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What is Windows Registry? Why is it used and how to use it

Ever wondered where does Windows store all the configuration settings, options for all the software and hardware? There must be something to store all this kind of data. In such a situation, Windows Registry comes into play.

Windows Registry, also known as Registry, is a database used to store settings, options and other values of all the hardware and software that are installed on the operating system which in this case is Microsoft Windows. These settings, options are stored in the form of Hive, Keys and Subkeys in the registry.

Whenever a user installs new software, a new key/subkey is formed — which contains a version of the software, its location and how to start the software — and added to the registry. In case of hardware or device drivers, the initial configurational settings are stored as key/ subkey in the registry.

Even when these software or hardware devices are used, and their configurational settings are changed, it gets updated in the registry as well. These values are retrieved by the software and hardware in their run time to customise the user experience according to his previously applied settings as well.

If there are multiple users on a system, each user will have a different set of keys in the registry for him, which will customise the software options and other things according to his preference.

The registry also reveals the run-time information of the system as it serves as an index to the operation of the kernel.

Earlier all these kind of settings were stored in .INI configuration settings, which were scattered throughout the disk, but now all these are stored in the registry — in the .REG file extension.

But it is not necessary for the program to use the registry for storing all these values, the developer can decide whether to use it or partially use it or entirely not.

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How to access it?

What is Windows Registry? Why is it used and how to use itAccessing registry is pretty easy is you have complete admin control. Follow the steps to open Registry Editor.

  • Open the Run box in Windows using the key combo Windows Key + R
  • Enter regedit and hit Enter
  • Click on Yes  to User Account Control

Editing Registry

You don’t need to be a tech geek to edit the registry. Whenever you have to edit the registry or specific key value, go to the specific location of the registry value or key in the Registry Editor, which is to be changed. After reaching the desired value, double click on the value.

A dialogue box will appear, where you can change the value of keys.

Just ensure that whatever you are doing, you are fully aware because changing key values to some invalid values will cause the software to crash or not work correctly and hardware to stop responding. It can cause the whole system to crash as well. So if you’re a beginner, consult someone with more experience before tinkering with the registry.

Creating Registry Files

What is Windows Registry? Why is it used and how to use itThere are two ways in which you can create a new .REG file.

  • Using a text editor such as Notepad
  • Using an old .REG file

Using a Text Editor

All you need to know to create a file is the correct format of how .REG files are written. If you know how they are written, then

  • Open a text editor such as Notepad and type the full key value or instructions in the correct format.
  • Click on Save As
  • Save the file with .REG extension.

You now have a registry file with you.

Using an Old .REG file

If you don’t know the format, don’t worry. Use an old .REG file. Just follow these steps.

  • Export the .REG file you want to edit so that you can import it back after you are done editing/changing the current one.
  • Make changes according to your requirements by adding values or modifying the older ones.
  • Save it and export it as well.

If you want your new file to work, let it be as it is and if you want it to as before, delete the newly made file from the registry and import the old file you exported in the beginning.

Importing a .REG file

Importing a file simply means executing a .REG file. All you need to do is to double click on the .REG file, which you want to import and click on Yes in the next prompt to confirm. You can merge key values with one that already exists through importing files.

Exporting a .REG file

Follow the steps below to exporting a registry file.

  • Open Registry Editor
  • Select the key you want to export
  • Click on File and then on Export
  • Enter a file name and browse for the desired location
  • Click on Ok to export

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