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Find Product Key from a non-bootable installation of windows XP?

Posted on 2006-05-22
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In the post below...
http://www.experts-exchange.com/Operating_Systems/Q_21835842.html

I was trying to rescue an installation of XP.  But there's something wrong with the partition, I believe. Already tried a bunch of stuff to fix it / make it bootable. I can't.

But I am able to browse the HD contents when it's connected to another PC (when it's being used as a slave HD, NOT THE SYSTEM DRIVE)

So I copied those contents elsewhere and now want to reinstall XP. But I don't have the serial number / product key for that original installation of XP (the one that won't boot)

How do I find this?  (Please remember this is a NON BOOTABLE COPY OF WINDOWS)
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Question by:dgrrr
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Expert Comment

by:samb39
ID: 16739814
This product claims to do it: "You can now retrieve product keys from non-bootable hard drives. Keyfinder allows you to load registries from secondary hard drives or from registry backups.  Simply load an alternate registry and click the Windows or Office button. "

http://www.product-key.com/

It costs $6.  I have not used it myself, however.
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Author Comment

by:dgrrr
ID: 16740405
Hmmm, the trial is supposed to load non-system hives, but it can't even load the system hive, let alone the non-system hive.
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Expert Comment

by:LeeTutor
ID: 16742941
You could try this program:

http://www.nu2.nu/pebuilder/

What is BartPE and PE Builder?

Bart's PE Builder helps you build a "BartPE" (Bart Preinstalled Environment) bootable Windows CD-Rom or DVD from the original Windows XP or Windows Server 2003 installation/setup CD, very suitable for PC maintenance tasks.

It will give you a complete Win32 environment with network support, a graphical user interface (800x600) and FAT/NTFS/CDFS filesystem support. Very handy for burn-in testing systems with no OS, rescuing files to a network share, virus scan and so on.
This will replace any Dos bootdisk in no time!

Here's a website by one of our top XPerts, Fatal_Exception, which will give you more info on BartPE:

http://65.24.134.81/KipSolutions/BootableCDrom/BartsPE.htm


And one of the plugins available for BartPE is called RegeditPE, which can be used to access offline registries:

http://sourceforge.net/projects/regeditpe/

Registry Editor PE is a plugin for Bart's PE Builder which allows for easy editing of remote registry hives and user profiles. A user booting from a Bart's PE CD can easily make changes to the Windows registry without having to boot into Windows.
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LVL 14

Expert Comment

by:FriarTuk
ID: 16746236
not sure on if this works or not as I haven't used it before, but I found it listed in EE somewhere

dosbased - http://www.freedownloadscenter.com/Utilities/System_Maintenance_and_Repair_Utilities/Registry_Viewer_for_Win9x_ME_NT_2K_XP.html
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Author Comment

by:dgrrr
ID: 16748629
But hold on -- do you guys know for sure that "viewing the registry" will give you the key -- IN XP?  I know it does in 98, but I've been told, NOT SO in xp...
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Expert Comment

by:LeeTutor
ID: 16750359
After you copy the key, then it must be "decoded" with a program like ViewKeyXP or Magical JellyBean Keyfinder:

http://www.neotechcc.org/drivers/ViewKeyXP.exe

http://www.magicaljellybean.com/keyfinder.shtml

What you could do is export the registry key from a working system, import the key from the non-booting system into the working system, decode it, then re-import the working system's actual product key.
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Author Comment

by:dgrrr
ID: 16752339
LeeTutor -

(1) When you say "copy the key", are you referring to the next sentence when you talk about importing/exporting the registry key?

(2) are there tutorials for that process? to tell me what registry keys to export/import?

thx
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Accepted Solution

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LeeTutor earned 1000 total points
ID: 16752766
Yes, I'm talking about the registry key, which has an encoded version of the Product ID, at this location:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\MICROSOFT\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\DigitalProductId

You would keep clicking on the + signs in the left pane of the Regedit window until you got down to the \CurrentVersion\ part of the key, then left click on that.  You will see in the right pane that one of the items is DigitalProductId.  Now right click on the \CurrentVersion\ part of the key in the left pane again, select Export from the context menu, and this will open up a dialog box where you can name the .reg file you want to save.  It will save ALL the subkeys under \CurrentVersion\, not just the DigitalProductId.

Do the above exporting for BOTH the non-booting hard drive's registry, and the booting drive's registry.  The reason is that you will be modifying the value for DigitalProductId in the booting drive's registry to contain the value stored in the non-booting drive's registry, so that you can then use ViewKeyXP or Magical Jellybean Key Finder to decode the non-booting drive's registry value into its CD product ID, but then after doing that you have to reimport the booting drive's \CurrentVersion\ values so that it will continue to work.

You might want to see this Previously Answered Question, which in the accepted Answer, contains the general method used (it is a LOOOONG thread, so I wouldn't recommend trying to look at it unless you have a fast connection to the internet):

http://www.experts-exchange.com/Operating_Systems/WinXP/Q_21236913.html#12833356
Retrieve XP CD key

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Author Comment

by:dgrrr
ID: 16772611
Funny thing about viewkeyxp, and jellybean key finder -- they alwasy find two different keys, on the same copy of windows!  try it!

(that's happened on three different xp boxes for me in the past)
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Author Comment

by:dgrrr
ID: 16772750
Sigh. Bart's PE won't run on this one PC, for some reason. get one of these:
file dmio.sys caused an unexpected error (8192) at line 5964 in d:\xpsprtm\base\boot\setup\setup.c.

So far the google results regarding this look pretty inscrutable to me. Before I spend hours on this SIDE ISSUE, can I use another prog besides PE? to get loadhive running, e.g.?

(by the way, tried using the command line registry editors on   Figured out how to choose the "software" hive. But cannot get into the "software" key. (tried "cd software"))
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Expert Comment

by:LeeTutor
ID: 16772843
Well, you could try Ultimate Boot CD for Windows; it has KeyfinderPE built into it:

http://www.ubcd4win.com/

What is UBCD for Windows®??
UBCD4Win is a bootable CD which contains software that allows you to repair/restore/diagnostic almost any computer problem. All software included in UBCD4Win are freeware utilities for Windows®. UBCD4Win uses Bart's PE© to boot into a Windows® "pre-install" environment, basically Windows® booted from CD. With network support, the ability to modify NTFS volumes, recover deleted files, create new NTFS volumes, scanning hard drives for viruses, etc. this project is almost everything you need to repair your system problems. There are many other types of utilities included to allow you to recover and/or repair a damaged system. Additional applications included are CD Burning, Backup/cloning, Defragmenter's, Password recovery, the list goes on!!
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Author Comment

by:dgrrr
ID: 16773071
Thanks -- I realized that I could just run LOADHIVE from the "working" copy of windows!  Didn't have to reboot or go to DOS.  

thx m8!

By the way -- I think "viewkeyxp" is simply giving the same SN on all PCs, maybe I have a bad coyp. but Jelly bean's is working.
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