When troubleshooting an application installation issue — or an issue with the application itself — on the Windows operating system, it’s often necessary to view the registry. The Windows registry holds a wealth of information and settings that determine just about everything related to how Windows operates; what it looks like, where and what users can access, and how applications behave. If you know where to look, or what you’re looking for, this can be a pretty easy task; the “Find” function in the Registry Editor works pretty well. However, if the issue is with registry keys under the HKEY_CURRENT_USER (HKCU) hive, it can be a challenge. You see, the keys under the HKCU hive are unique to each users profile; thus, when you view the registry keys under HKCU in the Registry Editor, you are viewing the keys of the current logged-in user profile.
In an enterprise environment, applications are typically distributed via a configuration/distribution system such as Novell ZENworks Configuration Mannager (ZCM) or Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM). When software is installed through these systems, the application installers can be configured to run as the logged on user, under the system profile, or even as a “dynamic” administrator. If the installer writes values to the HKCU profile they are written to the profile that ran the installer. Thus, there is often need to view the HKCU values of a different user profile. Adding more complexity to this, you may find yourself in a situation where the user profile under which the HKCU values are located doesn’t have access to the Registry Editor. In this situation, you need to import the profile’s HKCU hive into your registry so you can view it.
The HKCU values for a profile are stored in a file called
ntuser.dat, located in the root of the users’ profile. On Windows 7 the path is
c:\users\(profile)\ntuser.dat. There are a few ways to import the
ntuser.dat into the registry with Registry Editor, but the quickest and easiest way I’ve found to do this is using the following command from an elevated command prompt:
reg.exe load HKLM\TempHive c:\users\(profile)\ntuser.dat
Now the HKCU values of the profile you imported can be viewed under a key called “TempHive” in the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE hive.
Hopefully, this will help you to resolve that issue you’re looking into!