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An application must open a key before it can add data to the registry. To open a key, an application must supply a handle to another key in the registry that is already open. The system defines standard handles that are always open. An application can use these predefined handles as entry points to the registry.
The system provides two predefined keys at the root of the registry: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE and HKEY_USERS. In addition, the system defines HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT (a sub key of HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE) and HKEY_CURRENT_USER (a sub key of HKEY_USERS). In addition, other predefined handles have been defined for specific platforms.
Predefined keys help an application navigate in the registry and make it possible to develop tools that allow a system administrator to manipulate categories of data. Applications that add data to the registry should always work within the framework of predefined keys, so administrative tools can find and use the new data. The following predefined keys are used as entry points to the registry.
The use of HKEY_CURRENT_USER, HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE, and HKEY_USERS varies depending on the implementation of the registry.
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