The Windows Registry Defined
The Windows registry can be defined as a computer’s central, hierarchical database containing configuration information and settings of the Windows operating system, hardware, applications programs and user preferences.
The key function of this database is to inform the programs or operating system about the location of a resource to perform a particular action. Any change in setting, installation or uninstallation of a program results in changes in this database with the addition or deletion of relevant information.
Windows Registry Structure
In the initial years when the Windows operating system was much simpler, the information which comprises the Windows registry was located in simple text files. Though they were very easy to use, organization of these files was such that it made accessing the information a very slow process leading to the evolution of what we call the Windows registry.
The Windows registry is a hierarchical and nested structure. It is the filing system of Windows operating system. On top of this structure are primary sections known as hives. Each hive contains a collection of keys within itself. Each key contains many subkeys.
These keys and subkeys hold zero or more values that contain information in the form of name, data and data type. This information is important and relates to configuration settings, user settings, hardware information or operating system setup.
Windows Registry Errors
The existing architecture of your Windows OS is such that it gives permission to both Windows as well as other application programs belonging to third-party manufacturers, to store configuration information within the Windows Registry. This is beneficial as it allows your registry to act as a central storage space for all kinds of settings information.
The disadvantage of having a central database is that many application programs are poorly coded and may add a lot of information to your registry. Also, most of these applications when uninstalled, do not completely wipe out their registry keys. As you use your computer and install new applications, the registry keeps expanding and eventually gets bloated. This may lead to a corrupt registry that may manifest itself in the form of various types of PC errors.
Keeping Your Registry Clean and Efficient
In order to derive optimal performance from your PC, it is important to scan your registry for errors and rectify them on a regular basis. There are two methods of cleaning your registry.
First is the manual method which is better left to experts who have sound technical knowledge and know what to look for in a Windows Registry. These experts make use of a registry tool known as Regedit that is shipped with the Windows OS. It is highly recommended that you make a complete backup of your registry before venturing on with this method.
The second, more popular method is the usage of reliable registry tools. These tools are widely used by common users because they are efficient, user-friendly and make the process of registry scanning and repairing quite simple. These tools also come loaded with a backup facility that makes regular complete backups of your registry in case there is a registry failure.