What is Windows Registry: Everything you need to know

If you’ve been a Windows user a while now, we’re sure you would have stumbled on something about Windows Registry. It doesn't have to be a detailed explanation even; you might have heard how you can use registry to speed up your PC, or how editing something in it will fix some random error on your Windows.

And while you’ll find plenty of articles on the above topics, there’s a dearth of resources that describe what Windows Registry actually is, or how it works. With this article, we’ve tried to remedify just that. So without much ado, let’s jump right in.

What Is the Windows Registry?

Windows Registry is nothing but a hierarchical database that stores complex settings pertaining to your Windows operating system. But what does that mean in plain English?

Fundamentally, it means that it houses all the data related to the OS kernel, different computer programs, user preferences, device drivers, and so on.

Moreover, as we’ve mentioned above, all the new information is kept in a hierarchical structure—which means that the information is stored with multiple records pointing to a single parent entity.

In fact, it’s such an integral part of the Windows ecosystem that without it, the whole system will stop functioning properly.

And you certainly don’t have to believe us—here’s Microsoft in its own words:

“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.”

So now that you know what Windows Registry is, let’s head over to what you can do with it, and what would be the ideal situations for that.

How to Open Windows Registry

Before you do make changes with the Registry, though, you’ll first have to open it. To do that, we use a program called the Registry Editor, which acts as an interface to the Registry. To open the Windows Registry, go to the Start menu search bar, type in ‘regedit,’ and select the Best Match.

The Registry Editor will be launched on your computer.

Managing the Windows Registry

Before you touch even a single file for editing, though, make sure you’ve backed up your Registry first. The reason is simple: adding or editing a registry involves considerable risk to your existing settings. With all the programs of your operating system dependent on the Registry for their proper functioning, if something goes south with the registry editing, you’ll have a big problem on your hands.

So, how do you go about solving that?

Of course, by making a copy of it. Fundamentally, there are two ways of doing that, and we’ll cover both of them. Let’s start with manual method first.

On the Registry Editor, select a specific registry file, and click on File > Export.

backing up windows registry

In the Export Registry File dialog box, click on the location you’d like to save the backup copy to, enter a name for the backup file and finally click on Save.

A copy of the said file will be created for the said location.

The second method to back up a Registry is by creating a complete backup. To do that in the Registry Editor right-click on Computer, and select Export. Pick a location you’d like to save your backup to, give it a unique name, and click on Save.

backing up the complete registry

A complete back of your Registry will be created in a few minutes.

Doing things with Registry

Now that you've created a backup, let's turn our gaze to things you can do with the Registry:

All about Windows Registry

We hope this article helped you get a little familiar with the Registry, and it’s working. The Windows operating system consists of many similar programs that work under the hood to make your Windows experience a smooth sailing, helping you achieve your daily tasks.

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