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Admin 09-05-2009 09:11 AM

Recovering the Windows Registry from the File System
Just thought i would post this up, because it's an "experience" i just went through and the info online is a little sparse and scattered everywhere. The other day my system went tits up, i couldn't boot or repair it (boot disk couldn't even recognize Windows) so what i done is installed Windows on another partition (W Drive) then i could access my old file system by navigating to it through "My Computer" C:\ and browse around copying files to my new Windows install.

I had tons of product keys and settings in the registry, but that's stored in files such as ntuser.dat and is unreadable.


One example is all the Office Outlook 2007 account and pop settings, i always backed up my office .pst files "thinking" it contained account settings but it doesn't it only has your email. Why Microsoft done this instead of having one location that has everything that's simple to archive i will never know. Stupid, Stupid and did i mention stupid?

Anyhow all the Office Outlook account settings are stored in the registry at the following location:


HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Windows Messaging Subsystem\Profiles\Outlook
With 46 email accounts, i did "not" want to punch them in manually nor did i want to request new product keys and re-register 100 odd other software products.

I found a free tool that lets you read the registry files from the file system just like you were using Regedit it's called Free Registry Browser. It handles broken/corrupt registries, and you can export the keys as a normal .reg file.

So i opened my previously unreadable ntuser.dat with it, right click and export the "Profiles" key and all sub-keys as Profiles.reg


Double clicked the Profiles.reg key on my new system, "Are you sure you want to add it to the registry?" You're damn right i do!

Opened Office Outlook, and new emails started flooding in to my 46 configured email accounts. :D

Repeated the process with various other software titles, installed a fresh copy on my new system and either read the product key from my old hive files and typed it in or exported it as a registry key then double clicked it to add it and related settings to my new system.

Various parts of the registry hive is stored in a few locations around the file system, for example:


HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT - Located in HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Classes (see below)
HKEY_CURRENT_USER - Located in C:\Documents and Settings\UserName\NTUSER.DAT
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE - Virtual and points to:
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\HARDWARE - virtual branch; no file there.
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SAM - Located in C:\WINDOWS\system32\config\sam
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE - Located in C:\WINDOWS\system32\config\software
Anyhow, if you need to recover data from the registry hive on a broken or crashed system hope this helps. If you can't get Windows installed to another partition on the same disk, you could physically remove the disk from your tower and put it in an external HD enclosure then plug that in to a working system. You should then be able to browse the file system like it was an external drive.. Or you could use a Linux disk and view/copy files that way.

The main location for software serial codes and personal settings is:


The whole HKCU branch lives in this file:


C:\Documents and Settings\UserName\NTUSER.DAT
Where UserName is the name of the logon you are trying to recover, so if you can just get that one file then open it with Free Registry Browser you can get a whole boat load of data, settings, product keys etc which will save you a lot of misery when trying to setup your new Windows install.

learntofixyourcomputer 10-06-2009 07:20 AM

There are a lot of free registry cleaners to select from. A registry cleaner tool is helpful for non-techies.

cygnet 12-07-2009 09:34 PM

I got so much precious & informative information from this post.. So thanks for sharing this nice information of Recovering the Windows Registry...

visual 12-19-2009 12:32 AM

Recovering is very imported for data.. Thanks for sharing that.. That will be very useful to so many people..

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