Internet Information Server (IIS) uses an information store apart from the Registry, called the Metabase, to hold various IIS site and service settings. IIS uses the Metabase because reading and writing to the Registry is a relatively slow process, and one of the goals of IIS's construction is speed. The Metabase is structurally similar to the Registry, but is stored and accessed in an entirely different fashion.
Normally the Metabase in IIS is not edited; the vast majority of the changes made to the Metabase are done through the IIS management console. There may come times when the Metabase will need to be edited directly—for instance, if an undocumented or unexposed value is changed by some third-party program, or if there's a need to change just such a value to make something else work. In IIS 5.0 and earlier, the Metabase was stored as a binary file, only editable with a special tool from Microsoft. IIS 6.0 and above, the Metabase is stored in a plain-text XML-format file.
In theory it is possible to edit the XML-format Metabase using nothing more than Notepad, although it's not that easy: XML formatting is not terribly human-friendly, and digging through the maze of subdivisions in an XML file can be headache-inducing. To make editing the XML-format Metabase easier, Microsoft has created a tool called the Metabase Explorer (now in version 1.6).
The Metabase Explorer provides a REGEDIT-like interface for the Metabase, much the same as the previous version of the Metabase editor did. The user can edit, export, import, copy, and paste keys, subkeys and values, compare records against each other, and edit security settings for Metabase objects as well.
Microsoft has made the Metabase Explorer available as part of the IIS 6.0 Resource Kit Tools package.
Serdar Yegulalp is the editor of the Windows 2000 Power Users Newsletter. Check out his Windows 2000 blog for his latest advice and musings on the world of Windows network administrators – please share your thoughts as well!
This was first published in August 2004