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An expert tool for recovering lost partitions

How to use HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE safely?

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE

In this article you will find out:

  • what is HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE
  • how to use it
  • how to protect your data

Are you ready? Let's read!

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE (HKLM) is one of the most important registry hives that make up the overall Windows registry. HKLM contains the following data:

  • Most of the information about the configuration of the software you have installed
  • Information about the Windows operating system itself
  • Information about detected hardware
  • Information about device drivers
  • Information about the boot configuration of your computer

In certain situations, the question may arise: how do I open HKLM? Let's figure it out.

1. How to use it

File location

To find HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE, you can use the Registry Editor tool included with all Windows versions.

Open the Registry Editor and on the left side find HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE.

Note: Sometimes you may need to collapse all open registry keys to find the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE hive.

Next, double-click HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE to expand the hive. You can also use the small arrow on the left for this.

Subkeys

In the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE hive, you can see the following registry keys:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE \ BCD00000000

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE \ COMPONENTS

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE \ SAM

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE \ SECURITY

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE \ DRIVERS

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE \ HARDWARE

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE \ SOFTWARE

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE \ SYSTEM

Keep in mind that these keys may be slightly different depending on your Windows version and computer configuration. For example, you will not always find the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE \ COMPONENTS key in newer versions of the system.


The HARDWARE subkey may be needed to determine the current BIOS version and vendor. You can also get information about the processor and other hardware devices here. The SOFTWARE section is the most commonly used section of the HKLM. Here, each program writes data to the registry so that the next time the application is opened, its specific settings can be applied automatically. Thus you don't need to reconfigure the program every time you use it.

HKLM also has private subkeys, so they cannot be viewed like other subkeys in the HKLM registry hive. This applies to the following:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE \ SAM

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE \ SECURITY

The SAM section contains information about the Security Accounts Manager (SAM) databases for domains. Each database has users, group aliases, guest and administrator accounts, cryptographic hashes of each user's password, and more.

The SECURITY subkey is for storing the security policy of the current user and is associated with the security database of the domain in which the user is logged on.

To open the contents of a SAM or SECURITY key, the Registry Editor must be opened using a system account that has sufficient rights.

Microsoft offers free utilities such as PsExec that can open the Registry Editor with appropriate permissions to view these hidden keys.

Additional information

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE acts as a shortcut to a number of other sources of data about your computer; that is, it doesn't actually exist anywhere on the computer. In this case, no one can create additional keys in HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE; it is simply impossible.

Neither you nor any installed program can create additional keys in HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE.

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE is often abbreviated as HKLM. However, this is not always correct, since some programs, even tools available directly from Microsoft, do not allow you to shorten the hive in the registry paths. As a result, you may receive an error message when using the term "HKLM".

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