IntraSoft Provides a Key to Windows Registry Management

The Windows NT System Registry is looked upon by many Windows NT system administrators as a necessary evil. While the registry succeeded in doing away with the complicated series of .INI files that characterized Windows application development efforts hitherto, it also introduced another layer of complexity -- and potential Achilles heel -- that underpins the Windows 95, Windows 98 and Windows NT operating systems. With the introduction of version 2.0 of KeyVision, a software tool that provides both local and remote system registry editing functionality through a Web browser interface, IntraSoft Inc. (Chapel Hill, N.C.) aims to give Windows NT system administrators an effective tool with which to navigate the Windows registry schema.

"If the Registry is corrupted … nothing worth doing gets done at all," writes Valerie O’Connell, a senior analyst for systems, network and application management with consultancy the Aberdeen Group (Boston, www.aberdeen.com), in an Aberdeen Impact paper. "While Microsoft provides a basic Registry editor for monitoring and managing one machine at a time, it provides no way to address multiple Registries as a logical entity -- never mind as an enterprise reality."

The Windows Registry is the repository for all system configuration data for individual PCs, and includes installation-specific system configuration data pertaining to hardware devices, software and personal user preferences. Microsoft ships two base-level registry editing tools -- REGEDIT.EXE and REGEDT32.EXE -- with the Windows NT operating system, neither of which is mutually exclusive because certain registry editing tasks can be accomplished only by using the one or the other.

IntraSoft’s KeyVision proposes to simplify and extend Windows manageability by consolidating registry management under one common hood and providing Windows NT system administrators with a comprehensive management facility via a Web browser for all Windows registries across entire corporate networks.

As software and operating system upgrade experiences have demonstrated, registry conflicts can often occur when end users install new software or update existing software. The conflicts can render client workstations unbootable. As many system administrators know, identifying and tracking the changes associated with registry problems is extremely difficult, because Microsoft’s 32-bit Windows operating systems currently maintain no history or trail of registry changes.

In addition to facilitating a registry tracking history, KeyVision also provides the ability to concurrently update multiple Registry entries across distributed client workstations, enable the implementation of a set of enterprisewide corporate policies, and lock down selected areas of system registries for more effective security. KeyVision can also provide simultaneous real-time registry editing capabilities for any number of distributed machines, although most registry changes require that a workstation or server be rebooted for the changes to take effect.

According to Stephan Little, vice president of sales and marketing with IntraSoft, KeyVision is being applied as a management migraine-killer in many distributed environments. "We are seeing KeyVision being applied to significantly reduce the headaches inherent in large corporate upgrade programs, as well as delivering … centralized control of registry information throughout corporate networks," Little observes.

David Bovee, an MCSE and system security engineer with Internet and Web services provider Verio Northwest (Bellevue, Wash., www.verio.com), acknowledges the potential attractiveness of a comprehensive registry management utility from the viewpoint of the systems engineer or systems administrator. "A registry management [tool] could be used to 'restore' a system that had crashed, although I find that practically speaking, if a box blue screens, you are probably saving yourself some time to just rebuild it using the latest image rather than troubleshoot," Bovee says. More significant, he notes, KeyVision's history-tracking functionality could be important as a tool for monitoring unauthorized software installations by providing notifications of changes to the system registries in client workstations.

Bovee indicates that the history-tracking functionality provided by a tool such as KeyVision could also be useful from a system security standpoint. "Monitoring permissions on registry keys may be a useful property to monitor," he acknowledges. "Many of the security exploits of NT have related to improper or mere default permissions on keys that turn out to be important."