Microsoft Scripting Guy Ed Wilson here. I was working on a Windows PowerShell script for Microsoft PowerPoint Week when she walked into the room. Like a red rose swaying gently in the afternoon breeze, the Scripting Wife barely touched the floor as she glided into the room. Like opening the window of a room in an island tropical paradise, the room suddenly filled with a hint of jasmine.
“Of all the rooms in all the house, you walk into mine,” I said in my best Bogart voice.
“Your impressions are really lame. I need to know how to use Windows PowerShell to work with the registry. But probably, I need to know what a registry is first,” she said.
“Ah, the thorn on that fair rose, that pricks me deep; I thought it was destiny that brought you to my lair. A damsel in distress—I will rise to the challenge. I will don your colors and shepherd you on your quest,” sounding a bit like Peter O’Toole in Man of La Mancha.
“It’s a good thing I came in here, I think you are going stir-crazy,” she said with mock sympathy. “So, what do I need to do?”
“First of all, you want to create a System Restore point on your laptop, before you begin monkeying around in the registry. Use the Checkpoint-Computer cmdlet. For the Description parameter, use something like “before registry exercise” and for the RestorePointType parameter, use modify_settings. You can type those commands directly into the command pane of your Windows PowerShell ISE,” I said.
“It don’t work. It gives me a bogus error,” she said turning her laptop screen towards me. (See following image.)
Note: The Scripting Wife is going to create two keys in the registry. You should always be careful when making changes to the registry because changes to the registry can cause your computer to behave erratically. This is why the Scripting Wife first created a System Restore point. The Restore-Computer cmdlet can be used to restore a particular System Restore point, if needed.
“You call all errors bogus. Now how many times have I told you the errors are not bogus? You need to read them so you can figure out what is wrong. Uh, wait a minute. You are right this is bogus,” I said upon closer inspection of the error message. “Well, my dear, I apologize. More than likely, you need to run this cmdlet with administrative rights. Do you remember how to use Run as?” I quizzed.
“Of course. We just talked about it the other day. Are you gonna give me the administrator password?” she asked as she right clicked on the blue and white Windows PowerShell console icon.
“No, I am not going to give you the admin password. But I will type it into the dialog box for you, so you can create a System Restore point on your computer,” I said with mock exasperation.
“Okay. The Windows PowerShell console is up. So I type Checkpoint-Computer –Description “Before Registry Exercise” –RestorePointType modify_settings. Got it! Oh that is pretty cool,” she said as she started to turn her laptop monitor for me to view.
“I don’t need to see it my dear. I have seen it before, but you are right. It is cool. Now close the Windows PowerShell console, and go back to your Windows PowerShell ISE. Clear the errors from your output pane, by clicking the little squeegee icon that appears under the Help menu. After you have done that, in the command pane type Regedit and press ENTER,” I instructed.
“Done,” she said proudly, showing me what you see in the following image.
“Okay, now in the Registry Editor, on the left side of the screen you have what is called the Registry Tree. Each section name that begins with HKEY_ is a grouping of related information. The HKEY_CURRENT_USER section contains information about the way you like your programs to run, such as which search engine to use with Internet Explorer 8.0, whether or not you want Windows Media Player to stretch to fit when it launches, or which font you use in Notepad,” I explained.
“So what you are saying is that when I change things in an application, it gets written to the registry. Okay, that makes sense,” she stated.
“Because you are not an administrator, there are areas in the registry you are not allowed to make changes. But because HKEY_CURRENT_USER contains settings for the way you like to run your programs, you will generally have access to stuff in that area,” I said.
“Okay, fine. Show me how to work with the registry,” she said impatiently.
“In your Windows PowerShell ISE, type dir HKCU:s and press the TAB key a couple of times until HKCU:Software appears. HKCU, as you may have figured out, is a shortcut for HKEY_CURRENT_USER. The cool thing is that tab expansion works, and it can save you a lot of typing,” I said.
“Okay, done,” she said turning her monitor so I could check her work.
“Now, let’s create a registry key. To do this, use the New-Item cmdlet. Before you press ENTER, I want to look at it, okay?” I confirmed.
“Okay,” she said.
“The registry key will be directly under the software section we looked at earlier. Type New-Item –Path HKCU:s and press TAB a couple times until HKCU:Software appears. Use ScriptingWife as the name for the registry key, so you will type –name ScriptingWife. Got it?” I asked.
“Yes,” she said turning the monitor.
“Okay, the command looks good. Go ahead and press ENTER. When you are done, press the up arrow key to retrieve your command. Look at the command and the output that is displayed,” I said.
“That is pretty cool. Can we do another one?” she asked with sincerity.
“Sure. Use your up arrow to retrieve the New-Item cmdlet you used earlier. Type a p after New-Item, so you have New-Itemp and press TAB to complete the New-ItemProperty cmdlet. At the end of –path HKCU:Software, type Sc, and press TAB to complete the –path HKCU:SoftwareScriptingWife portion of the command. Change –name ScriptingWife to –name test and add –value “ok” to the end of the command. Your complete command should look like this: New-ItemProperty –path HKCU:SoftwareScriptingWife –name test –value “ok”. How does that look? Press ENTER when you think you have it right,” I added.
“Okay,” she said hesitantly. “How does this look?”
“Good. Now check it in the Registry Editor,” I added.
“That looks cool,” she enthused.
“Why don’t you go and play with that a little bit? If you get stuck, look for ‘registry’ in the Help files,” I added helpfully.
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Ed Wilson and Craig Liebendorfer, Scripting Guys