Monday, May 5, 2008

An introduction to windows registry

An introduction to Windows Registry

The 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.

Windows registry is an integral part of windows operations from the early, simple days of Windows (16-bit Windows versions especially), the same information that is now stored in the registry was stored in text files. Though these text files were simple, their organization made access to the information they contained too slow to keep up with increasingly speedy technology. 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.

This thing which is often termed as, a system designed to cause users and administrators to lose their hairs, is part of windows 32-bit, 64-bit and even windows mobile.

Registry Hives

Registry typically divided in five hives, A registry hive is a group of keys, sub-keys, and values in the registry that has a set of supporting files that contain backups of its data. 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.

Registry Keys, Subkeys and Values

Inside a hive you find both keys (and subkeys, analogous to directories and subdirectories on your hard disk) and values. The term value (or data value, as it is sometimes called) refers to the information, or data, assigned to a key, making the key analogous to a file on your hard drive as well. A key or subkey may have zero, one, or more value entries, a default value, and from zero to many subkeys.

How to operate registry

Important NOTE – Incorrect or inappropriate changes in Windows Registry may lead to irreparable damage to your operating system, So it is advised by Vikram to take a total backup of your registry before modifying the stuff inside. Refer the Microsoft post for process of backing up the registry -

Go to Start Menu, Click on RUN

Type ‘regedit’ (without quotes)

You will get a windows registry interface looking like this

If it is showing the error that “Registry Editing is disabled by Administrator” then

  - Either you are not logged in as an administrator, log out and log in as administrator (mostly occurs with windows 2003 and later

  - Otherwise it may be the virus problem, you can use a tool


Registry Tricks

I want to post couple of registry tricks over here

To change the icon of your hard drive partitions displayed in My Computer window

i.    Go to icon websites like,, etc. and download an icon which you want to put for your drive. Save the .ico files of icon to a separate folder (e.g. C:\myicons\C.ico)

ii.    Enter the registry editor as the process given above.

iii.   Go to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE, then go to








iv.      Right click on DriveIcons and select New, and click on Key.

v.       Name the key with the latter of the drive you want to change the icon.

vi.      Click on the key (say C here in this case) again right click, New, Key

vii.     Type the key name exactly as DefaultIcon.

viii.    Now checkout the right portion of registry which gives registry value “Default”, right click on it and click on Modify.

ix.      Type the path of your icon (specified in step i) say, C:\myicons\C.ico

(the things will look like this)

x.       Click on OK

xi.      Repeat the process for the other drives you want to.

xii.     Close the registry editor and open My Computer, finally you’ve done it. Your icon is representing the drive there.


To display hidden files, when folder options are disabled by virus.

  1. Go to regedit and then HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer \Advanced\Folder\Hidden\SHOWALL
  2. Double click on the entry called CheckedValue and replace the 0 with 1.
  3. Now Close all the windows and Press Ctrl+E to open the explorer.
  4. Enable the hidden option from the folder options.
This is the basic information about Windows Registry, I'll be back with some more in this topic, soon...

The references

Mastering Windows XP Registry by Peter Hipson, Copyright © 2002 SYBEX Inc., 1151 Marina Village Parkway, Alameda, CA 94501 

Surya Prakash Garg's Blog

Microsoft Registry Information for Advanced Users

Thanks to all...


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