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Windows registry information for advanced users
Article ID: 256986 - View products that this article applies to.
This article was previously published under Q256986
This article describes the registry. This article also includes information about how to back up the registry, how to edit the registry, and lists references for more information.
Description of the registryThe Microsoft Computer Dictionary, Fifth Edition, defines the registry as:
A central hierarchical database used in Microsoft Windows 98, Windows CE, Windows NT, and Windows 2000 used to store information that is necessary to configure the system for one or more users, applications and hardware devices.A registry hive is a group of keys, subkeys, and values in the registry that has a set of supporting files that contain backups of its data. The supporting files for all hives except HKEY_CURRENT_USER are in the %SystemRoot%\System32\Config folder on Windows NT 4.0, Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Server 2003, and Windows Vista. The supporting files for HKEY_CURRENT_USER are in the %SystemRoot%\Profiles\Username folder. The file name extensions of the files in these folders indicate the type of data that they contain. Also, the lack of an extension may sometimes indicate the type of data that they contain.
The Registry contains information that Windows continually references during operation, such as profiles for each user, the applications installed on the computer and the types of documents that each can create, property sheet settings for folders and application icons, what hardware exists on the system, and the ports that are being used.
The Registry replaces most of the text-based .ini files that are used in Windows 3.x and MS-DOS configuration files, such as the Autoexec.bat and Config.sys. Although the Registry is common to several Windows operating systems, there are some differences among them.
In Windows 98, the registry files are named User.dat and System.dat. In Windows Millennium Edition, the registry files are named Classes.dat, User.dat, and System.dat.
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Note Security features in Windows NT, Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Server 2003, and Windows Vista let an administrator control access to registry keys.
The following table lists the predefined keys that are used by the system. The maximum size of a key name is 255 characters.
Note The registry in 64-bit versions of Windows XP, Windows Server 2003, and Windows Vista is divided into 32-bit and 64-bit keys. Many of the 32-bit keys have the same names as their 64-bit counterparts, and vice versa. The default 64-bit version of Registry Editor that is included with 64-bit versions of Windows XP, Windows Server 2003, and Windows Vista displays the 32-bit keys under the following node:
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For more information about how to view the registry on 64-Bit versions of Windows, click the following article number to view the article in the Microsoft Knowledge Base:
(http://support.microsoft.com/kb/305097/ )How to view the system registry by using 64-bit versions of Windows
The following table lists the data types that are currently defined and that are used by Windows. The maximum size of a value name is as follows:
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Back up the registryBefore you edit the registry, export the keys in the registry that you plan to edit, or back up the whole registry. If a problem occurs, you can then follow the steps in the "Restore the registry" section to restore the registry to its previous state. To back up the whole registry, use the Backup utility to back up the system state. The system state includes the registry, the COM+ Class Registration Database, and your boot files. For more information about how to use the Backup utility to back up the system state, click the following article numbers to view the articles in the Microsoft Knowledge Base:
(http://support.microsoft.com/kb/308422/ )How to use the Backup utility that is included in Windows XP to back up files and folders
(http://support.microsoft.com/kb/320820/ )How to use the Backup utility to back up files and folders in Windows XP Home Edition
(http://support.microsoft.com/kb/326216/ )How to use the backup feature to back up and restore data in Windows Server 2003
Edit the registryTo modify registry data, a program must use the registry functions that are defined in the following MSDN Web site:
http://msdn2.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ms724875.aspxAdministrators can modify the registry by using Registry Editor (Regedit.exe or Regedt32.exe), Group Policy, System Policy, Registry (.reg) files, or by running scripts such as VisualBasic script files.
Use the Windows user interfaceWe recommend that you use the Windows user interface to change your system settings instead of manually editing the registry. However, editing the registry may sometimes be the best method to resolve a product issue. If the issue is documented in the Microsoft Knowledge Base, an article with step-by-step instructions to edit the registry for that issue will be available. We recommend that you follow those instructions exactly.
Use Registry EditorWarning Serious problems might occur if you modify the registry incorrectly by using Registry Editor or by using another method. These problems might require that you reinstall the operating system. Microsoft cannot guarantee that these problems can be solved. Modify the registry at your own risk.
You can use Registry Editor to do the following:
Use Group PolicyMicrosoft Management Console (MMC) hosts administrative tools that you can use to administer networks, computers, services, and other system components. The Group Policy MMC snap-in lets administrators define policy settings that are applied to computers or users. You can implement Group Policy on local computers by using the local Group Policy MMC snap-in, Gpedit.msc. You can implement Group Policy in Active Directory by using the Active Directory Users and Computers MMC snap-in. For more information about how to use Group Policy, see the Help topics in the appropriate Group Policy MMC snap-in.
Use a Registration Entries (.reg) fileCreate a Registration Entries (.reg) file that contains the registry changes, and then run the .reg file on the computer where you want to make the changes. You can run the .reg file manually or by using a logon script. For more information, click the following article number to view the article in the Microsoft Knowledge Base:
(http://support.microsoft.com/kb/310516/ )How to add, modify, or delete registry subkeys and values by using a Registration Entries (.reg) file
Use Windows Script HostThe Windows Script Host lets you run VBScript and JScript scripts directly in the operating system. You can create VBScript and JScript files that use Windows Script Host methods to delete, to read, and to write registry keys and values. For more information about these methods, visit the following Microsoft Web sites:
Use Windows Management InstrumentationWindows Management Instrumentation (WMI) is a component of the Microsoft Windows operating system and is the Microsoft implementation of Web-Based Enterprise Management (WBEM). WBEM is an industry initiative to develop a standard technology for accessing management information in an enterprise environment. You can use WMI to automate administrative tasks (such as editing the registry) in an enterprise environment. You can use WMI in scripting languages that have an engine on Windows and that handle Microsoft ActiveX objects. You can also use the WMI Command-Line utility (Wmic.exe) to modify the Windows registry.
For more information about WMI, visit the following Microsoft Web site:
http://msdn2.microsoft.com/en-us/library/aa394582.aspxFor more information about the WMI Command-Line utility, click the following article number to view the article in the Microsoft Knowledge Base:
(http://support.microsoft.com/kb/290216/ )A description of the Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) command-line utility (Wmic.exe)
Use Console Registry Tool for WindowsYou can use the Console Registry Tool for Windows (Reg.exe) to edit the registry. For help with the Reg.exe tool, type reg /? at the Command Prompt, and then click OK.
Restore the registryTo restore the registry, use the appropriate method.
Restore the registry keysTo restore registry subkeys that you exported, double-click the Registration Entries (.reg) file that you saved in the Export registry subkeys section. Or, you can restore the whole registry from a backup. For more information about how to restore the whole registry, see the “Restore the whole registry” section later in this article.
Restore the whole registryTo restore the whole registry, restore the system state from a backup. For more information about how to restore the system state from a backup, click the following article number to view the article in the Microsoft Knowledge Base:
(http://support.microsoft.com/kb/309340/ )How to use Backup to restore files and folders on your computer in Windows XP
Note Backing up the system state also creates updated copies of the registry files in the %SystemRoot%\Repair folder. If you cannot start Windows XP after you edit the registry, you can replace the registry files manually by using the steps in the "Part One" section of the following Microsoft Knowledge Base article:
(http://support.microsoft.com/kb/307545/ )How to recover from a corrupted registry that prevents Windows XP from starting
For more information, visit the following Microsoft Web sites:
http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc750583.aspxThe Windows Server Catalog of Tested Products is a reference for products that have been tested for Windows Server compatibility. For more information about backup products that have been tested for Windows Server compatibility, visit the following Microsoft Web site:
http://www.windowsservercatalog.com/results.aspx?text=backup&bCatID=1282&OR=5&chtext=&cstext=&csttext=&chbtext=Data Protection Manager (DPM) is a key member of the Microsoft System Center family of management products and is designed to help IT professionals manage their Windows environment. DPM is the new standard for Windows backup and recovery and delivers continuous data protection for Microsoft application and file servers that use seamlessly integrated disk and tape media. For more information about DPM, visit the following Microsoft Web site:
http://www.microsoft.com/systemcenter/dpm/default.mspxFor more information about data recovery, visit the following Microsoft Web site:
http://search.technet.microsoft.com/search/Default.aspx?brand=technet&query=Disaster+RecoveryFor more information about how to back up and restore the registry, click the following article numbers to view the articles in the Microsoft Knowledge Base:
(http://support.microsoft.com/kb/322756/ )How to back up and restore the registry in Windows XP and Windows Vista
(http://support.microsoft.com/kb/322755/ )How to back up, edit, and restore the registry in Windows 2000
(http://support.microsoft.com/kb/323170/ )How to back up, edit, and restore the registry in Windows NT 4.0
322754For more information about the differences between Regedit.exe and Regedt32.exe, click the following article number to view the article in the Microsoft Knowledge Base:
(http://support.microsoft.com/kb/322754/ )How to back up, edit, and restore the registry in Windows 95, Windows 98, and Windows Me
(http://support.microsoft.com/kb/141377/ )Differences between Regedit.exe and Regedt32.exe
Article ID: 256986 - Last Review: September 11, 2012 - Revision: 13.0