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In this sense, the entire registry was like a single associative array where the registry keys (in both the registry sense and dictionary sense) formed a hierarchy, and the registry values were all strings.When the 32-bit registry was created, so was the additional capability of creating multiple named values per key, and the meanings of the names were somewhat distorted.For compatibility with the previous behavior, each registry key may have a "default" value, whose name is the empty string.Each value can store arbitrary data with variable length and encoding, but which is associated with a symbolic type (defined as a numeric constant) defining how to parse this data.The Windows Logo Program has specific requirements for where different types of user data may be stored, and that the concept of least privilege be followed so that administrator-level access is not required to use an application.The key located by HKLM is actually not stored on disk, but maintained in memory by the system kernel in order to map all the other subkeys. On Windows NT, this key contains four subkeys, "SAM", "SECURITY", "SYSTEM", and "SOFTWARE", that are loaded at boot time within their respective files located in the %System Root%\System32\config folder.The hierarchy of registry keys can only be accessed from a known root key handle (which is anonymous but whose effective value is a constant numeric handle) that is mapped to the content of a registry key preloaded by the kernel from a stored "hive", or to the content of a subkey within another root key, or mapped to a registered service or DLL that provides access to its contained subkeys and values. HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows refers to the subkey "Windows" of the subkey "Microsoft" of the subkey "Software" of the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE root key.There are seven predefined root keys, traditionally named according to their constant handles defined in the Win32 API, or by synonymous abbreviations (depending on applications): Like other files and services in Windows, all registry keys may be restricted by access control lists (ACLs), depending on user privileges, or on security tokens acquired by applications, or on system security policies enforced by the system (these restrictions may be predefined by the system itself, and configured by local system administrators or by domain administrators).

Because user-based registry settings are loaded from a user-specific path rather than from a read-only system location, the registry allows multiple users to share the same machine, and also allows programs to work for less privileged users.By contrast, the Windows Registry stores all application settings in one logical repository (but a number of discrete files) and in a standardized form.According to Microsoft, this offers several advantages over . Since file parsing is done much more efficiently with a binary format, it may be read from or written to more quickly than an INI file.The 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 (SAM), and user interface can all use the registry.

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