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The registry, or Windows Registry, is one of the most critical system components on your Windows computer.

It is a library or collection of databases that helps you configure and reconfigure settings on Windows operating systems.

Well, that’s just the surface-level definition to Windows Registry. In real life purposes, the registry becomes an important tool to fix your Windows PC.

You can use the registry in several ways to get almost every other error fixed on your computer. It basically helps you navigate to system files quickly and modify their functions.

You may get used to the registry a lot while fixing OS-related issues.

So, let’s get deep into it and understand what Windows Registry is, and for what it is used for.

The Windows Registry – Explained

As the name suggests, the registry is a database or an informational archive that registers your settings and system configurations.

The Windows Registry can be defined as a vast database of options, values and settings for hardware and programs running on your Windows PC.

It stores information on user preferences, app settings and more. You can find data linked to every program and hardware in the registry of your Windows computer.

Why Your PC Needs Registry?

By using such a database, Windows can easily run programs and help you modify configurations with little to no technical assistance.

In any operating system, the main purpose of a registry is storing configuration settings of components, both hardware and software. It could be installed software, an updated driver or even a new video game application.

Whenever you open a program or run an application on Windows,

  • the operating system accesses the Registry
  • retrieves data on program settings
  • checks the configuration of that particular program by identifying the keys, values and other registry entries
  • corresponds this data to execution

A combinative outcome of this process results into you being able to easily open a program or run software applications on Windows.

Why You Need the Registry – Uses & Applications

Now that you know how Windows OS uses the registry, it’s time to figure out how it can assist users with their computing woes.

To be honest, the Windows Registry is not something that should be fiddled with anyhow one wants. If you make a wrong entry or modify something unnecessarily on the registry, the repercussions can disable a program or even cause system failure.

Due to its critical function, the registry should be used carefully by all Windows users. With that said, the registry does have some unique benefits for Windows users.

With the Windows Registry, you can

  • identify unwanted components such as viruses, Trojans and spyware
  • alter device settings – from hard drives and memory cards to monitors, scanners, printers, and even gaming joysticks
  • control the system settings as frequently as needed
  • add more programs to settings with clean installations

These four capabilities can make you a master of your own device, viz., your Windows PC. You can do almost anything with these functions, making the registry an important tool to learn for Windows users.

How to Access Windows Registry?

To open the registry on your Windows PC, follow these three simple steps

  • Press ‘Windows’ and ‘R’ key on your keyboard to launch Run dialog
  • Type ‘regedit’ in the dialog box

How to Access Windows Registry?

  • Hit the Enter key or click on OK

The Registry Editor window shows up, where you can navigate to different system folders. You can change the configurations or settings by resetting the data value set for the particular keys or registry entries.

You can select a registry entry, click on the ‘Edit’ menu tab and choose to set a New value/key or modify the existing value.

Windows Registry Structure – Hive Names, Locations & Contents

Once you open the Registry Editor, browsing to the right entry and setting the value can be really confusing. There are six registry hives (see below), and all the information from system databases gets stored across these.

File Type  Hive Name What it Stores
 Software  HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESOFTWARE Data on all software items. Parameters for Windows performance parameters. Default Windows settings.
 System  HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESYSTEM  Data related to hardware and device configurations.
 Services  HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESAM Database for all Security Accounts Manager services running on your Windows PC.
 Security  HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESECURITY  Information about security. Options to reset the admin permissions.
 Default  HKEY_USERS.DEFAULT Default user settings. The NTUSER.dat file database – only for current user.
 User HKEY_USERS (HKU)  Data about all user settings. Associated subkeys from other User-type hives. Information for both, generic and registered users.
User HKEY_CURRENT_USER (HKCU) Database for current user. Limited to registered Windows users only.
System HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT (HKCR) Descriptions for file type, file extension, etc.
System HKEY_CURRENT_CONFIG (HKCC) All system configuration details.

You can access these hives and change the values, keys and entries to modify the components. If you want to copy the entire Registry database, you’ll find the REG.dat file in the following address:

My Computer (ThisPC)/C: Drive/Windows/System32/Config

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