April 2001 Reader Challenge

Congratulations to the winners of the April Reader Challenge. First prize goes to Mike Piontkowski of Eugene, Oregon, who gets a copy of Admin911:Group Policy by Windows 2000 expert Roger Jennings. Second prize goes to Nancy Curtis of Rochester, New York, who wins a copy of my own book, Admin911:Windows 2000 Registry.

The Problem
Naming conventions can be confusing, and Microsoft's "naming committee" obviously works like most committees—lots of decisions are compromises, and some things make no sense to anyone who wasn't attending committee meetings.

To see how many Windows 2000 names you can define correctly, answer the following questions:

  1. What is the boot partition, and how does the OS use it?
  2. What is the system partition and how does the OS use it?
  3. In its documentation, Microsoft uses the terms "child domain" and "subdomain." What's the difference between the two terms?
  4. What's a hive?

The Solution

  1. What's the boot partition, and how does the OS use it?
  2. What's the system partition, and how does the OS use it?
  3. These terms can be confusing because the boot files are on the system partition, not the boot partition. The boot partition contains the OS files (the files installed in %SystemRoot%, which is usually named Winnt. The system partition contains the files needed to boot Windows 2000 (Ntldr, Ntdetect.com, Boot.ini). (Incidentally, you can install Win2K across the two partitions, and the partitions can be located on the same physical disk or on separate disks).

  4. In its documentation, Microsoft uses the terms "child domain" and "subdomain." What's the difference?
  5. The two terms refer to the same component type, although you see the word "subdomain" more often in documentation about DNS than you see it in the general Help files.

  6. What's a hive?
  7. A hive is a portion of the registry (a specific section of keys, subkeys, and values) that appears as a file on your computer. The term originated when somebody decided that the structure of the registry that derives the hive files resembles the cellular structure of a beehive. Uh-huh.

    You must use a registry editor to view or edit hive files. However, you can copy hive files anywhere, which is one way to back them up manually. (Most backup software, including Win2K's built-in backup application, has an option for backing up the registry.)

    The system saves registry hive files as .dat files, and each of those files has a corresponding .log file, which acts as a transaction log for the main .dat file.

    The registry keeps a record of the hive files at HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\System\CurrentControlSet\Control\Hive list. When you view that subkey, notice two interesting items. First, you see a listing for the Hardware key, but no hive file is named. This situation occurs because the Hardware key is built from scratch during boot-up. The Ntdetect.com application that runs at start-up gathers the information needed to populate the key—the OS doesn't fetch the information from a hive file.

    The second point of interest is the format of the path to the file, which is \Device\HarddiskVolume1\Winnt\System32\Config\<filename>, except for the logged-on user setting files that are in subdirectories of \Device\HarddiskVolume1\Documents and Settings. (If you didn't use Winnt as the target for your Win2K installation, the path uses the directory name you used instead.) This format gives a clue to the point at which the Win2K startup process accesses this information. The OS doesn't read or assign drive letters until well into the startup process so the use of this hardware name convention is how Win2K finds the location of your hive files.

    Table 1 shows the location of the hive files (and their contents) on your Windows 2000 computer.

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