Windows Registry

What is Windows Registry?

The Windows Registry refers to the storage that holds all related information, data, options, settings, and other values for the hardware and software installed on the PC across all versions of Microsoft Windows operating systems.

Technically, it refers to the centralized data storage in a hierarchical database structure. Its main function is to store the configuration settings of the apps and manage resources on the Windows operating system.

Understanding Windows Registry

Understanding Windows Registry

Typically, you can consider the Windows Registry as a hierarchical database. You can say that, with all the contents of it, the Windows Registry is the DNA of sorts for the operating system.

It contains all data and information related to the settings and configuration of almost everything that is on your computer, such as:

In addition to that, you will also find other relevant information regarding the device configuration, the respective tuning parameters, and user preferences.

The app settings are usually stored in separate files for each. The registry is the central place to find all the settings of all applications and is available in database form.

You can use the registry for much more than just settings, providing you with near-instant access.

In fact, the software and operating system refer to the Windows registry for the necessary information continually during its runtime.

The folders that you see in the Windows Registry are called keys, and their settings are more granular.

It consists of both codes and numbers. All these codes and numbers dictate settings that anyone can normally think of.

For example, they contain the definitions of how fast a letter would appear repeatedly on the screen when and if you pressed and held down the specific key to that letter on the keyboard.

In an ideal sense, users can have a much better user experience and a much faster PC by customizing the registry with the help of the Windows Registry Editor, more commonly referred to as regedit.

This is made possible due to the granular nature of the registry itself.

You can see the complete hive list of the Windows Registry on your computer. For that, simply run regedit to open it, and then steer to the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\hivelist key. The list will open as follows:

What are the Components of the Windows Registry?

In the Windows Registry you will find registry hives or folders that categorize the data stored in the registry. Then there are the registry keys or subfolders related to a specific type of data set.

Read Also:  Windows Registry Keys List

And there are registry values containing the data affecting the programs, apps, operating system, and others.

However, ideally, the two main components of the registry are the keys and values. The keys may contain both subkeys and values.

The registry keys are pretty much the same as the folders and contain similar objects. Typically, there is a registry key for every Windows system and all the hives in the system are listed in it.

Every key in the registry acts as the starting point, often referred to as the root of the registry tree, while the subkeys and their values are located under the root.

The registry values, on the other hand, are much more similar to the files and are non-container objects.

These are actually settings by themselves. These refer to the name or data pairs and are referenced distinctly from the registry keys, though they are stowed within keys using a unique name written in non-case-sensitive letters.

If you take a deeper and closer look into the components of the Windows Registry, you will see that it is not just a simple, large file.

On the contrary, it is a set of files consisting of a large number of separate files. There are more folders within these hives.

These files are called hives, and each of them comprises a registry tree.

There are also a few supporting files in the different registry hives. These are as follows:

There are some hives that do not have any associated files, are volatile, and are typically created and managed by the system in memory.

This means that these hives are temporary and are typically created every time the computer boots.

For example:

However, all these are database files, and can be read by only Kernel32, RegEdit, and Regedt32.

And, in Windows 2000, there is also a backup copy of the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\System key stored. This helps in troubleshooting a problem.

What is the Purpose of a Registry?

The Windows Registry helps in operating and managing the computer. It mainly helps in configuring the settings of vital programs and applications and allows easy access to vital resources, data, information, and settings.

The different keys and values of the registry perform as the classified database of the system and allow for the storage of all vital information related to the different hardware and software installed in the computer.

This basically helps in finding out the errors in the system, if any, as well as monitoring the performance of the overall system.

It also helps advanced users, the tech support team, and administrators make changes both at the administrative and root levels to keep it operational.

In addition to that, the registry also helps in:

Most importantly, it creates a new key or folder while installing new software to store all relevant data and allow easy access.

Is It Safe to Edit the Registry?

No, unless you are sure and positive and know exactly what you are doing, it is not safe to edit the registry. This is because any errors may damage the system beyond repair.

Moreover, for your information, Microsoft typically does not support making any changes to the registry.

This is actually an action that should be performed by advanced and expert users, and that too after creating a proper backup of it so that errors can be undone and the system restored.

Therefore, exercise extreme caution while editing the registry, and never, ever, follow any edit suggestions from unofficial, unsolicited, or unreliable sources.

Or else, apart from causing serious damage to the operating system, erroneous registry editing may also have the following effect:

Therefore, to summarize, if you do not have the expertise, leave the registry alone to prevent breaking the operating system and having to reinstall it completely, which, needless to say, might result in a loss of data.

Where is the Registry Stored?

Ideally, in Windows 10, the registry and the system-wide settings are stored in files in the config folder, which is under C:\Windows\System32\Config\.

However, the user account of every Windows user has a separate NTUSER. dat file, which contains the user-specific keys and is under C:\Windows\Users\Name directory.

As for the set of discrete files in the registry, which are also referred to as registry hives as said earlier, these can be located in different folders, such as:

The system cache of the entire registry file, or a portion of it, is also stored in memory because it is the fundamental component of a Windows system and is accessed continuously during the operation.

Apart from that, the actual registry files, or hives, are also stored in:

As for the boot configuration, it is stored in [System Reserved]\Boot\BCD, which is also a registry hive.

Are Registry Keys Secure?

Yes, the registry keys are quite secure by themselves since they are protected by Access Control Lists or ACLs. In spite of that, these keys are not secure enough to store passwords and other secrets in plain text.

Ideally, since the registry itself is centralized, security may be compromised while working with the registry and may allow unwanted access to protected information and system resources.

Moreover, you can add to the security aspect even more by:

All in all, it can be safely said that the registry key will not cause any harm in and of itself because one must have the necessary permissions to access the registry in the first place.




This article clearly explains the utility of the Windows Registry, though it may be a bit difficult to navigate and use for some users.

However, with the varied components and advantages offered by the registry, Windows users typically have the assurance of overall system security and consistency in the process.