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8.4. Hives

HKEY_USERS and HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE can be thought of as the only true root keys, since the Registry's three other root keys are simply symbolic links, or mirrors, of different portions of these two. This means that these two branches are the only ones that actually need to be stored on your hard disk, and this is where hives come into play.

For every branch in HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE, a corresponding hive file is stored in your \Windows\System32\config folder. For example, HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software is stored in a file called software (no filename extension). Since new branches can be added to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE, new hives can be generated at any time. Most systems will have the following hives: sam, security, software, and system.


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