Working with the Windows Registry

The Windows Registry is defined by Microsoft as:

The registry is a hierarchical database that stores the values of variables in Windows and the applications and services that run on Windows. The operating system and other programs also use the registry to store data about users and about the current configuration of the system and its components. Because the registry is available whenever the system is running, programs that start and stop can keep persistent data in the registry.

In other words, almost all Windows and programs settings are maintained in the Windows Registry and therefore working with the Windows Registry is essential in all scripting.

In this article, we will go through how to interact with the Windows Registry through FastTrack scripts. Please refer to the official Microsoft documentation on the Windows Registry for general information on the registry structure.

Windows Registry Scripting

Read and writing values

In most case, interacting with the Registry is simply reading and writing values. Reading from the Registry is done with the RegistryValue function and writing to the registry is done with the WriteRegistry command. Let us look at writing to the Registry first:

  WriteRegistry HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\Common\UserInfo\UserInitials,[UserName]

  WriteRegistry HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\Common\UserInfo\UserName,[UserFullName]

  WriteRegistry HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\Common\UserInfo\Company,Acme Corp

This example is from the General how to examples page, where the information about the user is set in the Registry for Microsoft Office 2007/2010. If this was put in a logon script, it wouldn't matter if the user edited the initials or full name in Microsoft Office, because it will simply be set at every logon. Often the information is wrong to begin with and if information is changed in the Active Directory, this will automatically be enforced in Microsoft Office.

You may have noticed that the hive name in the example was HKCU. Generally speaking, FastTrack supports abbreviated hive names, which is a proprietary naming. It is up to you, if you prefer HKCU over HKEY_CURRENT_USER and HKLM over HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE and so forth. All examples on this website use the abbreviated versions, because it is the opinion of FastTrack Software that full names have no value in itself and thus just takes up space.

Reading values from the Registry is just as easy as writing values using the RegistryValue function. The script below is an advanced script from the SmartDock page, where the custom value named "LastBackup" is kept in the Registry to store when the last SyncDir backup was performed. Note how in the second line, it is checked that the Registry key that holds the value exists, because if it does not, the SyncDir backup has never run.

If Portable And Alive AcmeProxy Then

  If Not RegistryKeyExists HKCU\Software\Acme Corporation\LastBackup Then

    If Ask "You never backed up your documents.[Return][Return]Would you like to do this now?","Backup Notice","Harddrive" Then DoBackup


    If [RegistryValue HKCU\Software\Acme Corporation\LastBackup]<[SubtractDays 3] Then

      If Ask "You have not backed up your documents for over 2 days.[Return][Return]Would you like to do this now?",_

                "Backup Notice","Harddrive" Then DoBackup

    End If

  End If

End If


Command DoBackup()

  SyncDir [UserDocumentsDir],[UserHomeDrive]\Backup\[ComputerName]

  WriteRegistry HKCU\Software\Acme Corporation\LastBackup,[DateTime]

End Command

32-bit and 64-bit

One of the major pain points to most scripters is the fact that writing to the 32-bit and 64-bit Registry on a 64-bit machine are completely different. If you install a 32-bit application on a 64-bit machine, it is not stored in the "normal" 64-bit registry, but in a separate hive and emulated for 32-bit applications. This means that you would normally need two different scripts, one for running on 32-bit and one for 64-bit. FastTrack handles this differently. All Registry and Path functionality have two versions. One that is postfixed with "x86" and one that is not. What is great about that is that on a 32-bit machine, the x86 version behaves the same as the one without the x86 postfix, but on a 64-bit machine, they behave differently. And the reason why this is great is that you never need two versions of your scripts.

Said in another way, if you need to extract a Registry value of an application that is always 32-bit (meaning installed in the x86 version of Program Files on 64-bit), you can just use the RegistryValuex86 function and you can ignore the fact that your script may run on a 32-bit or 64-bit machine. This same logic applies to path functions, as shown here.

Microsoft Office does exist in both 32-bit and 64-bit versions. If you install the version that matches the operating system bits, the example further up will work on all operating system versions. If you for some reason always install a 32-bit version on both 32-bit and 64-bit machines, the modified script below will work for the 32-bit version, regardless of the operating system bits.

  WriteRegistryx86 HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\Common\UserInfo\UserInitials,[UserName]

  WriteRegistryx86 HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\Common\UserInfo\UserName,[UserFullName]

  WriteRegistryx86 HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\Common\UserInfo\Company,Acme Corp

Other operations

If you need to import a .reg file that was exported with regedit.exe, you can use the ImportRegFile command to do so. For other Registry functionality, please look under "Registry" in the Script Editor's Engine Browser, where you will find functionality for all other operations like creating keys, deleting keys and values and looping through keys and values.

Rating: 5 out of 5

"Use this as a replacement for VBScript and PowerShell"

"It's easy to include attractive GUI elements in FastTrack scripts, beyond the basic dialog boxes and text input that VBScript offers ... Another powerful feature is the ability to distribute scripts as Windows Installer (.msi) or standard .exe files. Although interesting in its own right, this ability results in a much more intriguing capability: to repackage -- or wrap -- software installers as .msi files without using snapshots. If you've ever created an .msi installer file from before-and-after system snapshots, for use with a software distribution system such as Group Policy or SCCM, then you know how hit-and-miss the results can be."

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Rating: 8 out of 10

"Faster than the rest"

"We found the FastTrack syntax to be more transparent and easier to learn than Microsoft's PowerShell – the editor in particular provided good support in this regard. the Script Editor offers a large number of options from the command set through to simple output of graphical elements, which cannot be achieved at all with PowerShell or other solutions or only with a significantly greater level of effort."

"Anyone wanting to tackle the many hurdles in everyday admin and especially anyone for whom logon scripts and client automation is a priority will benefit from the variety of functions offered by FastTrack."

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