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Recover Windows Product Key(Serial) When System Won't Boot [Tutorial]



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Anyone who has worked with computers for any length of time will have run into the problem

of a computer that won’t boot because of a corrupt hard drive, or some other reason,

but worst of all the sticker with the Windows product key is missing or unreadable so now

you can’t reinstall Windows with the same valid key. For this tutorial we will be using

a bootable USB drive with BackTrack Linux on it. This will be used to recover the registry

files from the unbootable system. I have a video tutorial covering how to create a bootable

USB drive using UNetBootin. I will place a link on screen to open this tutorial. We will

also need a copy of the open source program “Enchanted KeyFinder”. Open a web browser

like Internet Explorer. In the “Address Bar” enter “ekeyfinder.sourceforge.net”,

and press enter. On the “Enchanted Keyfinder” window that opens, click the “Download”

link. On the “Download” page, click the “Latest download for Windows” link. When

asked what you want to do with the file, click “Save As”. On the “Save As” window

that opens, select the desktop, or somewhere else if you prefer, and click the “Save”

button. We now need a copy of the Windows registry files from the system. The Windows

registry is located at “C:\Windows\System32\Config\”. If for some reason the registry files are

corrupted there are backup copies in the “RegBack” folder that is within the “Config” folder.

We now need to use the USB Drive with BackTrack on it to recover the registry files. I will

place a link to another video tutorial on how to use the BackTrack USB Drive to copy

files from another computer. Follow this video tutorial and recover the “Config” folder.

We now have Enchanted KeyFinder, and a copy of the registry files from the unbootable

system. Now all we have to do is recover the product key. Find the “EKeyfinder” folder

we saved to the desktop before. There is not installer for this utility, you just run it

from where you download the file. Double-click to open the zip file. Open the “EKeyfinder”

folder. Double-click on the “keyfinder.exe” file. When prompted, click the “Run” button

to just run the file from within the zip file. On the “Open File - Security Warning”

window, click the “Run” button. It will open to the “Enchanted Keyfinder” application

window. By default it connects to the local system on startup. Here we can see my “Windows

7 Home Premium” product key information, as well as my “Microsoft Office 2007”

product information. This is great for a system that is up and running but we are going to

connect to the backup of the registry from the corrupted system. To connect to the backed

up registry, click the “Tools” menu, then “Load Hive”. On the “Browse for Folder”

window that opens, browse to and select the “Config” folder we backed up, and click

the “OK” button. It will then load the product key information from the backed up

registry. In this case the backed up registry only has a key for “Microsoft Windows XP”.

If you have office or other supported software, it will show here. Let’s review the “Microsoft

Windows XP” entry. It lists the version of Windows you have installed. In this case

it is “Microsoft Windows XP Service Pack 3”. “Product Part No.” is the part number

of the media used to install Windows. Below this it will tell you if it was installed

from “OEM media” or “Full Packaged Product”. It sshows the “Product ID” and the corresponding

“CD Key”. It also shows the “computer name”, “Registered Owner”, and “Registered

Organization”. You can save this information out to a text file, by clicking the “File”

menu, then “Save As”.On the “Save As” window that opens browse to the location you

want to save the file, and click the “Save” button. You should now have the necessary

information to create a bootable Backtrack USB drive, boot to the USB drive, recover

the registry files, connect to the registry with EKeyFinder, and recover the product keys

from supported software.