About Windows Registry Keys

The Windows Registry is a hierarchical database defined by the Windows OS to store, modify and manage system and application configuration.

The hierarchy resembles a tree format where each node in the tree is called a Key(Windows Registry Key). Keys can contain Subkeys, Values and additional Data in each Value. Applications installed on any Windows OS use the Registry’s Key/Value format through the Registry API to create, delete and change data stored in the database.

For Example, every time you install a windows application like VLC Player, Photoshop, Advanced System Repair, etc; the applications internally call the Registry API to create new records to store information like Installation Path, User Settings, Program Options, and other application and user specific information in the Registry.

Developers creating Windows applications are expected to only modify entries in the Registry that control their applications.

Modifying other programs registry entries either manually or programmatically can often lead to unintended errors in the applications or the whole system itself.

In such cases, restoring the registry to its last known working state becomes inevitable.

Understanding Windows Registry Keys & Values

Data stored in the Windows Registry is stored in the form of a hierarchy of keys. Each Key name is unique and has one or more printable characters except Backslash.

Values and data inside values can contain backslash characters as they’re often used for storing paths to programs.

In the above example, each of the entries on the left panel under the Computer Tag are Keys. All entries on the right panel are Values.

As you can observe, each key can have multiple subkeys and values. Each value can contain data of various formats. Information about the types of data that can be stored in values is described at Registry Value Types.

How to Use The Windows Registry

Microsoft provides RegEdit, a free registry editor bundled in all Windows OS to create, edit and modify Windows Registry Key, Values and Data. To open RegEdit, follow the below instructions

  1. Search for Regedit on windows
  2. Type and execute Regedit in the Run Box(Windows Key + R).

All application and system-related Data is stored in Values assigned to Keys that are again categories as Hives to ensure efficient categorization. To change the system or application config, you can change the data or values using the RegEdit utility.

Backup, Add, Modify and Delete Registry Keys and Values

Before you modify your system’s Registry, it’s always recommended to make a backup. Follow the steps below to backup your registry keys

Backup Windows Registry Keys

  1. Open RegEdit using the above recommendations.
  2. Select any Key you want to backup or the Computer Key on top.
  3. Right Click and Select Export.
  4. Save the .Reg file with a name of your choice.

Add New Keys To Windows Registry

  1. Open RegEdit and Select any Subkey you want to add new Keys.
  2. Right Click on the selected key.
  3. Select New > Key.
  4. Input a name for the key.

Modify Values & Data In A Registry Key

  1. Once you have added a key, right-click on it and select New.
  2. Select any of the 6 types of values to add values to your key.
  3. To add data, Right Click on a Value and Click Modify.
  4. Add your data and click OK.

Delete Keys & Values

  1. To delete a value Right Click on the value you want to Delete and select Delete.
  2. Similarly to delete a Key, Right Click on a Key and select Delete. Remember that when you delete a Key, all its subkeys and values get deleted too.

Paul has more than 10 years of experience within the digital realm. He loves to talk about his ‘HOT’ girlfriend and when it comes to geeky boring topics, and nerdy technical issues he’s a magic man. Paul also enjoys reading and solving complex puzzles. "Give to the world the best you have and the best will come back to you" -Edward W. Bok 1929