File: <SYSTEMROOT>\System32\config\SYSTEM

Registry keys: HKLM\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\<SERVICE_NAME>


Windows services are programs that operate in the background and conform to the interface rules and protocols of the Service Control Manager (SCM) (the component responsible for managing Windows services). Services can be implemented as binaries or Dynamic Link Libraries (DLL). The services implemented as DLL are loaded and executed by an instance of the Service Host (svchost.exe) process.

The Services registry key hold the configuration information of the installed Windows services: name, display name, image path, start mode, service type, required privileges if any, etc.

Information of interest

Each service configuration is defined in a dedicated subkey under Services, identified by the service name. The last write timestamp of the service sub key indicates the service creation or last modification timestamp.

For each service, the following notable information is available (under the service name root key):

  • Service name and display name.

  • Service image path.

    Services implemented as Dynamic Link Library (DLL) will usually have their image path set to %SystemRoot%\system32\svchost.exe -k <SERVICE_HOST_GROUP>, with the -k flag defining the Service Host Groups of the service. As stated in the Microsoft documentation, the Service Host (svchost.exe) is a shared-service process that serves as a shell for loading services from DLL files. Services are organized into related Service Host Groups, and each group runs inside a different instance of the Service Host process. The list of services defined in a Service Host Group is set in the HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Svchost registry key.

    Two other argument may be specified to the Service Host process:

  • The service type:
    • 0x1: Kernel driver.
    • 0x2 / 0x8: File system driver.
    • 0x10: Standard Windows service that runs in a process by itself.
    • 0x20: Windows service that can share a process with other services.
    • 0x110: Similar to 0x10, but can interact with users.
    • 0x120: Similar to 0x20, but can interact with users.
  • The service start mode:
    • 0x0: “Boot Start”
    • 0x01: “System Start”
    • 0x02: “Auto Start”
    • 0x03: “Manual”
    • 0x04: “Disabled”
  • The Windows specific privileges required by the service (SeImpersonatePrivilege, SeDebugPrivilege, etc.). No specific privileges may also be set, for example if the service runs as NT AUTHORITY\SYSTEM.


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