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Taking ownership of folders after half a Vista installation

I am trying to back up a computer for a client and met a couple of problems...

The client has started the installation of Windows Vista. When the computer now reboots it asks for the windows key. I enter the key on the Vista Upgrade box and get a message saying the key is not valid for the specific instalation. Since it's an upgrade key, Vista has to be installed from within Windows XP.

Obviously the client has started the Vista installation from scratch (which he doesn't admit - Is it possible to install Vista and get this far without realizing what's happening?)

The problem is now, I cannot boot the older XP-system. I do get the option when I boot, but if I select it, the screen goes blank and I get the cursor in the upper left and nothing more happens. This makes it a bit hard to start a new Vista installation from within XP.

And the main problem is opening the customers documents. Normally I would attach the disk in another system and rightclick any inaccessible folders, select the Security tab and take ownership of it and it's contents. But there seems to be some new security issues after Vista has taken control. When I rightclick any non-os-made-folder (i.e. program-folders and user made folders) I get the security tab with the option to take ownership. But when I rightclick Documents and Settings or the new Users\Username\My documents, the security tab isn't even there. Does anyone have any ideas how to read the contents of these folders?
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1 Solution
You can try booting from a Linux CD (Knoppix works fine http://www.knoppix.org/), accessing the files, and saving them off to a flash drive.
Vista does not require you to enter the key during installation. Just leave it blank and continu the installation. You'll get a warning, click NO. Then it will ask the edition. Choose the one purchased and complete the installation, choosing all defaults.
After that you will not be able to enter your upgrade key. But you should be able to get to your data.
To finalize the installation and being able to enter the purchased key and be able to activite Vista, you'll have to run setup again.
This time from within Vista and DO NOT choose UPGRADE but do a NONDESTRUCTIVE CLEAN INSTALL. This should go rather quickly. Then use the Disk Cleanup tool to get rid of the redundant installation, which resides in Windows.old. That's it.

punarAuthor Commented:
I tried PowerIT's "continue Vista installation" solution first, but the installation was corrupted in some way so I was not able to complete it.

So I downloaded Knoppix and tried Linux for the first time. It looked surprisingly like Windows. I found the system browser which seems to have a lot more options than the Windows browser so I was a little lost for a while. Then I found the harddisk but was not able to mount it due to Vista not being shut down properly. The error message told me to either run the ntfsfix command or to mount the device with the RO-option (read only), but did not tell me how (which of course reminded me of Windows again :-p )

After a little studying of the desktop, I found the knoppix equivalent of the command prompt. First I tried to figure out how to mount in RO-mode, but didn't find any way to do that. So I gave up and went for the ntfsfix command instead. That was easier, I typed
ntfsfix /dev/sda1
and then
mount /dev/sda1
and alas, I had full access to the volume in the system browser.

Thanks michko for your solution and for presenting me to Linux.
And thanks both of you for quick responce to my question.
Your welcome. And nice advancement for you, discovering Linux ;-)
You're welcome.  If you liked Knoppix you may also want to take a look at Ubuntu (www.ubuntu.com).

Glad we could help.


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