Introduction to a PC's Registry

One of the key underlying layers of a computer system is the device’s registry. Often referred to as the heart of a computer, this registry is a database kept in a hierarchical manner, is responsible for controlling how the computer’s operating systems interacts with any hardware devices it’s attached to, as well as the settings for any software applications that can be or are running on a the PC. User profiles, system settings and system preferences are also logged in the registry. Any additions to and removals from the system, as well as any alterations made to the system settings will all be reflected in the registry as well.

The structure of the registry is based on keys and registry values. Having noted that the registry is a hierarchical database, the keys are in essence folders, which contain other keys, known as sub-keys, which in themselves contain more sub-keys, in some cases several levels in. This is a method of breaking up stored information in a way that makes it easier and faster for the operating system to refer to the information it is looking to find in the registry. Registry values are stored within the keys and are the entities which contain the information held within the registry. More detailed information on key and value types can be found here: http://www.pctools.com/guides/article/id/1/page/2/

All of these features make the registry immensely powerful, but just like any other powerful entity, it can be immensely damaging to the system if not approached with a level of knowledge and caution. A user who does go the extra mile to make changes to registry is always advised to take the time to backup the registry information to a certain restoration point. Directions on creating a restoration point, as well as restoring the system registry by using the System Restore utility can be found here: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/322756/

The registry can be viewed with the use of a registry viewer program, an application residing on the system of the PC. This can be accessed by clicking the Start button, selecting the Run command, and in the Run prompt typing: regedit. This viewer is also, as its call name implies, and editor. The format of it is similar to that of Windows Explorer which is a program more familiar to most viewers. The user can open up and collapse keys, to drill down to the stored values if necessary.

It is immensely important that a user who does not know what their way around a registry not attempt to edit it. The result could be crippling to one’s system and in some cases may cause irreparable damage. As stated earlier, any edits should be preceded by a back up of the keys involved in order to have a restoration point if one were to become needed.

The registry will retain some old and outdated information, in a lot of situations resulting from uninstalled programs the traces of which were never fully purged from the registry, so it may help the system function better if the old and orphaned keys are no longer there. In order to accomplish this, an experienced user may be able to cherry pick certain sub-keys for removal, but there are better, more efficient and safer ways of accomplishing this goal. Using registry cleaning software can be immensely helpful. The better programs will allow the user to isolate the orphaned and outdated keys, and will allow the user to then delete those keys associated to programs that are no longer installed on the user’s system.

Acquiring the best registry cleaner may take some online research. There are several good free cleaners, as there are good ones that must be purchased. It is important to note that just because you pay for a cleaner; it does not mean it will necessarily be more efficient. After some research, you can find a general opinion of which cleaners do a sufficient job with helping your system run better.

While running a registry cleaner it is advised that as little programs and applications, as well as tools in the toolbar which are running or open. These programs are constantly in touch with the registry and it would be counterproductive for a cleaner to run while the registry is getting edits or updates.

There are many online and literary resources that can be found that deal with registry maintenance. While it is not something that needs to be done all that often, an occasional and careful registry upkeep can help to prolong the efficiency of a system’s performance, allowing for faster speed, response times and minimal “junk” left over after frequent PC use.