view of Registry editor. On the left pane we have a tree view with some items. These are actually the roots of different types of keys. We are going to to discuss only two of them which are needed by us. The remaining will wait for another time.

HKEY_CURRENT_USER holds the information about the currently logged on user.

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE holds the information about the whole computer.

What main key should you select to modify, depends on the type of change? Some of keys reside in the CURRENT_USER and some reside in the LOCAL_MACHINE - it depends upon the type of information.

Say you want to see the windows information, like it's Registered owner, company name, Serial # (Registration #) and so on. That will be found in the LOCAL_MACHINE because they are not user specific. They are Machine/Computer specific. So You can explore that on this location


When you navigate to this location, you will find some information on the right pane. Scroll or search for your required value. If you want to change that, just double click on that and you will bring up with a dialogue box holding current value of that key. Put your own value and click OK. That's all.

Auto Run a Program when Windows Starts.

For that, you have the location


Now on the right pane, you may see some values (Name and Data). Note that the Data is pointing to an executable program paths. You will see that these are the programs which are executed when windows starts. Try to add your own program there.

Right click on the Right pane and select New->String Value or select Edit->New->String Value. You will see that a new key has been added with New Value #1. Change it to any string (it doesn't what). Now double click on this to set the value of this new key. Write in the input box C:\Windows\Notepad.exe if you are using win9X. Or C:\WinNT\Notepad.exe for Win2K or WinNT. Now press OK. Close the Registry editor and restart your computer. You will see that Notepad is awaken up when Windows Restarted. Now whenever you will restart your system, Notepad will be executed. To get rid of this, just delete the key you have made.

Displaying Message before Logon

If you want to pop up a message box when Computer starts and before logon screen on Win9X or WinNT, then you can use this trick

Go to:

For Win9X


And For WinNT

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\WinLogOn

And make two String Keys named

LegalNoticeCaption and LegalNoticeText

Put any value which you want to display. First is the Title of the Message box and second is the text to be displayed. After doing this, you will get welcome message each time windows starts.

Force User to Logon

If you want the users to logon on Win9X or WinME, you can use this tip. Normally, when Logon box appears, you can skip that. If, after doing this, someone will skip this logon box, computer will restart automatically. You must have to give password to work under Windows.

The location is


And the Key is

NoLogon (String Value)

and it's value is

RunDll 32 Shell32 SHExitWindowsEx 0

Now you must have to enter password to enter into windows session.

Note that for using this option, you must have password prompt enabled. If windows do not requires password from you, you can enable that from Control Panel and then Password and then from Dialogue box, Second Tab, User Profile. Click on the Second Radio Button "User can Customize their..."

If you get into trouble, run your windows in safe mode by holding CTRL Key when System restarts, from the beginning of DOS Screen, and then Choose Safe Mode when the menu appears. Then from windows, run Regedit and delete this key.

Changing the Background of Windows Explorer Toolbar

If you want to put an image on the background of Toolbar of the Windows Explorer. You can use this tip. Make any BMP File you want to display in the background of Windows Explorer Toolbar. And set this key

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Toolbar

and create a new key named

BackBitmap or BackBitmaShell. Set it's data to the location of your BMP File you selected fot the background. Like the picture given below.

Now close all explorer windows if any one is open. and then reopen one. You will see the effect.

Change Logon Window Text

If you want to change the text which appears on the Logon dialogue box, you can do that. Simple modify or make the key at

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\WinLogOn

And create or change the Key LogOnPrompt to any text you wants.

Note that this trick is applicable on Win NT only

That's all for the first version of this article. I will come back with some new techniques on using Windows registry. For that time, give me some break.

Be angry coder with theAngrycodeR


This article, along with any associated source code and files, is licensed under The Code Project Open License (CPOL)


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