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Windows Registry Guides:
For specific Windows registry guide information, click on the links listed below.
An Introduction - What's a computer registry
Registry Corruption : Problems and Solutions
Registry Rescue : Fixing Registry Problems
My Computer and Internet suddenly slowed down.
When I try to shut down my computer, it just keeps beeping time and again.
I'm not able to remove installed programs.
My software has suddenly stopped working.
I have a problem starting my computer system.

What is Windows Registry?

The Windows Registry is a set of data files used to help Windows control hardware, software, the user's environment, and the "look and feel" of the Windows interface. The Registry is contained in two files in the Windows directory (in XP they are called "hives"): system.dat and user.dat, with backup copies system.da0 and user.da0. The Registry database is accessed with regedit.exe which is in the Windows directory. Iin older version of windows (before windows 95) these functions were performed by WIN.INI, SYSTEM.INI, and other .INI files that are associated with applications.

Originally, SYSTEM.INI and WIN.INI controlled all Windows and application features and access. It worked well when average users used only a few applications. As the number and complexity of applications grew, so did the number of entries to the .INI files. The downside of this approach, in a growing environment, is that everyone would make changes to the .INI files
when applications were added to the system. However, no one ever removed references from their .INI files when they removed applications, so SYSTEM.INI and WIN.INI continued to get larger and larger. Each incremental size increase meant slower performance. Even upgrading applications presented its challenges. The upgrade would add entries but never take the old ones away, presumably to ensure compatibility if another program was to access the settings.

The Registry is a set of files that control all aspects of the operating system and how it works with outside events. Those "events" range from accessing a hardware device directly to how the interface will react to a specific user to how an application will be run and much more. It was designed to work exclusively with 32-bit applications, and file size is limited to about 40MB.

The Registry is complex by its very nature, and by its design.

It is the data file for all 32-bit hardware/driver combinations and 32-bit applications in both Windows XP and Windows 95. Sixteen-bit drivers do not work in NT, so all devices are controlled through the Registry, even those normally controlled by the BIOS. In Windows 95, 16-bit drivers will continue to work as real-mode devices, and they use SYSTEM.INI for control.

Without the Registry, the operating system would not have the necessary information to run, to control attached devices, to launch and control applications, and to respond correctly to user input.

When a user attempts to launch an application, the Registry supplies application information to the OS so the application can be found, the correct data file locations are set, and other settings are available.

The Registry holds information about default data and auxiliary file locations, menus, button bars, window status, and other options. It also holds installation information such as the date of installation, the user who installed the software, the version number and date, and sometimes the serial number. Depending on the actual software installed, it may contain other application-specific information.

Without the Windows Registry, Windows 95 and Windows XP would not be possible. They are too complex to be controlled by the older .INI files, and their expansion capabilities allow almost unlimited installation and use of applications. The Registry is, however, much more complex than the .INI files, and understanding how it works, what it does, and how to work with it is critical for effective system administration.

The Registry controls all 32-bit applications and their functions on the system, plus the interaction between multiple applications, such as copying and pasting. It also controls all the hardware and drivers. Though most of the settings are made during installation and through the Control Panel, understanding the Registry is fundamental to reliable and capable management of Windows XP and Windows 95 systems.

Some information in the above might be relevant only to Windows 95 and not the other newer version of Windows.

Potential Registry Problems:

If the Registry is severely damaged, access to hardware and software may be drastically limited, and the system may not even boot. Even in the case of a minor problem, an application may not work as it was designed, or may perform erratically.

The Registry is protected while it is running, so it is not possible to copy, delete, or change the contents, except through a "certified" program (installation programs, registry editing tools, and security changes through User Manager for Domains and the Explorer). Because of this protection, the Registry is quite secure--but it is not bulletproof. Problems can and do occur, and you need to be prepared to recognize them so you can fix them.

How to Recognize When You Have a Registry Problem

Most of us have heard of or felt the following symptoms, all of them characteristic of Registry problems:

My computer and Internet are very slow suddenly.
I can not remove certain programs from my computer.
It worked yesterday, but it won't work today.
It worked until I added this software/hardware, and now I can't use it.
My system doesn't work the way it used to.
When I try to shut down the computer, it just keeps beeping and beeping.
My computer won't start up.
The dreaded Blue Screen of Death!

Why registry gets corrupted?

The most common ways the Registry gets corrupted are

Applications and drivers being added to the system
Hardware changes or upgrades
Adding and removing programs
Users making changes to the Registry database

Program Errors

Adding and removing programs account for the majority of errors found in the Registry. Most users add between six and seven applications, and add or upgrade drivers, applications etc. four or five times per month. Then there are applications which are added to your computer without your information through the Internet. During initial installation and setup, the numbers are even greater.

Here are the most common reasons that applications cause problems with the Registry:

Poorly written application (bugs)
There are no applications without bugs or errors. In the best case, the errors that are there are minor, esoteric problems that you may never see, which were left alone because of time and money constraints. To a programmer, a problem may be minor, but it becomes a major problem to you if it crashes your system.
Driver incompatibility
The open architecture of the PC world creates significant risk because any type of eclectic combination of parts and pieces is possible. Testing all combinations and ensuring the compatibility of all the devices is impossible. The other challenge arises when the driver for wrong Operating System is used (like Windows 98 driver in Windows XP).
Incorrect entries added to the Registry by the application during installation
During installation, most applications use a file called SETUP.INF for detailed information about what disks are required, which directories should be created, where to copy files, and Registry entries that need to be made to make the application work correctly. If there is a mistake in the SETUP.INF file, the change will still be made, and there may be serious problems.
Incorrect associations set between applications and file types by an application
When an application is installed, default document types are recorded in the Registry. A user can then double-click to start the application and load the document. Many times, other applications use the same extension. For example, the last graphics program loaded will be the one launched when a TIF graphic is activated based on the settings in the Registry. Occasionally, completely different, non-compatible applications will use the same extensions on their document files, and the document-loading shortcut won't work.
Errors created during the uninstall process
Whether you remove applications through Add/Remove programs in the Control Panel, through a proprietary uninstall feature of the application, or through a third-party utility, you run a risk of damaging the Registry. Besides taking out the program, auxiliary, and data files, an uninstall routine may attempt to remove Registry entries as well. It may inadvertently remove required entries for other applications because it is nearly impossible for the system to know all the entries accessed by an application.
Errors in fonts
When the font ID in the Registry gets corrupted, you will see a different font than the one listed in the application. It can be annoying and may require you to remove some or all of your fonts and replace them. It mostly happens when user installs and removes fonts frequently.

Unfortunately, you may find out about these problems too late, after you have lost time, money, and/or data. Also, you are almost powerless to truly solve them, because someone else wrote the program, and most people do not have the expertise required to change the application itself. The best you can do as an administrator is to repair the Registry Using Registry Repair tools like ARO 2011.

System Problems

If the computer system itself has a problem, the Registry can become corrupted. Usually, these errors can be prevented with proper system care and management.

Virus
Viruses are an insidious attempt to affect our systems by changing the nature of files and in whole corrupting the registry.
Electrical surges, spikes, or brownouts
Nearly all power problems can be easily avoided with good surge protectors and UPS devices (uninterruptible power supplies).
Disk problems
Most of the time you will replace hard disks because of capacity limitations far sooner than you would because of hardware failure. If the whole hard drive fails, of course, you will have to restore your Registry from a backup. The other concern is the failure of individual sectors or clusters on the drive. Although it is highly unlikely with today's systems, a fault in the surface of the drive media may make parts of the disk unreadable, including those where the Registry files are located. Regular maintenance is critical, and a good backup is vital.

Easiest way to take care of errors would be to regularly use tools like ARO 2011.

Manual Changes Made to Registry

When people manually edit the Registry, they are prone to make errors because of the complexity of the data, and the errors may be significant enough to cause the system to quit working.

Copying Registry Entries

Copying Registry values is a very serious mistake many users make. Just because it works on the other machine doesn't mean it will automatically work on this one. Much of what is in the Registry is specific to the individual system, even if the hardware is the same. Copying the files that make up the Registry to another system will not work. Characteristically, if another system's Registry is used, most of the hardware will not work, and user and security issues may make the data and application information inaccessible.


Some information in the above might be relevant only to Windows 95 and not the other newer version of Windows.

ARO 2011 for Rescue

ARO 2011 is a one stop tool to scan, identify and fix the problems and errors in your windows registry. The Windows Registry is the reference library of the computer where the information about the installed programs is stored. Regular use of the computer (adding and removing programs) leaves traces in the registry like marks left on a whiteboard after writing and erasing. These traces can cause computers to slow down, stop performing, behave erratically, and even restart at times. It is very important to scan and fix the errors in the registry regularly, like wipe cleaning a whiteboard with time. It is essential that only the errors get deleted and no harm should be caused to the programs which are present on the computer. The extensive research by Sammsoft ensures the Optimizer scans, identifies and fixes all the errors in the system registry. ARO 2011 uses a high performance engine to scan more than 12 important sections of the registry. The users can then go through each error individually and select them for fixing.

Inmost cases, the user can let ARO 2011 do the job automatically. It even allows an advanced user to select particular parts of registry to be scanned for errors. In the automatic wizard mode, the user has the option to leave it to the high performance engine at the core of ARO 2011 to identify and fix problems, helping make your system FAST, ERROR FREE, OPTIMIZED and IN YOUR CONTROL.

Our extensive research allows us to identify only those references in this huge library which are erratic. As a precaution, ARO 2011 shows the complete list of the errors to the user to select the entries to be fixed.


Windows Registry Redefined | How ARO works | Sammsoft

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