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Will drive imaging to external hard allow for retoration of user preferences and license keys or do the programs need to be reinstalled?

I have to reformat my hard drive because of operating system problems (windows XP PRO) according to both Dell and Microsoft.  I have a number of software applications all with user setting and many with serial numbers/license keys.  If I use Acronis True Image, can I recover those programs including the preference and registration numbers?  Secondly can I pick and chose which of these I want to restore withou having to restore all the applications?
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If you use something like ghost, it will preserve everything, and extend the volume for you
sorry misread......  

you want to do a non destructive restore of windows... this will preservee all  of your files and many programs while clearing out the registry.  It will be necessary to reinstall many of the apps.

If you can get a copy of numara Deploy, it will allow you to create an install package of any app you want...

The way it creates packages is by recording all system changes from before and after an installation.  By installing the apps to another computer the package will capture all of the registry keys and folders that have been written to.  You will then have to look in these same registy keys and folders on your current computer to see what keys you currently have.

Once you know where to look you can copy the settings out of your screwedup computer, into the installer package.  Once you have done this you can simply deploy the packages to the new installation of windows, or rather the repaired install of windows.
Distinguished Expert 2019

if it is still running, back up any keys you can, before reformatting.
It is not easy to see those when you did not boot from that OS


Thanks I ws planning on bcking up my registry. data and applictions over to an external hard drive.  I would then reformat, re-install a fresh operting system (Windows XP PRO), and reinstall. However, if the base probelm I am having (which is that my DVD drive no longer works and I have tried 4 different drives), then re-installing the registry may not be possible.

I am not sure I have the set up files and/or license numbers for all the applications, and do not want to go applicaition by application to hunt for license numnbers.  Ideally, I would like to migrate/transfer the problems to an external drive and re-install just the ones I use most frequently (with licence numbers and user prefences intact.  
Distinguished Expert 2019

you can use usb drives, but also transfer over a network.
" have to reformat my hard drive because of operating system problems (windows XP PRO) according to both Dell and Microsoft."

Why not try us?  The experts here are better than in both of those places, their reinstall is often a cop out.  Explain the original problem, let's see if you really need a clean install.
to answer your last comment, NO, you will not be able to recover license numbers, passwords, logins etc, if they are in the registry, they are encoded, and encrypted, and they cannot be recovered easily.  If you use outlook, your web logins are lost too.  So no, you will not be able to EASILY get what you want.  So as I said, see if we can solve why you need a clean install.


My initial problem was that the DVD could be read b ut not written to,  Now it can be neither read nor written to.  Dell has send 3 DVD dr replcements. I also bought an external DVD drive; that  can not be written to either; I have not tried writing to it.  The drives are recognized, but when I try to read it I get n "insert disk in drive" error message.   I have spend 19 hours on the phone with Dell, Microsoft and both of them together.  They tweeked every registry item, and decided that there is an operating system problem
Simply try a REPAIR install.  Insert the XP CD, and go through 2-3 screens as if you are going to do a new install, but when it detects the existing installation, press "R" at this point.  Do NOT press enter !!!

Let us know what happens after that.  It could well be a hardware problem with the ports, also.  Dell used to have quite a few MB failures, IDE ports dying, etc.

Do you have any other problems with the OS, other than the DVD?  Which burning program do you have installed?  Roxio, Nero?  Did you install any "packet writing" software, like inCD, or the likes?  That will be a big RED flag, if you did.  IN fact, I would check the CD/DVD software installed before any of the above.
If you don't want to do any of that, please look at the bottom of this question also now open --


After my comment, John came up with a program that supposedly CAN restore passwords and serial numbers from a "remote" registry.  It is a big ganble, but if you take out your existing drive, and put a new one in, and do a clean install on that, you will instantly know whether the clean install works of not.  If it does not work, you know it is a hardware problem.  If it does work, then you can theoretically recover all your settings from hooking the original drive up as a slave, per that question.  

The key is to keep your original drive in tact, so that you don't lose anything from it, until restored.


I have tried several different programs including Roxio. Windows Media player, Sonic. None would allow me to read the cd/dvd drive. I can't use the Repair program, because I have a laptop and  only have one cd/dvd Drive. I bought and tried an external cd/DVD drive, but it won't read/write that either.

Powerquest had  program (Drive Image?) which would clone the disk image.  I don't like/trust Ghost.  I downloaded the trial version of Acronis True Image Home.  That seems to do what I want. I have done a drive image of the hard drive to an external hard drive,but have not yet made the leap to re-format the internal hard drive.
If it IS an OS problem, once you reinstall windows clean from scratch, you'll have to reinstall your applications one by one as well. Depending on how the programs store their settings/license information, you should be able to copy the registry entries back by hand if you are in fact able to read the old registry no problem, but there's no "magical" way to pull this information back, it would have to be done by hand and you would have to know exactly what keys went where. Not an easy process by any means.
I used acronis Home and it essentially accomplished what I needed.  Not perfect, but able to restore most programs.

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