When I first started my bitcoin core node (version v23.0.0), it asked for directory where to start. I chose a different drive. However, how does the .exe know every time where to start? I cannot find a configuration file where the data directory is specified. I do not use --datadir every time. Also, how do I make sure that it is reading the bitcoin.conf file in my working directory E:\bitcoin?

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how does the .exe know every time where to start?

On Microsoft Windows The Bitcoin Core GUI application stores the name of the data directory in the Windows Registry at registry key Computer\HKEY_CURRENT_USER\SOFTWARE\Bitcoin\Bitcoin-Qt\strDataDir

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