The Windows Registry is a hierarchical database that stores low-level settings for the Microsoft Windows operating system and for applications that opt to use the registry. The kernel, device drivers, services, Security Accounts Manager, and user interfaces can all use the registry. The registry also allows access to counters for profiling system performance.
In other words, the registry or Windows Registry contains information, settings, options, and other values for programs and hardware installed on all versions of Microsoft Windows operating systems. For example, when a program is installed, a new subkey containing settings such as a program's location, its version, and how to start the program, are all added to the Windows Registry.
When introduced with Windows 3.1, the Windows Registry primarily stored configuration information for COM-based components. Windows 95 and Windows NT extended its use to rationalize and centralize the information in the profusion of INI files, which held the configurations for individual programs, and were stored at various locations. It is not a requirement for Windows applications to use the Windows Registry. For example, .NET Framework applications use XML files for configuration, while portable applications usually keep their configuration files with their executables.
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