How Much Do You Know About Windows Registry?

Windows Registry is a main catalog of configuration settings and options stored on Microsoft Windows operating systems. This catalog is arranged in a kind of hierarchical database containing low-level operating system component settings and its program applications. The Microsoft Windows Registry is seen as a central repository for configuration data – in other words, a database for configuration data.  Every piece of data in this database has an associated name and value.

Windows Registry creates a provision for the implementation of program features that were otherwise difficult to find in previous versions of Windows. This registry also keeps records of your installation activities and relates installed programs to others.


The registry stores its content in two files; the System.dat and the User.dat. The System.dat contains computer-specific configuration data while user.dat contains user-specific data. Unlike the INI files, these files are in binary format that cannot be viewed with Text Editor. Features like the read-only system and hidden attributes are turned on in the registry storage to ensure that the data cannot be easily altered.

There is another file type named config.pol, which is an optional part of the registry that can affect the settings in the registry. This file further enforces restrictions in a network; it does not allow users to bypass the settings in the file once it’s been created.

Registry Terminology

There are certain terminologies associated with Windows Registry and a good knowledge of these terms will help to understand the registry better. Listed below are some key words to note.

  1. Registry: this refers to the files System.dat and User.dat.
  2. Registry Editor: is a program that can make changes to the registry. It shows the registry as a single entity without splitting it under  two separate files.
  3. HKEY: refers to the six sections the registry is divided into, each of these sections is called HKEY_NAME.
  4. Key: is a folder that contains sub-folders with one or more values such as Subkey, and Branch.

Registry Tools

There are a variety of tools that can be used in the Registry. Below is a shortlist of the important ones to remember.

ConfigSafe: this keeps configurations in a safe place and allows users access in case of an emergency.

Norton Utilities: this tool has two Registry programs: Norton Registry Editor and Norton WinDoctor. It also has one average program called Norton Registry Tracker.

Registry Monitor: this allows users access to real time activities of the registry.

Registry Checker: this is the best program to use for registry backup and restoration. It is also used in fixing registry problems.

Almost all 32-bit Windows programs store their configuration data in a registry, whereas 16-bit Windows stores its configuration data in the outdated INI files. Windows Registry stores data relating to a computer’s hardware configuration and allows operating systems to control multiple hardware configurations with multiple users and individual preferences. Windows Registry is the reason why most programs can appear on the desktop as a shortcut containing property sheets. It also supports remote administration through a network connection.