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Windows 7: The Missing Manual by David Pogue

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Appendix B. Fun with the Registry

Occasionally, in books, articles, and conversations, you’ll hear hushed references to something called the Windows Registry—usually accompanied by either knowing or bewildered glances.

The Registry is your PC’s master database of preference settings. For example, most of the programs in the Control Panel are nothing more than graphic front ends that, behind the scenes, modify settings in the Registry.

The Registry also keeps track of almost every program you install, every peripheral device you add, every account you create, your networking configuration, and much more. If you’ve noticed that shortcut menus and Properties dialog boxes look different depending on what you’re clicking, you have the Registry to thank. It knows what you’re clicking and what options should appear as a result. In all, there are thousands and thousands of individual settings in your Registry.

As you can well imagine, therefore, the Registry is an extremely important cog in the Windows machine. That’s why Windows marks most of your Registry files as hidden and non-deletable, and why it makes a Registry backup every single time you shut down the PC. If the Registry gets randomly edited, a grisly plague of problems may descend upon your machine. Granted, the System Restore feature (described in this appendix) can extract you from such a mess, but now you know why the Registry is rarely even mentioned to novices.

In fact, Microsoft would just as soon you not even know about the ...

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