open registry on non boot drive in regedit

Posted on 2006-07-06
Last Modified: 2008-01-09

I had a system board failure on a window xp pro computer.  I was able to slave the drive which had windows XP pro on it onto another computer also running XP Pro.  There are a few software activation keys on the slaved drive that I need in order to make the software work on the new computer.  How can I open the registry file from the "old" drive so that I can retrieve those numbers without causing myself a big problem with the new computer?

Thanks in advance
Question by:calavera44
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LVL 14

Expert Comment

ID: 17054098
Here's an page about importing the registry hives

You should be able to navigate to these directories easily enough.
LVL 59

Accepted Solution

LeeTutor earned 500 total points
ID: 17054727
More information in addition to the above:


If the information you want to access was in HKEY_CURRENT_USER: Highlight HKEY_USERS, choose "Load hive" from the File menu, open

C:\Documents and settings\<UserProfileName>\ntuser.dat.

When asked for a name, choose "OldProfile" (or whatever other easily remembered name you choose).  Access/backup the keys you're interested in. Once you're done, highlight the "OldProfile" key, choose "Unload hive" from the file menu.

If the information you want to access was in HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\System or in HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software: Highlight HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE, choose "Load hive" from the File menu, open




(no extension). When asked for a name, choose "OldSystem" or "OldSoftware" (or whatever). Access/backup the keys you're interested in. Once you're done, highlight the "OldSystem" or "OldSoftware" key, choose "Unload hive" from the file menu.

Author Comment

ID: 17055610
Ok, I can navigate to those files but it appears as though when I open them they are going to overwrite the files on my C: boot drive.  Is that true?  If so, I don't want to do that.  I just need to look at the files in order to retrieve a couple of activtion keys
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LVL 59

Expert Comment

ID: 17057805
Actually, I should have replaced "C:" with "D:" or whatever letter corresponds to the slaved drive you have mounted from the nonfunctional machine.  When you make any changes after doing the "Load Hive" you should do an "Unload Hive" to write the changes back to the registry on the slaved drive.  (If you don't make any changes, then none will be written after the unload hive.)

Author Comment

ID: 17060849
Ok, when I launch regedit, it opens with the info from my registry on the C: drive.  The load and unload hive options in the file drop down menu are greyed out, so not accessible.  The Import under the file drop down is available.   The drive that is slaved and from old computer is the E: drive.  So, I am not sure where to go with this.
LVL 59

Expert Comment

ID: 17060914
Did you do the part about "Highlight HKEY_USERS" (if you want to access HKEY_CURRENT_USER in the hive) BEFORE you try the Load Hive option from the File menu?
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Expert Comment

ID: 17065045
calavera44, any feedback?

Author Comment

ID: 17065590
Hi LeeTutor,

Oh yes, I was able to follow your directions, very carefully I might add, and I was able to do exactly what I needed.  I retrieved a missing activation key from the slaved drive, then unloaded the hive.  I rebooted the computer and it booted fine.  So I got my key and life goes on.  I am going to give the points to you here in a few minutes.  Thanks so much for your help, I really learned a lot from this little exercise!

John Allen

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