24 days of Rust - winreg

Fact: I'm writing these articles and examples on a Windows machine and so far everything compiles and works as expected. Just so you know, Rust supports Windows in the top tier. I'm mentioning it here since a few people I talked to assumed Windows support was sort of secondary, bolted-on later. This is not the case.

The library ecosystem also supports different operating systems fairly well. There are even cross-platform crates for stuff usually associated with Linux, such as curses or coreutils. However, some crates support only Linux or Windows by design. One of them is winreg - a Rust API to access Windows Registry.

Read a single value

The Registry is a tree of keys, similar to a filesystem with folders. Keys may contain other keys or values.

extern crate winreg;

use winreg::enums::{HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE, KEY_READ};

let hklm = winreg::RegKey::predef(HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE);
let subkey =
    hklm.open_subkey_with_flags(r#"SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion"#, KEY_READ)
        .expect("Failed to open subkey");
let product_name: String = subkey.get_value("ProductName")
    .expect("Failed to read product name");
println!("Windows version: {}", product_name);
$ cargo run
Windows version: Windows 7 Home Premium

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE is one of the predefined root keys that we use as a starting point to find SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion. (We're using raw string literals here so that we don't have to escape backslashes.) This key contains a whole lot of subkeys, but also several values such as OS version, Service Pack version, build numer etc.

List installed programs

let subkey =
        .expect("Failed to open subkey");
for key in subkey.enum_keys() {
    let _ = key.and_then(|key| subkey.open_subkey_with_flags(key, KEY_READ))
        .and_then(|program_key| program_key.get_value("DisplayName"))
        .and_then(|name: String| {
            println!("{}", name);
$ cargo run
Git version 2.9.0
Microsoft Security Essentials
Intel PROSet Wireless
Stellarium 0.12.0
... and a lot more

Note: this is an incomplete list. See this MS technet answer for a much more detailed approach: Where does Add/Remove Programs get its information from in the registry

Tweaking the system

Note: you'll probably want to back up your Registry before making changes to it.

Windows 7 introduced thumbnail previews for taskbar icons, showing the contents of corresponding windows. In the screenshot below I moved the mouse cursor over Firefox icon and after a small delay a thumbnail appeared.

Yes, there is a small delay. But we can tweak it using the Registry. Here's a short tutorial on how to do it by hand, but we're going to use Rust and winreg.

    let delay = 100u32; // in milliseconds
    let hkcu = winreg::RegKey::predef(HKEY_CURRENT_USER);
    let subkey =
            .expect("Failed to open subkey");
    subkey.set_value("ExtendedUIHoverTime", &delay).expect("Failed to change thumbnail timeout");

If we navigate using regedit.exe to the key mentioned above, we'll notice there's now an ExtendedUIHoverTime value among others. That's the new timeout! Restart explorer.exe or log out and back in to see the change in delay.

Further reading

Photo by Joakim Poromaa Helger and shared under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License. See https://www.flickr.com/photos/poromaa/8470064817/