Windows Registry Tutorial

When using a computer, your data is stored into a database – the Windows Registry. It stores not only applications, user information and attached devices but also important settings – that is the common way for 32-bit versions of Microsoft Windows. It’s mostly used on older computers like Windows 95, 98, ME and NT/2000. All the changes that you make are going to be stored in that Registry. With those changes, you can improve the performance of your computer.

Registry Overview

The files are stored in hidden files in your Windows directory. Those files are called user.dat and system.dat, but you can’t change or edit them directly. In order to do so, you have to use a tool to do so, which is called “Registry Editor“.

If you open the Registry, it might confuse you at first, but its structure is essential. You will find six branches containing information that is stored in the Registry, with each branch containing different pieces. There are, for example, different branches containing the following information: a drag and drop feature, desktop settings, information about the hardware, software and so on.

There are different data types. Some of them are accessible through the Registry Editor, other data types cannot be accessed through the editor.

The Registry and Editing

Most Windows version do have a Registry Editor. The easiest way to access the editor is by clicking on the start button. You have to select run and type in “regedit”. Then, the editor should open right away.

You can expand each branch showing up on the left side. If you want to look at the values, you just have to double-click on the folder. Right after, a list with the values will appear on the right side. Adding a new key or a value can be done by selecting the “New” on the “Edit” menu. Besides adding new keys, you can also rename or delete those. But before editing anything, you should make a backup of your Registry to make sure all the important settings are saved.

Windows Registry Settings

You can import or export settings to a text file that can be easily shared and modified by other people, which might be helpful in a local registry setting. Exporting a key is very simple: You select a key and choose “Export Registry File”. This file can be opened in a notepad. This means you can easily edit that key in your notepad and later import it to the Registry again. You just choose “Import” in the Registry menu.

You are also able to clean out old data from the Registry manually. But Microsoft provides a tool that makes the process easier for you: a program called RegClean that analyses the information stored in the Registry. If it finds keys with erroneous values, it deletes those.

FAQ Windows Registry

Can you delete things in the Registry?

Yes, with the Editor you can easily delete things that are stored in the Registry.

How many branches are there?

There are five main branches which contain different information.

Which two concepts does the Registry have?

The Registry has two concepts: Keys and Values.

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