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Registry Experts -- Swapping software registry entries

Posted on 2011-10-11
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Last Modified: 2012-05-12
You'd have to be an XP Registry Expert with experience trying it to know if this will work.

Say you have 2 computers A and B with totally different hardware and software setups.
You decide you want the software on computer A to run on computer hardware B instead of A.
Vice versa.  No reinstalling anything -- neither the XP OS or the applications on both computers.

Look at the registry files in CONFIG -- SYSTEM and SOFTWARE (with various extensions).
It should be possible to leave SYSTEM on each hardware platform and just swap SOFTWARE.

Is this possible?  Will it work?  Experience doing this?  If you've done it and can help, please contribute!
There is no way to "Connect to remote registry hive" or any of that M$ nonsense.  It is a cold new boot.  
Copy software files/folders from A to B, and the SOFTWARE registry entries, and boot the system.

Now the software on computer A should run fine on computer B, assuming we got all the DLLs as well.
Experience please if you have tried this?  If you don't know what I am talking about, please do not post.  

This is an important endeavor, so I'd appreciate no extraneous "curiosity" posts. THANKS for your help !!
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Question by:scrathcyboy
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Dr. Klahn earned 300 total points
ID: 36953258
In theory this could work.  However, in practice, the only way it would work would be if the systems were clones of each other, because the installed software would have to be absolutely identical, the software configurations would have to be absolutely identical, and all the places that installed software has put configuration and data files would have to be absolutely identical.  This would violate licensing agreements for many software products, since it would involve one installation cloned to run on two systems.
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by:johnb6767
ID: 36953493
Windows wouldnt even log in as WPA would kick in and invalidate the license..... If this is an OEM machine it also violates the EULA as the license is tied to the machine....

In a very strange distant theory, it might work if you make it pass that.....

Machine would probably BSOD on you, due to a lack of permissions, as users are kept in HKLM\Security. The Software Hive, might have permissions granted to specific SIDS that do not exist on the machine you copy the SOFTWARE hive to....

"Now the software on computer A should run fine on computer B, assuming we got all the DLLs as well."

You would need the Windows Directory as well, to ensure that you have the proper versions of files, and in the proper paths....

I have to ask.... Are you *really* considering this?



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by:Netman66
ID: 36957773
No, it won't work.

There are far more settings stored in Default User as well as your own profile.

You would need to identify HKEY_USER components as well as the SOFTWARE hive - it's not likely something many people could even start to get their head around.
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by:scrathcyboy
ID: 36959499
What is all this nonsense about licenses and EULA?  I said it was a software SWAP, not a COPY !!

Netman66 -- I have my "head around" HKEY_USER just about every day, so it is S.O.Proc for me.  Please elaborate on this.  The reason I can't import a hive is that the MBs are not runnable at the moment, so I can only clone the files that are in CONFIG -- can't open a live registry to fiddle with it.

How would settings in default User and Admin profile affect the software?  The software installs are not governed by user configs -- Just the User settings, and I can easily swap Application data as well.

 I regularly daily copy EVERY FILE on the system to match a new software setup, but I have never tried a raw import of the software registry setup in SOFTWARE file, so that is the only part of this that is a "first" for me.  As far as identical software files in identical paths, that is really a no brainer.

Thanks for any more specifics of HOW to do this, not caveats of licenses.  Surely we know that.
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by:scrathcyboy
ID: 36959522
Attached are the typical registry files in CONFIG.  Perhaps we can talk about specific files to copy as a batch, to test the workability of this effort.  Obviously the SOFTWARE group are needed.  Which others?
registry-files.jpg
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by:Netman66
Netman66 earned 450 total points
ID: 36959551
Ok then.

When you install software it stores information in many places in the registry.  Depending on exactly what the software is/does, these locations may include:
HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT
HKEY_USERS\.Default\Software
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\System\CurrentControlSet\Services
HKEY_CURRENT_CONFIG\Software
HKEY_CURRENT_CONFIG\System

You should be able to mount the drive from the NS MB machines into a live PC and run a REG LOAD or do it from the GUI to mount any of those hives.  This would let you look for specific structure for a given piece of software to allow you to figure it out.

You may also be able to use something like Advanced Uninstaller Pro to completely monitor and log every single detail of an install to see exactly what it touches.

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by:scrathcyboy
ID: 36959576
Netman66 -- thanks, I understand all that.  But you are thinking registry keys, not registry files.

Let me put it the reverse, if M$ was logical (if!), all of the registry keys that relate to software would be installed in the SOFTWARE file, regardless of which key they were assembled into upon runtime.  The same for hardware.  I guess I am asking something like --

"Has anyone debugged the SOFTWARE and SYSTEM files to see if that is what actually happens?
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by:Netman66
ID: 36959606
Ahh - ok, I see what you're on to.

I have mounted hives using scripts in WinPE to modify certain values in Software and System and if memory serves me, yes, those are the logical representations of those 2 sections of the registry hive HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE.


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by:Netman66
ID: 36959610
But then I digress - some software uses both locations - so then what?

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by:johnb6767
johnb6767 earned 450 total points
ID: 36959618
"What is all this nonsense about licenses and EULA?  I said it was a software SWAP, not a COPY !!"

You are not understanding how WPA works. If the OS detects a hardware change (which it will as you arent copying the system hive which contains the hardware config), you might get logged on directly to a WPA validation wizard, that may or may not fail.....

I dont think it will boot, due to the security embedded within the registry itself. Since you arent copying the SECURITY hive, the users will not be on the machine you copy the software hive to. I expect a 0xc******* fatal error......

"The reason I can't import a hive is that the MBs are not runnable at the moment,"

Why not look at the ones in the Restore Points in System Volume Information?

"How would settings in default User and Admin profile affect the software?  The software installs are not governed by user configs -- Just the User settings, and I can easily swap Application data as well."

It is the fact that you prolly will NOT have any permissions set in the hive, is the problem as the user configs are not present......
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by:scrathcyboy
ID: 36959755
" some software uses both locations - so then what?"

Actually most software entires appear in at least 2 or 3 locations in the registry - HK current User, HK local machine, and usually in HK Users.  But they are all the same entries, so I assume those keys are all drawn repetitively from SOFTWARE file.    Yes?  No?

"Since you arent copying the SECURITY hive,"

No,  I hadn't planned to, I assumed that is related to user login.  Should I?  Anyway, the same person owns both machines with the same login, so prob. a non-prob. ??

"Restore Points in System Volume Information?"
 MBs are not runnable at the moment

"Default" files on both systems are nearly identical

"NOT have any permissions set in the hive, is the problem as the user configs are not present"
User configs are nearly identical.

Which FILE contains the user configs -- not Key -- which file?  Is it NT_USER in their Profile?  Should that be copied too?  I just KNOW that M$ knows how to do this and does it all the time ......

As asked, take your best shots at which files to copy from where.  This IS going to happen.
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by:Netman66
Netman66 earned 450 total points
ID: 36959767
No.  HKEY_CURRENT_USER is stored (once initially built) in NTUSER.DAT.

Security hive - can't say for sure this will be an issue.

When a user first logs into a workstation they don't have a profile on (or a roaming profile to copy down), their profile is created from both the Default User profile and the All User profile and stuffed into HKCU - then saved into NTUSER.DAT so it is "roamable" should it need to be.

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by:johnb6767
johnb6767 earned 450 total points
ID: 36959959
"Actually most software entires appear in at least 2 or 3 locations in the registry - HK current User, HK local machine, and usually in HK Users.  But they are all the same entries, so I assume those keys are all drawn repetitively from SOFTWARE file.    Yes?  No?"

They are built on installation, and First Run MSI based installations. 99 times out of 10, they rebuild fine if you delete them..... Thats not an issue here....

"No,  I hadn't planned to, I assumed that is related to user login.  Should I?  Anyway, the same person owns both machines with the same login, so prob. a non-prob. ??"

Same logons doesnt matter. Just cause the names match, the SIDS wont (unless this is a domain we are talking about). If the SIDS dont match, the security permissions on the reg hive wont, and hence no access to (potentially a large amount of) the SOFTWARE hive.

""NOT have any permissions set in the hive, is the problem as the user configs are not present"
User configs are nearly identical."

Talking about the actual USER accounts, which is under HKLM\Security. You cannot see the contents of that key in Regedit, unless you have SYSTEM level access. Either Logged onto the console as the SYSTEM account or through Process Elevation.....

""Restore Points in System Volume Information?"
 MBs are not runnable at the moment"

Whats an MB?

"Which FILE contains the user configs -- not Key -- which file?  Is it NT_USER in their Profile?  Should that be copied too?  I just KNOW that M$ knows how to do this and does it all the time ......"

ntuser.dat is what correlates to HKEY_CURRENT_USER, as well as HKEY_USERS\SID BLAHBLAH BLAH\\\\\\\. The logged on user will have thier reg hive loaded there, along with the service accounts logged on.

Again, I am not suggesting the user config, but the actual USERS. Without the Security Hive, I dont think you are gonna boot the machine. User profiles rebuild on thier own, thats no biggie. That, and possibly not passing Windows Product Activation, are my main concerns.....

"As asked, take your best shots at which files to copy from where.  This IS going to happen. "

I love a good challenge as much as the next guy, but I just dont understand the importance of trying this method.....

I think you could clone the HDD in a matter 2 hours and have duplicated the machine to another box....
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by:scrathcyboy
ID: 37089150
Hi Lee,

Yes I know.  As you can see, the guys gave good input, but nothing really answered the specific question I was asking.  If you have tried it, let me know with further input.  If no further input, I will split points equally based on current input, but with no real resolution to the specific question.
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by:wolfcamel
wolfcamel earned 300 total points
ID: 37092638
just spotted this question and not that it is a direct answer to your question but..
on a few occassions in the past I have had a dead PC and the need to transfer unusual software from it to a new box because no one could locate the original disks.
copying the applcation's sections from various parts of the registry to the new machine (as well as copying some DLLs and manually registering them has got me out of trouble. even between different OS versions.
It is not ideal,
it never works first time
it MAY in some occassions void a license
and i would advise against it unless you absolutely must try it.
and the registry entries are never in one simple place.

on a similar note and to give an idea of how it can get difficult..
symantec antivirus was once, maybe 15 years ago Intel Landesk antivirus until Norton bought the product..so you will still find a registry area under software\intel for the symantec AV product.
I am sure this would be true for many other products!
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by:scrathcyboy
ID: 37117945
Thanks for the ideas wolfcamel.  I do this also, and have become adept at it.  But it doesn't solve the problem of a wholesale migration of a complex XP SW setup to totally new hardware.  But don't feel bad, no one else really gave a definitive answer either, but all input was helpful and well intentioned.

I am splitting points for interest and effort, and I thank all who contributed.  However, I must say that M$ has a "magic formula" as to how to do this in the registry, and they do it all the time.  It is probably the best kept secret they have.  Too bad no one on EE has figured it out --  make life a lot simpler !!

PLEASE SEE THIS NEW QUESTION AND HELP IF YOU CAN !!  __ THANKS !!!

http://www.experts-exchange.com/OS/Microsoft_Operating_Systems/Windows/XP/Q_27442369.html
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Author Closing Comment

by:scrathcyboy
ID: 37117954
Specific question not answered, but good input anyway.
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