How To Reset Windows Registry And Permissions (ACL) To Defaults

How To Reset Windows Registry And Permissions (ACL) To DefaultsHow To Reset Windows Registry And Permissions (ACL) To Defaults

Key Points

  • To restore the Windows Registry to its defaults, reset the operating system from Settings > System > Restore, using cloud reset, or restore the computer to an earlier state.
  • You may use SubInACL – A Microsoft command-line tool (deprecated, but available from archives) – to reset Registry permissions (ACL).

The Windows Registry is the heart and soul of the operating system. It is a collection of databases that contain the configuration information for the OS, as well as the apps and services running on it. If not properly handled, the Registry alone can be responsible for corrupting system files, and hence, the OS itself.

You may often need to make changes to the Windows Registry for different reasons. However, there may come a time when certain Windows functions will no longer work as they should. This is when you might want to restore all the Windows Registry settings to their default values. Moreover, user permissions might also need to be revoked that were granted using Access Control Lists (ACLs), which can also be reverted to its defaults.

In case you want to reset the Windows Registry and its permissions to their default values without having to reinstall the OS, you may use the guide below.

Reset Registry permissions (ACL) using SubInACL

Registry permissions refer to the access granted to the user accounts so that they are allowed to make changes to the Registry. In case you want to revoke that access, you can restore the default values using SubInACL – a command-line tool by Microsoft used to manage Windows Registry.

Although SubInACL has been deprecated by Microsoft, it can still be downloaded from their archives. At the moment, there is no alternative for this tool. Nonetheless, after having tested it on the latest operating systems (Windows 11), it can be concluded that it works and is safe to use.

Here are the steps to revert Windows Registry permissions to its default values using SubInACL:

Note: The process involves making changes to the Windows Registry. Misconfiguration of critical values in the system’s registry could be fatal for your operating system. Therefore, we insist that you create a system restore point or a complete system image backup before proceeding forward with the process.

You can also use our top selection of disk imaging and backup software so you never lose your data or operating system again.

  1. Click the link below to download SubInACL:

    Download SubInACL from Microsoft Archive

  2. Run the downloaded package to install SubInACL.

    The installation wizard will launch.

  3. Click Next.

    Proceed to install SubInACL
    Proceed to install SubInACL
  4. Accept the licensing terms.

    Agree to the license agreement
    Agree to the license agreement
  5. Note down the installation path and click “Install now.”

    Install SubInACL
    Install SubInACL
  6. Click Finish when the installation completes.

    Close the installation wizard
    Close the installation wizard
  7. Now search for “Notepad” in the Start menu and click “Run as administrator.”

    run Notepad with elevated rights
    Run Notepad with elevated rights
  8. Paste the following commands in Notepad:

    These commands grant both the “Administrators” and the “System” user groups Full Control of certain Registry hives and the system (C) drive.

    subinacl /subkeyreg HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE /grant=administrators=f
    subinacl /subkeyreg HKEY_CURRENT_USER /grant=administrators=f
    subinacl /subkeyreg HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT /grant=administrators=f
    subinacl /subdirectories %SystemDrive% /grant=administrators=f
    
    subinacl /subkeyreg HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE /grant=system=f
    subinacl /subkeyreg HKEY_CURRENT_USER /grant=system=f
    subinacl /subkeyreg HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT /grant=system=f
    subinacl /subdirectories %SystemDrive% /grant=system=f
    Paste commands in Notepad
    Paste commands in Notepad
  9. Click File and then click “Save as.”

    Save as file
    Save as file
  10. In the “Save as” window, navigate to the location where SubInACL was installed.

  11. Set”File type” to “All files.”

  12. Enter a custom name for the file followed by “.bat“, which will save the file as a batch file.

  13. Click Save.

    Save Notepad file as batch file
    Save Notepad file as a batch file
  14. Now press the Windows key + R to open the Run Command box.

  15. Type in “cmd” and press CTRL + Shift + Enter to launch an elevated Command Prompt.

  16. Now use the “cd” command to change the working directory to the location where SubInACL was installed.

    cd /d "[PathToInstallationLocation]"
    Change directory to SubInACL installation location
    Change directory to SubInACL installation location
  17. Now enter the name of the batch file, including its extension “.bat”, as in this example:

    Execute the batch file
    Execute the batch file

After performing these steps above, the batch file and the SubInACL tool will start its function, which is restoring the Registry permissions to its default values.

This process can take some time, and you will be able to see its progress inside the Command Prompt.

Windows Registry permissions resetting to default values
Windows Registry permissions resetting to default values

Once the process is complete, you may close the Command Prompt, and a system reboot is advised.

The method given above resets the Registry permissions to its default values. However, if you want to reset the Windows Registry completely, a different approach will need to be taken.

Reset Windows Registry to default settings

There are multiple ways to reset the Windows Registry entirely and bring it back to its default values. If your operating system is encountering issues, then you can adopt any of the methods below to reset the Registry.

Reset Windows Registry with system reset

Resetting the PC restores all system settings as well as the Windows Registry to its defaults. However, you can choose whether you want to keep your personal files and data.

A Windows reset can be performed both locally, where the same system files are used to restore the settings, or from the cloud, where fresh files are downloaded from Microsoft Servers. The latter might take a bit more time depending on your internet connectivity.

I suggest that you perform a cloud reset, which can be performed with these steps:

  1. Press the Windows Key + i to open the Settings app.

  2. Click System.

  3. Now go to Recovery settings.

    Open Recovery settings
    Open Recovery settings
  4. Click “Reset PC.”

    Reset PC
    Reset PC

    The reset PC wizard will now open.

  5. Select “Keep my files.”

    Keep files and data
    Keep files and data
  6. Select “Cloud download.”

    Cloud download
    Cloud download
  7. Click Next.

    proceed with resetting Windows
    proceed with resetting Windows
  8. Click Reset.

    Reset Windows from Cloud while keeping files
    Reset Windows from Cloud while keeping files

The wizard will now begin downloading fresh files from Microsoft servers and then reset your computer. This step can take a while depending upon your internet connection, and your PC may restart.

Once done, your Windows Registry will also be reverted to its default settings.

Reset Windows Registry with system restore

You can also restore the system to an earlier state if you are encountering issues with your PC. This way, any changes made during this time will be undone. Of course, for this to happen, you must have a system restore point when the Windows Registry was already in its default state.

To restore your computer to an earlier state, use these steps:

  1. Press the Windows key + R to open the Run Command box.

  2. Type in “sysdm.cpl” to open the System Properties applet.

  3. Switch to the “System protection” tab and click “System Restore.”

    Open System Restore settings
    Open System Restore settings

    The System Restore wizard will now launch.

  4. Select “Choose a different restore point” and click Next.

    Choose a different restore point
    Choose a different restore point
  5. Check the option “Show more restore points.”

  6. Select a restore point where the Windows registry was in its default state, and click Next.

    Select a restore point
    Select a restore point
  7. On the confirmation screen, click Finish.

    Complete the restoration process
    Complete the restoration process

The operating system will now begin its restoration process. Once completed, the Windows Registry should be reverted to its default settings, provided that the selected restoration point has the default Registry values.

Takeaway

Resetting Windows or restoring the PC to an earlier state where the Windows Registry was in its default values automatically resets the Registry permissions, or the Registry ACLs as well. However, if you use SubInACL to reset the Registry permissions only, then the rest of the Registry values will remain as-is.

Depending on what you want to achieve, you can apply the respective method to restore your Registry defaults from above.

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Subhan Zafar is an established IT professional with interests in Windows and Server infrastructure testing and research, and is currently working with Itechtics as a research consultant. He has studied Electrical Engineering and is also certified by Huawei (HCNA & HCNP Routing and Switching).

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