Deploying Registry Changes to Multiple Computers

I've received email recently from power users who, because their small organizations or departments lack IT personnel, find themselves providing computer support. These users asked me about deploying some of the registry changes in the tips I contribute to Windows Client UPDATE. So in my commentary this week, for readers who don't or can't use System Policies, I describe how to easily deploy registry changes to multiple computers.

The first step is to create a registry file (i.e., a .reg file) that contains the registry changes that you want to apply to your client computers. Although you can create registry files from scratch in a text editor such as notepad.exe, a simpler method is make the changes on a single computer, then export the changes to a file.

To export a registry edit you've created to a .reg file, take the following steps:
1. Launch regedit.
2. Navigate to the value that you want to export.
3. Select Export Registry File from the Registry menu.
4. Give the file a name you'll remember and save it.

By the way, following this process to save an existing registry value before you make changes to your local system's registry is a good idea. If a registry change goes awry and creates problems in your system, you can restore the registry simply by double-clicking the .reg file you created (which writes the change to the local registry) that contains the original value.

Now that your intended change is in a .reg file, you can copy the file to every computer on which you want to make the change and ask users to double-click the file to install the change, but doing so is cumbersome. The simplest way to make the change on multiple machines is to first put the .reg file on a network share that's visible to all users whose computers who need the change, then add the following command to their logon script:

Regedit.exe /s "full path/file.reg"

where "full path/file.reg" is the full pathname to your .reg file. The command will initiate a silent installation of the registry change. The usual process for a registry change (i.e., running this command without /s and requiring the user to double-click the .reg file) prompts the user to accept the registry change. Adding the /s option to the command eliminates the user prompt and makes the change silently, which means your users can't choose whether or not to make the change. If the registry change requires a reboot, the change won't become effective until users reboot their computer.

If you don't have access to logon scripts (or are in a peer network), you can create a batch file with the same command and instruct your users to execute the command from the network. Or, you can email the batch file to your users if you aren't blocking batch files in email. You need to create a batch file only if you want to use the silent installation option. If relying on your users to make the changes in the new .reg file isn't a concern, you can send the batch file to them with instructions to double-click the file. Alternatively, you can point users to a network location for the file.

If this process sounds simple, that's because it is. Don't get carried away with making registry changes, but if you decide you need to make them, keeping a library of the changed files, as well as the unmodified keys, is a good idea.

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