Your Windows Registry Explained

What is the Windows Registry?

The Windows Registry is a grouped database storing all of the Window's Operating System settings, preferences, and hardware configurations. The Windows Registry also referred to as the Registry, is constructed in a hierarchy database. Any software installed on a system will reference the Registry for it's specified settings for operation. The understanding of the Windows Registry in depth can be complex.

A down to earth overview of the Windows Registry

Without the Registry Windows would not function and your system would be a big paper weight. The Windows Operating System and all software applications constantly reference back to the registry for basic functions. Think of the Registry as a infinite customization tool for your computer. It stores the key to changing the settings to just about any customizable function within reason of installed software. You can't change a programs over-all functionality with the registry but you can certainly manipulate the basic functions and behavior of a given program.

How is the Registry structured or setup?

A Windows Registry has 6 main folders usually referred to has Hives. Yes, you can think of a bee hive if that helps you understand. From their it breaks down into different hierarchal categories for each given program. Usually the programs are categorized with the software company and then breaks down from there by functions and other folders.

Hierarchal setup examples:

The main folders of the Windows Registry

Each main folder has its class of catigories that breaks down even further to specific programs or defined functions that you may be searching for. Think of this breakdown as a family tree or file tree of your computer. You have the main Hives, then Keys, then Subkeys and each of it's Values. The Values are the actual settings for the given program or specific function of your computer.

The only items that you should change or delete (not recommended to delete) are the values. When an edit or deletion takes place it can do one of two things, change the value to your desired setting, or cause a system issue or error. In the case of editing your Registry it is very important to not make mistakes. The Registry is something that is very sensitive to mess-ups. It is always a good practice to back-up your Registry before making any changes.


The path defined:

HKEY_CURRENT_USER - This is the main folder or Hive.
\Software\ - This is a Key
\Microsoft\ - This is a Subkey
\Windows\ - This is another Subkey
\CurrentVersion\ - This is another Subkey
\Explorer\ - This is another Subkey
\SmallIcons - This is the Value where the actual data settings are stored. You can make changes with inside this folder.

So where on the hard drive is the Registry Stored?

The physical location on a systems hard drive for the Registry are the following paths:

The names of the actual Registry files are:

This only applies to Windows NT 4.0, Windows 2009, Windows Server 2003, and Windows XP

How do you change or modify settings/values in the Registry?

Open your registry editor by going to Start Menu > Run > type in regedit click OK

Find the specified path (example: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Windows using the folders on the left pane of your registry editor.

Once you have located the correct specified path you can look for the specified enter/value that you wish to change. In the example below it shows the entry called NoPopUpsOnBoot.

You can now choose to set a particular Value of the specified entry by double licking on the actual entry/value.

Click OK.

Close the Registry editor and you may have to restart Windows for any changes to take effect.

The Windows registry can make or break your computer depending on the changes that are made. Understanding the way the Windows Registry is setup and the functionality of it can assist users in keeping a healthy and safe running computer.

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  • Jim


    In your article you have the sentence: "In the example below it shows the entry called NoPopUpsOnBoot." Well, where is it? I do not see this example.