How to Recover Product Keys Offline from an Unbootable Windows PC

There are many utilities that can help you find a lost Product Key of your live Windows installation, but what if the computer is completely dead and unbootable?

This post introduces a couple of third-party utilities that can get the product keys offline (for Windows, Office and other products), by loading the SOFTWARE registry hive on a mounted hard disk or other sources.

How to Recover Product Keys from the hard disk of an unbootable Windows computer

Before proceeding, please note that this article assumes you have a copy of your SOFTWARE registry hive from your dead Windows installation. You may either connect the old hard disk drive as slave to another computer or copy only the SOFTWARE hive to an USB drive. Of course, you can load the utilities into Bart’s PE and run it from there.

You need to run the following utilities as administrator, otherwise you’ll get the error A required privilege is not held by the client or similar, when loading the hive.

Using KeyFinder

Keyfinder retrieve product keys from unbootable Windows installations. It also has a community-updated configuration file that retrieves product keys for many other applications.

KeyFinder

From the Tools menu, click Load Hive.. and select your offline Windows directory. The directory structure must be intact (Windows\System32\config) as KeyFinder doesn’t allow you to select the SOFTWARE (registry hive) file directly.



recover Windows and Office product keys offline using KeyFinder

recover Windows and Office product keys offline using KeyFinder

That lists your Product keys from the SOFTWARE registry hive.

Using ProduKey

ProduKey is an utility from Nirsoft that displays Product Keys of MS-Office, Windows, Exchange Server, and SQL Server installed on your computer. You can view this information for your current running operating system, or for another operating system/computer – by using command-line options.

  1. Launch ProduKey.
  2. From the File menu, click Select Source
  3. Select Load the product keys from external Software Registry hive
  4. Click the Browse button and locate the SOFTWARE registry hive (of your unbootable Windows installation), which is present in the Windows\System32\Config folder. Note that unlike KeyFinder, ProduKey allows you to select the SOFTWARE (registry hive) file directly, and you don’t need to have the Windows\System32\Config folder structure.ProduKey
  5. Click OK. The product keys that are available in the Software registry hive should be listed.
    ProduKey
The above utilities can be especially helpful after you upgrade to Windows 10 and need the Product key of your Windows 7 or Windows 8 installation to activate Windows under the free upgrade or digital entitlement scheme. In such cases you can load the registry hive from the C:\Windows.old\Windows\System32\config directory.

Note that Windows.old folder would automatically deleted by Windows after 28-30 days after upgrading to Windows 10. It’s better you get the Product keys well in advance from the Windows.old directory.

Hope the above tools helped you retrieve your Windows product keys from the hard drive of your unbootable Windows installation.

About the author

Ramesh Srinivasan founded Winhelponline.com back in 2005. He is passionate about Microsoft technologies and has a vast experience in Windows — delivering support for Microsoft's consumer products. He has been a Microsoft MVP (2003-2012) who contributes to various Windows support forums.

4 thoughts on “How to Recover Product Keys Offline from an Unbootable Windows PC”

  1. The ProdKey tool worked great – just what I was looking for! I had a hard drive go bad, computer would not start. Windows Vista was installed. I connected the drive to another computer and ran the tool. It was able to find the product key right away using the Windows directory on the bad hard drive. Awesome!

  2. @ JOSEPH…I was having the same problem. It turns out to be a problem with the privileges under which the program is being run. To resolve it, I used the option to run ProduKey as Administrator, and that did the trick, thanks be to God. Hope it works for you.

    Blessings
    Andre’

  3. Yup, great advice. Running Produkey as administrator did the trick. Hope this webpage and our comments help others facing the same/similar problems.

  4. I am runing Produkey and it is only showing Windows 7 and internet explorer product key, I cant get my microsoft office to show up! how can i get it

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