Data Converter can easily decode cryptic Registry values

When a Windows application is misbehaving then it can be useful to check its Registry settings, and these are often very easy to understand. When you see that 7-Zip has PATH value set to C:\Program Files\7-Zip, for instance, it’s not difficult to figure out what this means. And if you find Paint.NET’s CheckForUpdates value is now zero then, again, you won’t need a degree in Computer Science to understand the consequences.

Binary values can be rather more cryptic, though. Browse to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Migration, for instance, and you’ll see a REG_BINARY value “IE Installed Date”, which on our test PC was 86cde7a6cf66ce01. Uh, right. If you want to decode that, you’ll need help from a tool like Data Converter.

This tiny program (a 34.4 KB download) looks more or less like any other unit conversion tool. There’s a list of "Convert from" formats, plenty of "Convert to" options, a "Convert" button, and not really anything else. Most of the supported conversions are technical and computer-related, too (there’s no "metric to imperial" option here), but don’t let that put you off. The program can still be useful.

When you need to understand something like our hexadecimal time, for instance, first select "FileTime [Hexadecimal QWord (Intel)]" in the "From" box, then choose "Date & time" as your "To" option.

Now enter your value in the "Input" box, click "Convert", and that REG_BINARY nonsense should instantly be converted into something you can actually read (in our case, 86cde7a6cf66ce01 actually represented 18:15:28 on June 11th 2013).

If this doesn’t work for you, it could be that the program is using a different date/ time format. Check the length, for instance -- if it’s only 8 hex characters then it might be worth trying "DOS time and date" or "DOS date and time" as the "From" format (and there are other options in the list).

This isn’t just about dates and times, though. There are many other conversions on offer here: IP addresses, IP addresses ranges, IDN-encoded domain names, hex DWORDS and QWORDs, often with Intel or Motorola variants. If you’re not the technical type then it’s easy to get lost.

Don’t let that put you off, though. If you ever need to check Registry settings then Data Converter‘s ability to run these simple date conversions is enough on its own to justify the download. Go grab a copy for your troubleshooting toolkit.

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