The five hives in the Windows Registry

Depending on your XP configuration and the programs you’ve installed, your Registry may have thousands of settings or tens of thousands of them. The settings are organized into five main Registry sections, called Registry hives. In the Registry the hives simply appear as folders.

Here’s what each Registry hive does:

  • HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT. Contains information about file types, filename extensions, and other details related to files. It tells XP how to handle different file types, and controls basic interface options like double-clicking and context menus.
  • HKEY_CURRENT_USER. Contains configuration information about the setup of the person currently logged into XP. It controls the desktop, as well as XP’s specific appearance and behavior for that individual, including screen colors and the arrangement of the desktop. It also manages the connections to the network and to devices like digital cameras or printers.
  • HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE. Contains information about the computer itself, as well as the operating system. It includes specific details about all hardware, including the keyboard, printer ports, and storage devices. It also has information about security settings, installed software, system startup, drivers, and other services, like the ability to automatically connect to wireless networks.
  • HKEY_USERS. Contains information about every user profile on the system.
  • HKEY_CURRENT_CONFIG. Contains information about the system’s current hardware setup, in the same way that HKEY_CURRENT_USER contains information about whoever’s logged into the system at the moment. It has details like the type of hard disk installed in your PC, for example.

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