[Previous] [Contents] [Next]
As explained in Lesson 1, the Registry is a common database
composed of two binary files: SYSTEM.DAT and USER.DAT, which are
located in the Windows directory. Inside the Registry is
information on all the hardware in the computer, network
information, user preferences, and file types, as well as virtually
anything else you might run into within Windows 95.
The Registry is intended to replace CONFIG.SYS, AUTOEXEC.BAT, and
every .INI file. However, Windows 95 still reads all .INI files at
boot up for backward compatibility with Win 3.x programs that need
Why the Change in Windows 95?
Windows 3.1x supported two kinds of .INI files: system
initialization files and private initialization files. System
initialization files controlled the Windows environment and
included SYSTEM.INI and WIN.INI. Private initialization files
included CONTROL.INI, PROGMAN.INI, WINFILE.INI, and PROTOCOL.INI,
as well as any application .INI files. Initialization files created
a bridge between the application and the Windows operating
In addition to .INI files, Windows 3.1 used a host of other text
files to manage operations. The files included AUTOEXEC.BAT and
CONFIG.SYS. It was conceivable for a user to have more than 150
files responsible for the operation of the computer and the Windows
During the development of Windows 3.11, it became apparent that
a move away from the .INI files was needed. A new file type was
introduced into the programming environment. The file was called
REG.DAT and was the precursor to the Windows 95 Registry. REG.DAT
included information used for drag-and-drop operations, object
linking and embedding (OLE), and establishing associations between
data files and their programs.
The binary file REG.DAT was bundled with its editor,
REGEDIT.EXE. While this began the process of centralizing computer
operations, REG.DAT came with some serious size limitations. It
could not exceed 64 KB, which is the same limit established for the
.INI files in Windows 3.11.
Accessing the Registry
The recommended way to access the Registry is through the
Control Panel. It lets a user modify settings with an easy to use
interface that never even mentioned the word Registry. In Windows
3.x, most such changes required modifying the SYSTEM.INI file.
Everything necessary to configure the system so that it will work
can be handled from the Windows 95 Control Panel. The three areas
where Windows 95 preferences/settings can be viewed and configured
are the Control Panel, the System Monitor, and the
Directly changing an entry (to be done only by a knowledgeable
user) is accomplished with the Registry Editor, REGEDIT.EXE. To
open it, type REGEDIT at a command prompt. This can be obtained by
typing the command in the dialog box that appears when you choose
Run from the Start menu. The Registry itself is stored in binary
format, so you can't open, view, or edit the contents directly.
Microsoft tried to make the Registry as inaccessible as
possible. The fact that the Registry is the central repository
creates its principal weakness-once it has been corrupted, it's
hard to recover settings if they haven't been backed up.
The Registry is stored in three locations:
- SYSTEM.DAT: Stores most of the data, including the
majority of hardware and software configurations.
- USER.DAT: Stores data about a particular user.
- The Virtual Registry: Consists of a host of files that
are created by Windows 95 when the system is started up. They are
stored in RAM. These settings relate to many of the
performance-monitoring tools such as PVIEW.EXE.
[Previous] [Contents] [Next]