a Windows System Registry?
registry is one of the most
important parts of a
computer system. Not to be tampered with lightly, the registry is a system-defined
database used by the Windows
operating system to
store configuration information. Most Windows
data to the registry during installation,
and system components store and retrieve
configuration data through the registry. The data stored in the
registry varies according to the version of Microsoft Windows.
Registry Structure: The Tree, Nodes and
The data is stored in the registry in a
structure format, for those
who have never opened the Registry Editor, you'd find its layout is similar to what
you would see when you open your Windows Explorer. Each
the registry tree contains a
key which may have both subkeys
and data entries (called values). Depending on the application you
run, the application may need only the associated key while others
may need the value data set for that specific key. A hive in the
registry is a group of keys, subkeys, and values in the registry
that has a set of supporting files containing backups of its data.
The Windows boot process automatically retrieves data from these
[ Click to Enlarge
Screenshot from Registry Editor ]
Key Terms To
Understanding the Windows System Registry.
A database used by the Windows operating system to store
configuration information. The Registry consists of the following
A family of operating systems for personal computers. Windows
provides a graphical user interface (GUI), virtual memory
management, multitasking, and support for many peripheral devices.
More Related Terms
How Applications Use the Registry
Applications use the registry in several ways. They can add data
to your registry by creating or opening existing keys. When
applications add to the registry, the data is sorted by computer-specific data or user-specific
data. Through this distinction applications can support multiple
users and locate user profile data. An application can close a key
and write the data it contains into the registry and applications can delete a value from a key or delete a key. Applications can also save specific
data, or parts of the system registry in a file to load that file
into the registry which is common when large amounts of data is
being handled, or when multiple entries are being added to the
Problems Associated With The Registry
Users can experience computer problems caused by system registry errors for several reasons.
Problems with the computer itself will usually occur because of invalid or
missing keys in the Windows registry. Some signs of trouble include computer
system crashes, stalls, or even a noticeably slower operating speed. Of course knowing what causes errors in your system registry can go a long way
to avoiding registry problems in the future. In most cases, problems with
your registry occur from user actions mainly involving the installation or
removal of software and
hardware on your computer. If you frequently install
or uninstall programs, delete startup
programs, change hardware and do not
remove old drivers (or have corrupted hardware drivers), delete software
which was not properly uninstalled, or have installed a program with
on your computer, then you may experience problems with your
Windows system registry.
Editing a Registry
You can edit the Registry directly by using the Registry Editor provided
with the operating system. However you must take great care because causing errors
in the Registry could disable your computer. You should not edit
registry data that does not belong to your application unless it is
absolutely necessary. If there is an error in the registry, your system may
not function properly. If this happens, you can restore the registry to the
state it was in when you last started the computer successfully. Editing a
registry can be a difficult task and you should read through the help files
for your specific Windows operating system before giving any further thought
to editing the registry yourself.
Registry Backup and Restore
Some versions of
Windows operating systems such as Windows 98, will create a
backup of your
system registry for you everyday provided your computer was rebooted during that
calendar day. Unfortunately, the problems you may wish to fix with a registry
restore may be included in the most recent backup, so it is advisable to
start making your own registry backups instead of relying on those
generated by Windows. It is important to note that the process for backing up
and restoring a registry will differ between versions of Windows, and you
should search the Microsoft Web site for exact instructions pertaining to your
version of Windows.
Windows ME and
Windows XP make system restore a bit
easier as both have a System Restore feature that securely stores
data that can later be used to put your system back to a previous state when
it was known to function correctly.
If your last restore point had
problems for example a
worm, you'll face the probability that
this information will also be restored to your system. It is important to
remember that achieving a good system registry restore is dependant on you
having taken the proactive steps to creating a good, usable backup to
restore from. It is also important to read help files and search the
Microsoft online Knowledgebase for registry backup and restore information
for the version of windows you are running.
Registry Cleaner and Restore Utilities
For many, the process of cleaning and restoring a system registry is
made easy with the use of third-party software utilities. A simple Google
Web search for registry cleaning utilities will provide you with a plethora
of results. For the most part, all registry repair and cleaner utilities
provide you with an easy way to create registry backups, clean out your
registry, and repair problems with your Windows system registry some will
provide additional features, but those are the basics to look for. Once you
have installed your registry cleaner of choice, you will then set-up the
basic options offered by the software (such as
directories to store logs,
backups, choose between automatic repair or to see the checklist of
problems and confirm repair of each item. The cleaner utility will check
areas storing information related to custom controls, software locations,
shared DLLs, Startup programs,
add/remove programs, and more.
You will have an option to create a system
registry backup from the current state before making any changes to your
Windows system registry as recommended by the cleaning utility. It is very
important to create this backup, just incase something goes wrong when
problems in the registry are repaired.
If you've make the decision to use a registry
cleaning and repair utility to fix existing problems with your Windows
System registry, you'll find you don't necessarily have to clean your
registry frequently. But since you have the utility on your system creating
registry backups is easily done with just a few clicks and can save you
from total reformats and loss or corruption of your system in the future.
Did You Know...
Even spyware can leave behind keys in your system registry
that may not be removed by all anti-spyware software. This is
why some pop-ups and other spyware activities will persist on
your computer after a system reboot. The good news is that
"registry scanning" is a feature being included in many newer
Vangie 'Aurora' Beal
Writer, www.Webopedia.com Last updated: May 27, 2005
Microsoft MSDN Library
This Microsoft knowledgebase section provides a complete overview of the Windows
Microsoft MSDN Library
How to back up, edit, and restore the registry in Windows 2000.
Restore the Windows Registry From a Backup
If your Windows software does not start or run correctly, then your Registry may
be corrupted. Before you reinstall Windows, and all of your programs, try
restoring a previous version of the Windows Registry. The restore procedure
differs for Windows 95 and Windows 98.
Advantage of Windows XP's System Restore
The System Restore component of Windows XP is the biggest "undo" available for
A community where experts and novices help each other solve computing problems.
Registry Repair Software Review
TopTen Reviews offers an excellent comparison of the top Registry Repair
Innovative Solutions is a leading developer of Windows software focusing
especially on system utilities and entertainment software.
iolo technologies, LLC designs, manufactures, and sells award-winning software
that increases the performance of computers running Microsoft Windows.
Diagnose your PC -
C|net does a side-by-side comparison of two popular Windows utilities.
TechBuilder: Clean The Windows Registry To Keep PCs Lean & Mean
This TechBuilder article describes how you can use a free, "crippleware" version
of a Registry clean-up tool to identify content in need of removal from the