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Normally double clicking on a .reg file will add its contents to the registry. If not, there are other ways, including re-enabling that functionality.

I'm trying to register a software program. The company sent me a regkey.reg file that when clicked on creates a registry item that tells the program that it's a registered application.

When I click on the regkey.reg file, it doesn't run, instead the file opens in notepad.

How do I get my software registered.

There are a few ways to accomplish this, including making the ".reg" extension do the right thing. (Though we may elect not to, for security reasons as we'll see in a minute.)

I also want to clear up a confusion that some readers may have - software registration and "the registry" are two different things.

"The registry" is just a database of information that Windows keeps. I'm sure you've heard it mentioned a time or two already. Applications can keep all sorts of information in the system registry - everything from where the application components live, to what your most recently viewed documents have been, to what color scheme you like to use.

Like I said, it's a general purpose data storage location.

"Registering" your software is something else. This type of registration is simply contacting the manufacturer of the software and letting them know that you have their software. In many cases they then respond with some kind of information that legitimizes your installation of their software - often enabling features, or turning off "trial" mode.

Things get confusing because of how this is remembered: it's placed in the system database of information. Yes, your software registration information can be kept in the system registry. The fact that the two words are similar is quite coincidental.

One way that information can be placed into the registry is through text files formatted a particular way, ending with the extension ".reg". (This ".reg" stands for "registry", as in the system registry.) On most machines when you double click on a ".reg" file, the information in it is entered into the system registry, usually after asking if that's what you want to do.

It's also one unsophisticated way for hackers to mess up your system. You might well see spam with ".reg" files attached. If you were to double click on one of those, you would be letting the spammer put things into your system registry - most definitely not a good idea.

"Personally, I kind of like having notepad open up .reg files, so I can explicitly see what's in them..."

The safe way to install a ".reg" file is as follows:

  • Click on Start and then Run...

  • Type in regedit, and then press OK

  • In regedit, click on File, and then Import

  • Enter the filename or otherwise locate the ".reg" file you want to enter, and press OK

  • The contents of that ".reg" file will be entered into the registry.

Personally, I kind of like having notepad open up .reg files, so I can explicitly see what's in them, and decide whether or not I want to install them. If I decide I do, then the above steps work well.

If you'd rather make the double click action work to actually directly install the ".reg" file:

  • Right click on the ".reg" file in Windows Explorer

  • Click on Open With...

  • Click on Registry Editor, if it's in the list, or use the Browse button to locate regedit.exe (typically in C:\Windows)

  • Make sure that Always use the selected program to open this kind of file is checked

  • Click OK

Now, if you double click on your ".reg" file, you'll be prompted to confirm that you want to add the information in it into the registry. Click OK on that, and you're done.

Article C2933 - February 13, 2007 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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12 Comments
Simon
February 14, 2007 8:02 PM

I'm fairly sure you can just just right-click on the .reg file and select 'Merge' from the context menu. Saves going into regedit. (You can definitely do this in XP; I'm not sure about earlier versions of Windows.)

Claudio
February 23, 2008 1:02 PM

This helped me a lot. Even with the merge option, it would open ina notepad. Thanks!

Jonathon
July 31, 2008 5:50 AM

:D thx heaps time
will always go on your site if i need any comp help
:D

Softmaniac
August 24, 2008 8:11 AM

This was a very good trick. The problem topic discussed was very helpful for me. Computer is such a field where we see several things in front of us in screen but never give importance to explore them.
The sites like this one can really do some concrete lighting on the vasting of the knowledge on the unexplored topics....

Al
October 19, 2008 12:36 PM

But what if you have two scenarios, such as...?
1. Open With > Open With and nothing is there to use
or
2. the Merge command is absent

The only option for me is to open regedit and import the new entry. I'd like to return to its original setup.

Suresh
December 22, 2008 9:38 PM

If i open registry editor screen through run command with command "regedit" but it opens in notepad i am not able to see nothing. Please give solution

chiranjeev kumar
August 6, 2009 8:21 PM

When trying to open regedit, there is a error message "Registry editing has been disabled by your administrator". It is my personal PC, pls let us know how to resolve it.

Cosmo Nomad
December 2, 2009 9:43 PM

Today you preserved me from kicking my machine out of the window!!! Same as above: Regfile suddenly opened in notepad instead of asking if i want to merge informations into the Registry!Thanx from germany! C.

eecholeave
March 6, 2010 7:00 PM

sir, after reading all the information youv'e written, i try to do it. when i double click a .reg file it says " are you sure you want to add this to the registry?" and i press ok then a message says "cannot import "file.reg". the specified file is not a script. bla bla bla bal" that what it says, i dont know whats the problems... pls help!

Nigel Glenister
March 8, 2010 11:49 AM

When I import the *.reg file, it cannot complete the import as applications are open. the next time I boot up I have to go to a previous safe configuration...
help

falgun
March 19, 2010 9:16 PM

i have an application"food&nutrision" in my vista. Now i have bought a new win 7, but there is an issue that the i lost the cd of the application, i want to update my windows but can not bcause i cannot delete my application.
What to do? How do i keep my registry of application in the win 7?
Please help!

Chetan M.P
December 31, 2011 11:10 PM

Thank you...it worked..

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