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A Simple Guide to the Windows Registry

     A lot of users are finding ways in order to customize and optimize their pc to improve its performance and get rid of system errors. However, there are certain components of the computer that cannot be modified without resorting to the Windows registry. But because most people are unfamiliar with it, they tend to shy away from using this tool. As such, here are the basics regarding editing the registry through regedit.exe, and how you can modify it to your advantage.

What is the Windows Registry?

The Windows Registry pertains to the database which stores all the information regarding your computer’s hardware, software, and its user accounts. Hence, whenever you use your computer, your operating system looks for the settings of each component that you use in the registry.

Normally, your operating system automatically creates the “regedit” files of all the installed components in your system. Therefore, there is no need for you to setup each entry manually. Also, it is not recommended for novice users to alter its entries, particularly if they don’t know the impact of each change to their system.

How come there is a registry?

Prior to Windows 95, operating systems store INI files. These INI files store information on both the hardware and the software installed in the computer. However, Microsoft, the developer of the Windows operating system, deemed that this structure is chaotic since each INI file is scattered in the hard drive. Also, computer users can possibly damage the system once they modify or delete the INI files.

To resolve this problem, the registry was made. It serves as the database of all system-related information. Thus, changing the system settings has become much easier since the introduction of this database.

However, this tool is only applicable to the Windows platform. It is applied to operating systems starting from the Windows 95 version. Other platforms such as Apple and Linux use another way other than this tool to store pertinent system information.

What are the parts of the registry?

Upon opening the “regedit.exe”, you will see the binary tree. It is a hierarchical display of regedit components, found at the left side of the dialog box. It starts from My Computer at the top, and this is subdivided into key components such as:






The HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT section contains the information about the Component Object Model (COM) classes and file associations. Thus, whenever you open a file, your system pulls up the entries to see which program can open your file.

The HKEY_USERS and HKEY_CURRENT_USER categories store user data such as Windows environment settings and hardware/software preferences. Your computer looks for these entries whenever a user logs in the system so that it can load that user’s desktop based on his/her preferred settings.

HKEY_LOCAL MACHINE pertains to all information regarding your local machine. Therefore, all your hardware, software, system and security settings are contained in this component.

Lastly, the HKEY_CURRENT_CONFIG section holds the data about the current hardware utilized by your system. This data is regenerated in every boot.

How do you access the registry?

To do this, you use the Registry Editor, or regedit.exe. This tool is located in the Windows folder in your local drive. To open the regedit.exe, follow these steps:

* Click the Start Button.

* In the Search programs and files field, type “regedit” then click Enter. This program will populate above the Search bar.

* Click the regedit application to open it.

Whenever you install a new program, create a new user profile, or add a new hardware, the Windows platform creates the corresponding regedit information for each action. The regedit.exe lets you see all the registry entries present in the system.

How do you modify the entries in the registry?

Upon opening the regedit.exe, you will see the binary tree. This tree contains all the key components in your system, which is represented by a folder. Each component houses the regedit entries, which you can change freely if you are using an Administrator account.

For example, let’s say you want to change the username of the current user. Thus, you need to find its corresponding entry first. Click HKEY_CURRENT_USER folder then click “Volatile Environment” to see the registry entries for all users. Finally, to change the username, you simply replace the value set in the “username” key.

Upon finishing this article, you should be able to understand the functions and importance of the Windows Registry in your system. Through this, you now have a greater scope in modifying your computer’s settings.

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Posted on 2014-10-23, By: *

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