Windows NT kernels support redirection of INI file-related APIs into a virtual file in a registry location such as HKEY_CURRENT_USER using a feature called "InifileMapping".[46] This functionality was introduced to allow legacy applications written for 16-bit versions of Windows to be able to run under Windows NT platforms on which the System folder is no longer considered an appropriate location for user-specific data or configuration. Non-compliant 32-bit applications can also be redirected in this manner, even though the feature was originally intended for 16-bit applications.

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Because the registry is a database, it offers improved system integrity with features such as atomic updates. If two processes attempt to update the same registry value at the same time, one process's change will precede the other's and the overall consistency of the data will be maintained. Where changes are made to .INI files, such race conditions can result in inconsistent data that does not match either attempted update. Windows Vista and later operating systems provide transactional updates to the registry by means of the Kernel Transaction Manager, extending the atomicity guarantees across multiple key and/or value changes, with traditional commit–abort semantics. (Note however that NTFS provides such support for the file system as well, so the same guarantees could, in theory, be obtained with traditional configuration files.)

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In Windows, use of the registry for storing program data is a matter of developer's discretion. Microsoft provides programming interfaces for storing data in XML files (via MSXML) or database files (via SQL Server Compact) which developers can use instead. Developers are also free to use non-Microsoft alternatives or develop their own proprietary data stores.

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