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location of registry

I was wondering where exactly on the hard disk the registry information is stored, like if there is a file that contains the registry information, or a folder.
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1 Solution
Pete LongTechnical ConsultantCommented:
Windows XP C:\WINDOWS\system32\config\SYSTEM

windows 2000 C:\WINNT\system32\config\SYSTEM

Pete LongTechnical ConsultantCommented:
Though you need to run regedit to edit the registry :)
Right. To edit it use RegEdit (C:\WINDOWS), not RegEdt32 (C:\WINDOWS\system32).

It is not replaced properly by any Update program to fix Windows (C:\WINDOWS), which is a main reason people format their HDs prior to updates.  This is not necessary as a simple deletion of C:\WINDOWS will cure any problems for fixing bugs in registry, a format is not required.

Actually, the name for path is a personal choine, but MS has returned to having the default be C:\WINDOWS so anyone who wants to add their wares to system can have a common place to put them where the others can find them
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Jared LukerCommented:
all of the registry files are located in the config folders mentioned above.


Here's a helpful series of pages to read through:


follow the links to the "next page" at the bottom of each, and stop at the page "Importing and Exporting Registry Settings" to take some important notes about "exporting" to .reg files BEFORE making ANY registry changes.  Now continue to the next page "How can you backup and restore the Registry?" and take similar notes.

This is VITALLY important.  The more inquisitive people get about how the registry works, the more likelihood there is of completely messing the system up.  Some knowledge ahead of time can be a lifesaver.

Now have a read at some more specific overviews and advice concerning the registry:


To allow you to SAFELY explore what you would see if you opened REGEDIT, you can download a utility that creates an EMULATION of the layout of YOUR current registry by loading all the settings, but WON'T allow you to accidentally mess with it:


Use WinZip to extract the contents to their OWN folder, and then open the "readme.txt" file.  It tells you how to "register" the file RegView.dll for use.  Be sure to follow the advice.  To make it easier, my advice is to copy the .dll file to your C:\Windows\System folder first, and then you won't normally have to type the path to it, eg. just type:

regsvr32  regview.dll

at the Start Menu's "Run" option.

(They suggest the command  regsvr32  /c  regview.dll, so perhaps you should stick to that but I don't think the /c is really necessary).

This utility creates a new desktop icon named "Registry Viewer" that can be easily viewed in Windows Explorer in safety.  What I like about it is that it uses the same icons as you would see in REGEDIT, ie. StringValues are shown as white with a burgundy "ab" while DWORD and Binary Values are shown with blue "0101".

You will probably want to see the registry entries created by this new utility you just "installed".

Open Windows Explorer and click on the "Registry Viewer" icon in the tree in the left pane.  Click on the + signs to open each key out and navigate to the following keys:




That's your first tutorial by example.

To remove the Registry Viewer at any later date, just type:

regsvr32  /u  regview.dll

at the Start Menu's "Run" command, acknowledge the messages, and then delete the file RegView.dll from the c:\windows\system folder.  Reboot.

Bookmark the "winguides.com" page:  http://www.winguides.com  for later reference once you become confident that you know what you are doing concerning the Windows registry or download and install the offline version that is simply a windows help file, and fully searcheable:


If you later begin to feel confident and want to relocate the Registry Viewer icon to "My Computer" instead of the Desktop, this is where the registry key above that quotes "NameSpace" comes into play.  A NameSpace is what allows something to show as a special "folder" in My Computer, your Start Menu, or on the Desktop.  It is simply reserving a Name in that Space.

If you were to open RegEdit, find your way to the key:


and then click on the key named {4778AFE0-2289-11D0-8AEC-00A0C90C9246} (in the LEFT pane), you could then use the "Registry > Export Registry File" option, and save the "Selected Branch" as a .reg file of any suitable name to where you wanted.

If you then closed REGEDIT, RIGHT-Clicked on your new .REG file, and selected "Edit", it would open in NotePad.

By substituting "Desktop" with "MyComputer" (NOTE: NO SPACES), then saving the file, you have what is known as a Registry "Script" that would write the new data to your registry if double-clicked.  This is known as "Merging" with the registry.

You could then go back into Regedit and delete that sub-key named {4778AFE0-2289-11D0-8AEC-00A0C90C9246} from the "Desktop\NameSpace" key so that it wouldn't show on the desktop.  LEAVE the "NameSpace" key intact and ONLY delete that key named {4778AFE0-2289-11D0-8AEC-00A0C90C9246}.

Hopefully this is helpful and will allow you to understand how it all pieces together.

Final advice:

DON'T mess with the registry unless you really NEED to know more about it for IT learning or to fix something that is wrong with it.

Failing to heed this advice will cause you to give your points away needlessly to experts here when you break it and need advice on how to fix it again  :-)

What is the registry?

The registry is a database whose structure is similar to that of a logical disk drive. the registry contains keys which are akin to a disks firectories, and values (comparable to files). A key is a container that can contain subkeys or values. Top level keys are called root keys.

Where is the registry?

On disk the registry isnt simply one large file but rather a set of discrete files called hives. Each hive contains a registry tree which has a key that serves as the root or rtarting point of the registry.

The main root keys are

HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT - stores file association and COM registration information
HKEY_CURRENT_USER - stored data associated with the currently logged on user
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE - stores system related information
HKEY_USERS - stores information about all the accounts on the machine
HKEY_CURRENT_CONFIG - stores information about the current hardware profile

Also present on some machines HKEY_PERFORMANCE_DATA - stores performance data

If you are really interested in the physical layout of the registry then I can send you lots of details on it. I suspect though you are more interested in the end product and thats what you want to manipulate. For that use regedit or regedit32. Go to start->run and type regedit32. it will pull up your registry in an explorer type view. You can use + or - to open or close keys and to navigate.

If you gane me more information for what you are looking for my answer could be more pertinent.

You haven't specified your operating system.

Your Question.

"I was wondering WHERE exactly on the hard disk the registry information is stored, like if there is A FILE that contains the registry information, OR A FOLDER?".

Answer by vvksan.

"On disk the registry isnt simply one large file but rather a set of discrete files called hives. Each hive contains a registry tree which has a key that serves as the root or rtarting point of the registry".


vvksan's good brief answer only relates to WinNT, 2000, and XP.

Windows 9x stores it as 2 *.DAT FILES as explained in my linked pages that discuss the difference between the different Operating systems.

I have looked up your profile and notice that the vast majority of your comments have been in the Windows NT, XP, and Operating Systems Topic Areas.  I assume from this that you are asking about the Windows XP Registry Files, in which case vvksan's comment reflects exactly what you need to know, although I suggest that you use REGEDIT rather than REGEDIT32 to explore it if you MUST.

My reasoning is based on memory of the fact that regedit32 can only search for keys in the registry, and regedit can search for strings, values, etc.  Perhaps this is now different in Windows XP.

As you have had to ask about this, I have to imagine that your knowledge level of registry issues is slightly limited, and you would be better starting off in safety with the  "Registry Viewer" tool I suggested earlier:

The Registry Editor is not a toy.  Improper use can result in fatal system behavior.  When directly editing, always think twice before entering information. The Registry Editor automatically saves all changes, so once they are entered you must live with the consequences.  Changes are reflected automatically, because there is no "Save" option.

I couldnt agree with BillDL more - dont mess with the registry unless you have or know what your doing. It can affect your system in "very" interesting ways :)

If this is one of those informational questions We hope to have given you all you need.

On the subject of wanton tinkering, vvksan, perhaps you could have a look at an "informal" question of mine here and see if you can explain what I need to know:



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