The Windows Registry is the core of a Microsoft Windows operating system and is the main repository for all of the settings, information and configuration data necessary to keep the system running correctly. It is an organized database of key-value pairs that is used by the Windows operating system and its associated programs. The Registry contains a wide variety of settings and data, from low-level system configuration settings to user preferences and application data.
The Windows Registry is divided into five main components:
1. Keys – The keys are the top level objects in the Windows Registry and are analogous to folders in a file system. The keys can be further subdivided into subkeys and hives. The root keys form the base of the Registry and contain general purpose settings, like the details of the logged on user and those of the computer itself. Subkeys are subsections of the root keys and typically contain settings that are specific to certain applications or services.
2. Values – A value is a data element stored in the Registry. They can be either of the two types available: string values or binary values. String values are text-based and contain readable characters, while binary values are data encoded in a format that is not readily readable.
3. Hive Files – Hive files are Registry files that contain Registry data. They are usually located in the \Windows\System32\config folder.
4. Imports and Exports – The Registry can be backed up and restored using the Regedit utility. Registry files can be imported, exported and manipulated using the Regedit utility.
5. Registry Editor – The Registry Editor is a UI tool for viewing and manipulating the Windows Registry. It is included in all versions of Windows and provides a means of viewing and modifying the settings stored in the Registry.