Windows Registry Tools and Concepts

The primary tool used to edit the Registry on a Windows 98, ME, or XP system is Registry Editor, Regedit.exe. The easiest way to get to this tool is from the Run command – simply type regedit, click OK, and you’re off to the races.

Behind getting into the details of importing and exporting settings, it’s important to have a basic understanding of the Registry structure. While closely resembling a folder and file structure similar to browsing the contents of a disk, the terms used to describe Registry elements are different. At the top level of the Registry, five main folders exist (six in Windows 98/ME), known as hives (or sometimes as “root keys”). Each contains different types of information, ranging from user settings to general system settings to security information. Any folder beneath a hive is known as a key, with a folder within a key known as a sub-key; simply calling all folders “keys” is also acceptable.

Within any given folder (key), you’ll find values. Values are the placeholders for the actual Registry settings, known as data. For example, a value called UserName might consist of data like “John Doe”. When editing the Registry, you are typically changing the data associated with existing values, although sometimes, you may be adding completely new values and their associated data.

Author: Dan DiNicolo

Dan DiNicolo is a freelance author, consultant, trainer, and the managing editor of He is the author of the CCNA Study Guide found on this site, as well as many books including the PC Magazine titles Windows XP Security Solutions and Windows Vista Security Solutions. Click here to contact Dan.