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Beginners Guides: The Registry: Backups, Repairs, and Protection

Beginners Guides: The Registry: Backups, Repairs, and Protection - PCSTATS
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Abstract: The Registry is crucial to Windows, but if you know how to edit it, you can customize your system in places you never thought possible.
Filed under: Beginners Guides Published:  Author: 
External Mfg. Website: PCstats Aug 09 2004   Mike Dowler  
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Beginners Guides: The Registry: Backups, Repairs, and Protection
The Registry is crucial to Windows, but if you know how to edit it, you can customize your system in places you never thought possible. - Version 1.0.0

There are few computer topics that are approached with more caution than the Windows registry, and not without good reason. The registry is a huge and complex structure which is absolutely crucial to the correct operation of Windows XP. However, despite its complexity, its main function is to put a somewhat human face on the mass of code that makes up the Windows operating system. All of the entries in the registry are in plain English, even if their meaning and function may not be immediately apparent, and all can be easily changed with software built into Windows XP.

As you can imagine, editing the registry opens up a Pandora's box. On one hand, it gives you almost infinite possibilities for changing the look, feel and operation of your Windows XP system. On the other hand, improper registry edits can cripple your system, and if a malicious program manages to access and install itself in the registry, removing it can be difficult and time consuming.

In this article, we will take a behind the scenes look at the Windows XP registry. The composition of the registry will be examined, as well as how to backup and protect and restore it. Once we have that out of the way, we will examine some of the things you can easily achieve by editing the registry yourself.


What is the registry?

Simply put, the registry is the warehouse for all of Windows XP's configuration data, and that of most installed programs. All the information the operating system needs to handle data is stored here, from what file types are opened by what programs to what options are available on every single menu and toolbar.

The registry stores the variables that the Windows XP source code needs to 'fill in the blanks.' What font should text be in? What size? How many icons on the desktop? What users should be allowed to login? What's the default web browser? What programs should start when Windows boots? And so on (and on, and on)… As such, the registry is an enormous and confusing structure with many apparent repetitions and obscurities. Several registry settings can be configured in a user-friendly manner using the Windows control panel, but many, many more are out of reach unless you manually edit the registry. Suffice to say that Windows XP has many hidden capabilities that you might not expect.

Viewing the registry with REGEDIT

All versions of Windows include a simple but powerful program called REGEDIT (Microsoft Registry Editor) which allows the viewing and editing of the Windows registry. Be forewarned, incorrectly editing the registry can severely damage your operating system. Always ensure that you have a back up of the registry before making any changes to it. We'll cover how to back up your registry in a moment, but first let's go through the steps to view your PCs registry settings.

To start REGEDIT, go to the start menu, hit 'run' and type 'regedit.'

Pictured here is the main REGEDIT screen, from which you can see the various sections, or 'subtrees' of the registry. We will go into more detail about these next.

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Contents of Article: PCstats
 Pg 1.  — Beginners Guides: The Registry: Backups, Repairs, and Protection
 Pg 2.  A deeper look at the XP registry
 Pg 3.  Other Registry Values
 Pg 4.  Backing up Windows Registry Manually
 Pg 5.  Using WindowsXP Backup
 Pg 6.  Enabling System Restore
 Pg 7.  Restoring the Registry
 Pg 8.  Safe Registry Procedures
 Pg 9.  Starter Registry Hacks

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