You can consider your computer’s registry as an activity record log for every action you perform like visiting recently opened documents tab, going to websites, changing your desktop etc. In fact, there is already an entry for reading this article created somewhere in your registry.
Long story short, a computer’s registry is a hierarchy divided into a number of hives and inside these hives are the keys. Keys have one or multiple subkeys within them and inside those there are the values: incredibly small files that contain only numeric files and binary data. In other words, imagine this as a main folder containing lots of other smaller folders and so on until you reach the files.
Returning to the “surface”, hives can be categorized in 5 main ones, each representing the different contents of your machine. The first one is HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT which contains all the information used by programs for file associations and for sharing information. HKEY_CURRENT_USER is where the current user’s settings and configurations are placed, while HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE contains the keys for the same information, only regarding all users accessing the same computer. However, the latter two should not be confused with HKEY_USERS which is pretty much the same as HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE, but the information present in HKEY_CURRENT_USER is copied from this hive whenever a user logs in the computer. Last but not least, there is HKEY_CURRENT_CONFIG which contains all your hardware’s information about the resources and, as the name indicates, the configuration of the computer.
Every action you take creates an entry within one or more of the hives, meaning that the older the computer, the more flooded different hives of your registry become. Installing and uninstalling programs, upgrading or updating software always creates duplicate keys and invalid entries (values) either in HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE or HKEY_CURRENT_USER. Depending on the quantity of the programs and how much disk space they need, these keys and entries slowly accumulate over time. Since there is much more to process before a program can respond to your actions, you encounter the much dreaded slowdown effect. Moreover, system shutdown errors could occur on a more regular basis and your computer’s registry gets fragmented, ultimately further contributing to the slowing down of your PC.
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