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The registry is a hierarchical database that stores low-level settings for the Microsoft Windows operating system and for applications that opt to use the registry. The registry also allows access to counters for profiling system performance. In simple terms, the registry or Windows Registry contains information, settings, options, and other values for programs and hardware installed on all versions of Microsoft Windows operating systems.
For example, when a program is installed, a new subkey containing settings like a program's location, its version, and how to start the program, are all added to the Windows Registry. When introduced with Windows 3. Windows 95 and Windows NT extended its use to rationalise and centralise the information in the profusion of INI files , which held the configurations for individual programs, and were stored at various locations.
NET Framework applications use XML files for configuration, while portable applications usually keep their configuration files with their executables.
Prior to the Windows Registry,. INI files stored each program's settings as a text file, often located in a shared location that did not provide user-specific settings in a multi-user scenario. By contrast, the Windows Registry stores all application settings in one logical repository but a number of discrete files and in a standardized form.
According to Microsoft, this offers several advantages over. As well, strongly typed data can be stored in the registry, as opposed to the text information stored in.
This is a benefit when editing keys manually using RegEdit. Because user-based registry settings are loaded from a user-specific path rather than from a read-only system location, the registry allows multiple users to share the same machine, and also allows programs to work for less privileged users.
Because the registry is a database, it offers improved system integrity with features such as atomic updates. If two processes attempt to update the same registry value at the same time, one process's change will precede the other's and the overall consistency of the data will be maintained. Where changes are made to. INI files, such race conditions can result in inconsistent data that does not match either attempted update.
Note however that NTFS provides such support for the file system as well, so the same guarantees could, in theory, be obtained with traditional configuration files. The registry contains two basic elements: Registry keys are container objects similar to folders. Registry values are non-container objects similar to files. Keys may contain values and subkeys.
Keys are referenced with a syntax similar to Windows' path names, using backslashes to indicate levels of hierarchy. Keys must have a case insensitive name without backslashes. The hierarchy of registry keys can only be accessed from a known root key handle which is anonymous but whose effective value is a constant numeric handle that is mapped to the content of a registry key preloaded by the kernel from a stored "hive", or to the content of a subkey within another root key, or mapped to a registered service or DLL that provides access to its contained subkeys and values.
There are seven predefined root keys, traditionally named according to their constant handles defined in the Win32 API, or by synonymous abbreviations depending on applications:. Like other files and services in Windows, all registry keys may be restricted by access control lists ACLs , depending on user privileges, or on security tokens acquired by applications, or on system security policies enforced by the system these restrictions may be predefined by the system itself, and configured by local system administrators or by domain administrators.
Different users, programs, services or remote systems may only see some parts of the hierarchy or distinct hierarchies from the same root keys. Registry values are referenced separately from registry keys. Each registry value stored in a registry key has a unique name whose letter case is not significant. Registry values may contain backslashes in their names, but doing so makes them difficult to distinguish from their key paths when using some legacy Windows Registry API functions whose usage is deprecated in Win The terminology is somewhat misleading, as each registry key is similar to an associative array , where standard terminology would refer to the name part of each registry value as a "key".
In this sense, the entire registry was like a single associative array where the registry keys in both the registry sense and dictionary sense formed a hierarchy, and the registry values were all strings.
When the bit registry was created, so was the additional capability of creating multiple named values per key, and the meanings of the names were somewhat distorted.
Each value can store arbitrary data with variable length and encoding, but which is associated with a symbolic type defined as a numeric constant defining how to parse this data. The standard types are:. Technically, they are predefined handles with known constant values to specific keys that are either maintained in memory, or stored in hive files stored in the local filesystem and loaded by the system kernel at boot time and then shared with various access rights between all processes running on the local system, or loaded and mapped in all processes started in a user session when the user logs on the system.
The Windows Logo Program has specific requirements for where different types of user data may be stored, and that the concept of least privilege be followed so that administrator-level access is not required to use an application.
Even though the registry presents itself as an integrated hierarchical database, branches of the registry are actually stored in a number of disk files called hives. Some hives are volatile and are not stored on disk at all. This hive records information about system hardware and is created each time the system boots and performs hardware detection. Individual settings for users on a system are stored in a hive disk file per user. Not all hives are loaded at any one time.
At boot time, only a minimal set of hives are loaded, and after that, hives are loaded as the operating system initializes and as users log in or whenever a hive is explicitly loaded by an application.
The registry contains important configuration information for the operating system, for installed applications as well as individual settings for each user and application. If a user wants to edit the registry manually, Microsoft recommends that a backup of the registry be performed before the change. After this, the user needs to manually remove any reference to the uninstalled program in the registry.
This is usually done by using RegEdit. Windows Registry can be edited manually using programs such as RegEdit. The registry editor for the 3. REG files also known as Registration entries are text-based human-readable files for exporting and importing portions of the registry. On Windows 9x and NT 4. REG files are compatible with Windows and later. The Registry Editor on Windows on these systems also supports exporting. Data is stored in.
REG files using the following syntax: REG files can also be used to remove registry data. To remove a key and all subkeys, values and data , the key name must be preceded by a minus sign "-". Windows group policies can change registry keys for a number of machines or individual users based on policies. When a policy first takes effect for a machine or for an individual user of a machine, the registry settings specified as part of the policy are applied to the machine or user settings.
Windows will also look for updated policies and apply them periodically, typically every 90 minutes. Whether a machine or user is within the scope of a policy or not is defined by a set of rules which can filter on the location of the machine or user account in organizational directory, specific users or machine accounts or security groups.
More advanced rules can be set up using Windows Management Instrumentation expressions. Such rules can filter on properties such as computer vendor name, CPU architecture, installed software, or networks connected to. For instance, the administrator can create a policy with one set of registry settings for machines in the accounting department and policy with another lock-down set of registry settings for kiosk terminals in the visitors area.
When a machine is moved from one scope to another e. When a policy is changed it is automatically re-applied to all machines currently in its scope. The policy is edited through a number of administrative templates which provides a user interface for picking and changing settings. The set of administrative templates is extensible and software packages which support such remote administration can register their own templates.
The registry can be manipulated in a number of ways from the command line. It is also possible to use Reg. Here is a sample to display the value of the registry value Version:.
Registry permissions can be manipulated through the command line using RegIni. Windows PowerShell comes with a registry provider which presents the registry as a location type similar to the file system. Also like the file system, PowerShell uses the concept of a current location which defines the context on which commands by default operate. The Get-ChildItem also available through the alias ls or dir retrieves the child keys of the current location.
By using the Set-Location or the alias cd command the user can change the current location to another key of the registry. Commands which rename items, remove items, create new items or set content of items or properties can be used to rename keys, remove keys or entire sub-trees or change values. The PowerShell Registry provider supports transactions, i.
An atomic transaction ensures that either all of the changes are committed to the database, or if the script fails, none of the changes is committed to the database. Many programming languages offer built-in runtime library functions or classes that wrap the underlying Windows APIs and thereby enable programs to store settings in the registry e. Similarly, scripting languages such as Perl with Win It is also possible to edit the registry hives of an offline system from Windows PE or Linux in the latter case using open source tools.
Prior to the introduction of registration-free COM , developers were encouraged to add initialization code to in-process and out-of-process binaries to perform the registry configuration required for that object to work.
For in-process binaries such as. OCX files, the modules typically exported a function called DllInstall  that could be called by installation programs or invoked manually with utilities like Regsvr Windows exposes APIs that allows user-mode applications to register to receive a notification event if a particular registry key is changed. Windows also supports remote access to the registry of another computer via the RegConnectRegistry function  if the Remote Registry service is running, correctly configured and its network traffic is not firewalled.
The registry is physically stored in several files, which are generally obfuscated from the user-mode APIs used to manipulate the data inside the registry. Depending upon the version of Windows, there will be different files and different locations for these files, but they are all on the local machine. There is one of these per user; if a user has a roaming profile , then this file will be copied to and from a server at logout and login respectively. A second user-specific registry file named UsrClass.
Windows NT systems store the registry in a binary file format which can be exported, loaded and unloaded by the Registry Editor in these operating systems. Windows keeps an alternate copy of the registry hives. ALT and attempts to switch to it when corruption is detected. Each registry data file has an associated file with a ". DAT in Windows Me. Also, each user profile if profiles are enabled has its own USER.