Windows Registry database contains all information about software, hardware, and operating system settings that facilitate the execution of commands on your PC. You can use the Registry Editor to modify the information and change the behavior of operating system or an installed program. In nutshell, registry is the heart of Windows operating system. In this article, we will explain the basics of Windows Registry Editor.
Why Access Registry Editor?
There are many reasons for you to access Registry Editor to delete or modify the entries.
- Delete redundant data left when you uninstall applications from your computer that occupies space.
- Find and delete malware-infected data by deleting entries from registry to protect your computer from risks.
- Cleaning up the entries that can cause a sluggish running of your computer over time. Therefore, to maximize your computer speed and clear malware from your computer, you can use your Windows Registry Editor.
However, making changes to the registry requires you to be conversant with the registry. In order to avoid any unexpected results, ensure you create a backup of your computer before making changes. You can also backup registry entries and restore if something goes wrong.
How to Access Windows Registry Editor?
In case you are new to the registry, accessing might be difficult since it does not have a direct application shortcut icon. You can try creating a shortcut on your desktop later on if you need frequent quick access.
- Click on the Windows or Cortana search icon on the taskbar.
- Type, “Registry Editor” and search.
- Select the Registry Editor application to open.
- Allow it to make changes to your computer from the popup prompt message.
Alternatively, you can press “Win + R” shortcut keys to open Run prompt. Type regedit command and hit enter to open Registry Editor.
In this article, we further explain the hives, keys, subkeys and values/entries you encounter when using Registry Editor in Windows. Understanding these terms will help you to modify and fix the registry when you encounter system issues, perform basic management tasks, create the registry’s backup, and conduct the registry restore. Here is a brief description of the components of the registry and its purpose.
Registry Editor Structure
The Registry Editor is tiered into three categories; keys, subkeys, and values. When running a command on your computer, your system refers to the registry editor keys for the required data. When installing or uninstalling software, the operating system has to refer to the registry for the data stored to execute the command.
Also known as the primary divisions of the registry or Hive emanate from the tree, that is the computer, and the folder icon denotes it. The subtrees have keys that are further subdivided into subkeys and values. For instance, the computer is divided into five subtrees that can be subdivided up to 512 levels. However, the subtree does not have entries but subkeys that contain values or entries.
Here is a list of the root keys.
- HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT – Abbreviated as HKCR hive contains software and application data to support Windows features such as drag and drop, Windows shortcuts, OLE and other main aspects of Windows. Data from HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT is derived from HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Classes and HKEY_CURRENT_USER_SOFTWARE\Classes.
- HKEY_CURRENT_USER_SOFTWARE – This section, abbreviated as HKCU, is created when users log in to their user accounts and contain specific user data. Examples of information associated with this branch include login names, start menu settings, user printer settings, and desktop settings.
- HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE – HKCM subtree contains system data centered on hardware, software and other information related to different users. Such information helps computer users login to their specific profiles.
- HKEY_USERS – HKU hive holds all temporary information and settings data regarding all users’ accounts logged in the PC.
- HKEY_CURRENT_CONFIG – HKEY_CURRENT_CONFIG contains current computer configuration data only. However, it does not store any data.
Learn top 10 registry hacks for Windows PC to optimize working with registry editor.
After subtrees, next is the keys. Keys can be broken down further to subkeys and, finally, the entries. However, some keys don’t have subkeys, but entries are associated with specific system data.
Just like there is a subfolder on a folder, a subkey is from a key. Entries or values are stored in the subkeys. Also, you might get a further broken down subkey with multiple subkeys.
Values appear on the right-hand side of the screen. Entries are the least level elements of the registry and contain data regarding the keys or the registry. The entries contain data in the form of an entry name, data forms in the registry, and the value registry entry field. Unlike the subtrees, keys and subkeys, entries store information/data for the programs and operating system.
Windows Registry Values
Besides the descriptions of the subtree and the related keys, you can differentiate them visually and their purpose. Most of the descriptions given are based on the entries rather than the keys.
- Closed Key – Denoted by a closed folder icon (), the closed key contains the registry subkeys. Or else, it’s the subtree folder that contents are not displayed.
- Open Key – The open key is denoted by an open folder (). Values of an open key are displayed on the right side of the registry window. However, in Windows 10, you cannot recognize this difference.
- String Value – String value denoted by () icon is a REG_SZ type of value that enables any string value, a series of characters, to be displayed in a single path. It is the most popular subkey in the registry.
- String Array Value – A set of character string values is described as a string array value. It is classified as a REG_MULTI_SZ type of value.
- Expanded String Value – Described as a REG_EXPAND_SZ type of value, it contains editable values such that other Windows programs can use them. Cumulatively, they are described as environmental or system values.
- Binary Value – Binary value classified as a REG_BINARY type of value classifies digits in binary form, a numbering system used in computers. It is visible on the registry window’s right-hand side and denoted by the () icon.
- DWORD Value – Classified as a REG_DWORD type of value denotes files being defined in the hexadecimal numbering system besides the binary value system. However, values can be converted from hexadecimal to binary, but complex to a general user. DWORD value is available on the right side pane of the Registry Editor.
- QWORD Value – QWORD Value is classified as a REG_QWORD type of value. It is similar to QWORD but stores its data in a 64-bit value read format, unlike DWORD, which uses the 32-bit format.
No wonder there is no direct access link as Windows Registry Editor is not meant for general Windows user. Though making changes to the registry might fix some problems, wrongly doing it will affect the operation of your computer. Therefore, make changes you are aware of and ensure you create a backup before making the changes.