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System Registry

-is a central, hierarchical database where the operating system stores its configuration information. The registry contains information about installed applications, desktop settings, profiles of all computer users, network components, security, and system hardware information (drivers, devices, available memory). Windows constantly references this data during operation. The registry task is similar to the function of the /etc directory on Linux systems.

The Windows Registry is the successor to .ini files, which had serious flaws and limitations, and were very inconvenient to use. The Windows NT 3.5 operating system was the first Windows operating system to feature a registry resembling its current form. The registry is used by the following Windows components, among others:

  • application installers,
  • device detection program,
  • windows kernel,
  • PnP manager (Plug and Play),
  • device drivers,
  • administrative tools (Control Panel applets and programs included in the Administrative Tools group are the safest programs to use to modify the registry),
  • user profiles,
  • hardware profiles (unlike .ini files, the registry supports multiple hardware configurations).


Registry master keys

  • HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT file type associations with applications that support them are saved here (e.g. thanks to the information in this key, the system knows that the .doc file format is opened by e.g. Word). In fact, this key is a pointer to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Classes.
  • HKEY_CURRENT_USERThis key stores the profile settings of the currently logged in user, e.g. color scheme, fonts used, personalizations made.
  • HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE contains the most important information about the computer configuration necessary for the proper start of Windows - installed hardware and programs and system parameters. The data applies to all users of a given system.
  • HKEY_USERS Contains the profile settings of all users who have ever logged on to a given computer in the keys corresponding to their Security ID numbers in the system.
  • HKEY_CURRENT_CONFIG stores configuration data about the currently used Windows hardware profile. The data is actually downloaded from the location HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Hardware\Profiles.


Practical notes

  • Everywhere in the editor where the key name starts with HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE, the changes made apply to all users!
  • In order for the changes to apply only to the current user, they should be entered in the HKEY_CURRENT_USER key for the currently logged in user or HKEY_USERS\[user_ID] for the given user.
  • Also remember that when entering paths in the registry, we use \\ instead of \. E.g. C:\\Windows\\System32
  • The installer of each program enters data into the system registry. When we uninstall such a program, the uninstaller should remove these entries. It is quite common, however, for programs to leave keys in the registry that are useless. Leaving entries slow down the system because Windows has to parse many keys that mean nothing. There are programs that clean the Registry of this type of "junk". One of them is the RegCleaner application.
  • The speed of our system depends, among other things, on the size of the register. The larger the register, the slower the system. For this reason, we should optimize the content of this database, through the so-called. registry defragmentation.
  • Thanks to defragmentation, the size of the registry will be significantly reduced. For this purpose, you can use one of the registry defragmentation programs. For example, Auslogics Registry Defrag, 10bit SmartDefrag, Baku, JkDefrag are available on the Internet.
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