All About Windows Registry and Its Workings

What is the Windows Registry?

The Windows Registry is merely the directory that stores options and settings for the Microsoft Windows operating system.

The Windows Registry contains all settings and information regarding the operating system software, hardware, non-operating system software, preferences of the PC, users, and more areas. The Windows Registry also stores the changes that you make to the file associations, Control Panel settings, installed software or system policies. The registry will come up with a window into the operation of the kernel – this will reveal the runtime information like the current active hardware and performance counters.

Use of Windows Registry in this manner is quite like the way Sysfs and Procfs reveal their runtime information through their file system.

A Windows registry cleaner, such as RegCure, cleans up the excess of INI files per program, which were used in the past for storing configuration settings for Windows programs. The INI files are usually scattered over the computer system and it becomes difficult to track them.

Two basic elements of Windows Registry

Windows Registry has two basic kinds of elements – values and keys.

  • Registry Value: This is name/data pair, which is stored in the Registry keys. The values are separate from the keys. The value names can have in them backslashes that could lead to faults if they had been referred to like paths. Windows API functions are involved in the query and manipulation of registry values; they take value names separately from the key path and then help in the identification of the parent key.
  • Registry Key: The keys are quite similar to the folders. Apart from the values, every Registry key has the capacity to contain subkeys, which may further contain subkeys and so on. Registry keys are referenced with a syntax that is similar to the Windows' path names; the backslashes that are used implies levels of hierarchy.

Only experienced users should edit the Windows Registry manually. This can be done by running regedit.exe or regedt32.exe, which are both included with the operating system. You will not find these in the Program listing. They are usually started through the Start then Run option or via the DOS command line. If you are not experienced, do not try editing the Registry as this can create difficulties in the Windows installation.

A computer can become unbootable with the change and removal of settings. Users who are experienced in manually editing the registry make backups of the registry data before they start editing. The internet has a lot of information about cleaning the Windows registry and how to repair it easily. Even if you do not have to deal with the Windows Registry, it surely makes sense to know about the Windows registry and it helps you to know where a particular configuration problem can occur. However, you must be very careful while editing the Windows Registry, as it comes with the disclaimer that any editing of the Registry should be done at one’s own risk.

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