Where are the Windows registry files located in Windows 10/8/7 ?

The Windows Registry is the centralized configuration database for Windows NT and Windows 2000, as well as for applications. The Registry stores information about tuning parameters, device configuration, and user preferences.

On disk, the Windows Registry isn’t simply one large file but a set of discrete files called hives. Each hive contains a Registry tree, which has a key that serves as the root (i.e., starting point) of the tree. Subkeys and their values reside beneath the root.

Location of Windows registry files

The location of these registry hives are as follows:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE \SYSTEM : \system32\config\system
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE \SAM : \system32\config\sam
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE \SECURITY : \system32\config\security
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE \SOFTWARE : \system32\config\software
HKEY_USERS \UserProfile :  \winnt\profiles\username
HKEY_USERS.DEFAULT : \system32\config\default

The supporting files are as follows:

Location of Windows registry files

Some hives are volatile and don’t have associated files. The system creates and manages these hives entirely in memory; the hives are therefore temporary in nature. The system creates volatile hives every time the system boots. Examples are:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE \HARDWARE : Volatile hive
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE \SYSTEM \Clone : Volatile hive

These files are database files, and only RegEdit, Regedit32 and the Kernel32 can read them. The primary tool in Windows 10/8/7 for working directly with the registry is Registry Editor. To access it, simply type Regedit in Start Menu Search Bar and hit Enter !

If you need to read more on this, head over to TechNet!

UPDATE: AccidentalADMIN has made a useful comment. He says:

Every Windows got a registry Key which lists every hive in system. Open Regedit and navigate to the following key to get a complete list:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\hivelist

While on the topic of Registry, you might also want to see if some of these links interest you:

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Posted by on , in Category Windows with Tags
Anand Khanse is the Admin of TheWindowsClub.com, a 10-year Microsoft MVP Awardee in Windows (2006-16) & a Windows Insider MVP. Please read the entire post & the comments first, create a System Restore Point before making any changes to your system & be careful about any 3rd-party offers while installing freeware.

36 Comments

  1. No help from you

    Wow, great job NOT answering the question. Maybe next time mention what those little discreat files are.

  2. Stascom

    he told you, ——-. read again – paths starting with “system32”. that’s in %windir% or your Windows folder

  3. Dadd

    To author: You forgot to mention what are the files for HKCU and HKCR hives.

  4. Regedit

    and of course those are the ones I’m trying to find.. 🙁

  5. sadman

    I just want “Cannot load Dll!” error message to go away for my maplestory setup ;-( *boo hoo hooo* *cry cry* *tear drop*

  6. trying to avoid dll-hell

    not obvious, on win7, look at system32, but also sysWOW64 (love the name)

  7. Forrest M

    HKCU – “Symbolic link to a key under HKEY_USERS representing a user’s profile hive.”
    HKCR – “Symbolic link to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE SOFTWARE Classes”

    Found in the link provided by the author to a TechNet article.

  8. HelterSkelter

    Where is the HKLM files in the registry.

  9. dmad

    current user hive is the ntuser.dat hidden file inside the users profile.

  10. dmad

    The question was ‘where are the windows registry files located’.. pretty sure he answered that. The question you asked the room you are sitting in wasn’t heard by him in the past when he wrote this article..

  11. dmad

    PS if you don’t know what the files are you shouldn’t be looking for them

  12. rookie

    Is there any way to easily find what I’m looking for? For e.g my bejeweled is running slow and I want to delete it and clean it from my registry so that when I reinstall it it doesn’t reappear with the previous saved information. Do I need to go in the registry for such a purpose, or there’s another solution? Someone please help, thanks 🙂

  13. To edit the registry, one has to Run regedit to open the Registry Editor. I am not sure about the concerned registry entries, however. If you are not familiar with the Registry I suggest you avoid touching it. Use a good registry cleaner like CCleaner instead to clean out the orphaned registry entries.

  14. AccidentalADMIN

    Every Windows got a registry Key which lists every hive in system…. Open Regedit and navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESYSTEMCurrentControlSetControlhivelist to get a complete list.

  15. That’s a useful observation. Thank you for the same.

  16. Korenchkin

    or windows/sysnative/config for win8 x64(at least me)

  17. mythofechelon

    Interesting. If “HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESYSTEMCurrentControlSetControlhivelist” sets the paths registry hives does that mean that moving the hive and changing its respective value could be effective relocate it? I’m paranoid that leaving registry hives on a system SSD decreases its lifetime due to the huge number of read/write operations but up until now I didn’t think you could relocate them.

  18. jj

    ever here of Binkiland .com how can I delete it

  19. ALCI ACOSTA JONES

    i lost 3 mins of my life reading this

  20. RonHat10

    Keep reading.

  21. Keyboard Monkey

    Stop making a fool out of yourself. This article is too the point.

  22. louis925

    I want to view a registry file (.dat) of Windows 10 on a Windows 7 PC. Is there a way to read it without importing it to my system? I don’t want it to overwrite the registry file of my current system.

  23. Arti Srm

    I left the computer unlocked with someone. How do I find out what files were uploaded from the computer during this 15 minutes time frame?

  24. satibel

    you can use symbolic links for this, though if your other disk has problems or you need to do a system restore, you’ll need to move the files back before making changes.

    basically:
    1) boot with a recovery disk, choose repair (that should give you a cmd)
    2) copy the files using robocopy or xcopy
    3) mklink c:Users…NTUSER.DAT d:Users…NTUSER.DAT (assuming your disks are c: and d: and you didn’t move the users folder. You could move the whole users folder by using mklink /J […])

  25. Dead Reaper

    what do you use to open the mapsit says “how do you want to open this file” i dont know what to do

  26. Gustavo

    Total Virus report some kind of virus: Ikarus: PUA.RV platform

  27. For which software or for what?

  28. Gustavo

    RegBak of course.

  29. Could be a false positive as my AV does not throws a warning. Anyway its just 1/61 https://www.virustotal.com/en/file/fff6373d3d1f0aa95ed7c694756d8117fb9628cb26b6458599616b29028a8618/analysis/1490625268/ But you could get the Acelogix Regback software file checked at Jotti too if you wish. Thanks for your feedback.

  30. Wow, I’ve wondered what files Windows stores the registry in for years at least. Glad to see an article actually answering this.

  31. You don’t generally edit the files directly. Just use regedit – it loads the files for you in an editable format.

  32. Mehtab Haider

    tell me the .stm registry file’s value data?

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