Chapter 3. The Registry
Every time you change a setting in Control Panel, add hardware to your system, install an application, or even rearrange icons on your desktop, Windows stores the corresponding data in your Registry. The Registry is a database containing all the settings for Windows XP, as well as the applications installed on your system. Knowing how to use the Registry effectively is important for improving performance in Windows, troubleshooting all kinds of problems, and, most importantly, customizing Windows XP beyond what is possible with the dialog boxes scattered throughout the interface.
All of your file types (also known as associations; see Section 4.3) are stored in the Registry, as well as all of the network, hardware, and software settings for Windows XP, and all of the particular configuration options for most of the software you’ve installed. The particular settings and data stored by each of your applications and by the various Windows components vary substantially, but you can use some special techniques to figure out undocumented settings and uncover hidden functionality, regardless of how the data is stored. What’s especially helpful is that most of the settings stored in the Registry are named in plain English rather than with obscure codes and acronyms. You shouldn’t take this fact for granted, as it does help quite a bit in finding settings and troubleshooting problems.
Word to the wise: you can irreversibly disable certain components of Windows XP—or ...