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What If You Delete the Windows Registry?

What If You Delete the Windows Registry?

Windows Registry. Maybe you've heard of it. It's an extremely important part of the Windows operating system. And maybe you've even used the registry editor every once in a while and seen the warnings that all the articles mention when using it. Be very careful. You could ruin your installation of Windows.

But how much damage could you really do to the registry by deleting the wrong thing? That's exactly what we're gonna test today. We're gonna do a real-life demonstration about now what happens when you delete a whole bunch of the Windows Registry. Now obviously it's gonna mess things up quite a bit but will it prevent it from booting? Well, it messes up Windows while it's still running while you're still deleting it? Will you be able to recover it somehow? Just what exactly happens now?


Obviously, we're gonna give a big Disclaimer not to try this at home. It will certainly mess things up. And I'm actually gonna be doing this in a virtual machine. So not on a real use computer although the behavior and everything I will be the same. And also by the way if you have any suggestions for more stuff you want me to try when maybe ruining the computer let me know. This is kind of similar to what happens if you delete the System article which was very fun.

What exactly the registry is and why it's such a big deal?

It's basically a big database of every low-level setting that the Windows operating system may use. And it's used by a whole bunch of different components such as the kernel or the very core software of the operating system. It's used by drivers the user interface even third-party programs and hardware. Everything uses the registry and it's actually made up of a couple different types of information namely keys and values. And keys are kind of like groups of settings or folders almost. And then the values are the actual settings themselves the value that makes sense.

And then to organize that there's also subkeys within keys and then subkeys within those subkeys and a whole bunch of settings all the way down. And even when you install third-party programs that program is going to add its own registry keys to the registry that it'll use. So pretty much everything is going to have its own registry key. And it's going to store things like what programs open what types of files installation directories or even things like the transparency of the taskbar.

So like user interface settings or security settings in the operating system almost every setting is going to have a registry key core responding to it. So clearly deleting even a good chunk of the registry is pretty much going to be catastrophic. So it should be pretty fun.

Let's see what happens.

So here we are in a fresh virtual machine installation and you can see in the registry editor we can already take a look at some of these keys and we have things like hardware driver settings. There's one for Windows settings, software, user settings, all sorts of stuff.

What If You Delete the Windows Registry?

And the current user one obviously is going to be for the current user. Then there's for the hardware that might be drivers and stuff. It's pretty self-explanatory at the low level at least. And then if you go within these folders it's going to get much more specific. And there's way too many to even mention. But you can probably look at a couple of them and figure out what some of them are for. And then there's plenty where you might have no idea what it's for just looking at it. There's just so much in here.

So here we can just start off just press and delete on everything and normally you have to press delete and then confirm it. But I also made an auto hotkey script to just do everything at the same time so it's much faster and we can start in the class's root folder. So going down the line deleting everything I can and it can't delete the top-level folder, Unfortunately. So I can't just delete everything in one fell swoop but I can delete everything in like the second level folders. So I guess that's better than nothing. And it surprisingly has very little protection. There's like no confirmation at all beyond just the Yes or no question.

So this was very much unlike what happens when you delete the system32 article. We did where you know it basically wouldn't let you have the permission to delete anything. And here you can delete whatever you want pretty much. And every once in a while all you're gonna get is like a delete error. So it's not even like you're saying you don't have the permission. It might be we can't delete it because it corrupted some other thing previously. They're required it. So we got a lot of this one done.

Let's move on to the current user folder which is going to store personal settings for that individual user on the computer. And there's a lot fewer here but for some reason, it's starting to take a lot longer for each.

  1. It's starting to slow down a lot. I'm assuming that's because we deleted a lot of critical stuff but I'm not sure. And then we can also move on to the local machine stuff which you can pretty much guess is just settings for the entire computer. We can delete things like the software key folder. And finally, your Registry editor just freezes. And it apparently will not let me do anymore because it completely broke. So the Registry editor isn't really working anymore.
  2. But we can kind of click around the rest of the operating system and everything else is really acting up now. Like I can't even open the File Explorer. It just says you can't do it and you try to click on things in the Start menu doesn't work. Nothing opens. You can't open the Edge browser stuff is just broken at this point. It's not loading. It's screwed up. I can't even shut down.
  3. Normally I can try to click on the shutdown button with the Start menu again. That's not even working. So I tried to do it with the virtual machine software and I press shut down on that. And even that was saying it was not responding. So I literally had to go into the task manager and kill the virtual machine process through that just to get it to stop.

Then we can of course try to reboot it. I don't think there's gonna be a surprise what happens here. It doesn't work. It just says recovery and there's no options at all. I mean at least with the System 32 article there's like a menu. It gave you some options to try and run repair. It does nothing here. It just says your computer needs to be repaired and that the boot directory is messed up. And it's basically like figure it out. And when I Google that error code it basically just says it's a corrupted bootloader file. So it's not even getting into the earliest stages of booting the operating system.

What If You Delete the Windows Registry?

But you may not know this. Windows actually does store a backup copy of the Registry. So what if we try to use that to restore it? Will that work?

So we can go in and Mount that virtual drive on my regular computer and kind of fish around in there. And we could see that the backup folder is in the System config then rag back folder and we can copy these files back into the regular config folder one level up and not everything was backed up like the driver's registry file. It was not in the Registry backup file. So this might not work. We can try rebooting the virtual machine again. And Nope, still broken even with those restored files.

So I think it's safe to say that this Windows installation is completely ruined and you would have to just do a manual reinstall on that computer. 

All right. So I think at this point I don't even have to tell you that the Registry editor is definitely not a toy.

And all those warnings for being careful when using the Registry editor we're certainly justified as we saw deleting the wrong thing will absolutely ruin your Windows installation even to the point of not even being recoverable. And keep in mind we did not even delete everything. It froze probably before we were even able to delete like 10 % of it. So deleting even a little bit. It's going to seriously mess things up.

I also thought it was pretty funny that, unlike System 32 article where I had to really work to get the permissions to delete that folder. The registry editor doesn't really care to delete whatever you want so you definitely need to be very careful when using it and I guess that's it.

Hopefully, you guys found this article fun and interesting and you won't be going around deleting your friend's registry because you know what it'll do this time and you'll have to end up paying for it to get fixed. I'm looking forward to hearing front of you. Let me know if you have any suggestions about what you want me to try next and maybe I'll make it.

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