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Windows XP Professional: The Missing Manual by L.J. Zacker, Craig Zacker, David Pogue

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The Registry

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

Microsoft would just as soon you not even know about the Registry. There’s not a word about it in the basic user guides, and the only information you’ll find about it in the Help and Support center says, “It is strongly recommended that you do not edit Registry settings yourself. Incorrectly editing the Registry may severely damage your system.”

If you’re curious, however, read on.

The Registry is your PC’s master database of preference settings, most of which are extremely technical. It keeps track of 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.

As you can well imagine, therefore, the Registry (Figure 16-17) 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 day. If the Registry gets damaged or randomly edited, a grisly plague of problems may descend upon your machine. Windows XP’s System Restore feature (described in this ...

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