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 Plug and Play device you add, every multiple-user profile you create (Chapter 17), 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 preference settings in your Registry.
As you can well imagine, therefore, the Registry is an extremely important cog in the Windows XP machine. That’s why Windows marks your Registry files as invisible and non-deletable, and why it makes a Registry backup every single time you shut down the PC. If the Registry gets damaged or randomly edited, a grisly plague of problems may descend upon your machine. Granted, Windows XP’s System Restore feature (described in this chapter) can extract you from such a mess, but now you know why the Registry is rarely even mentioned to novices.
In fact, ...