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How to Recover Product Keys Offline from Unbootable Windows PC

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

This post introduces some 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.

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 a slave to another computer or copy only the SOFTWARE hive to a USB drive.

However, the KeyFinder and ExtPassword! utilities discussed below requires the original directory structure to be intact in the offline drive; it doesn’t allow you to point to a single file or directory location.

You may need to run some of the following utilities as administrator. Otherwise, the error A required privilege is not held by the client or similar when loading the hive. might be shown.

Recover Product Keys Offline from an Unbootable Computer

Using KeyFinder

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

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 choose the SOFTWARE (registry hive) file directly.

That lists your Product keys from the SOFTWARE registry hive.

Using ExtPassword! (New)

ExtPassword! is the latest tool (2022) from Nirsoft that recover passwords offline, stored on an external drive plugged into your computer. This is a kind of all-in-one tool that can decrypt and extract multiple types of passwords and essential information, including passwords of common Web browsers, passwords of common email software, dialup/VPN passwords, wireless network keys, Windows network credentials, Windows Product key, Windows security questions, etc.

Run this tool and mention the drive letter (e.g., D:\) of the offline drive from where you want to restore your product keys and passwords. If all you need is the Windows/Office product keys from the offline system, leave the password fields blank. But, if you want to decrypt Chrome and Edge (Chromium) passwords in addition, you’ll have to type in the user login password(s) in the textbox provided.

During the decryption process (which takes a few seconds), the log is shown. Once it’s completed, you’ll see the list of recovered items.

If you want to take a look at the log file again, you can do so via the View menu.

As Chrome and Edge passwords are produced by the DPAPI encryption, this tool can’t decrypt those passwords if you don’t have the Windows login password of that offline system.

Supported Software And Features

Using ProduKey

ProduKey is a 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 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 and ExtPassword!, ProduKey allows you to select the SOFTWARE (registry hive) file directly, and you don’t need to have the Windows\System32\Config folder structure.
  5. Click OK. The product keys that are available in the Software registry hive should be listed.

Using “Product Key Scanner”

Product Key Scanner is a newer tool from Nirsoft that scans the Registry of the Windows Operating system and finds the product keys of Windows and other Microsoft products. You can scan the Registry of your current running system, as well as you can scan the Registry from an external hard drive plugged into your computer.

The previous utility “ProduKey” may not work with all types of Windows 10 licenses, and hence this newer tool “Product Key Scanner”.

When scanning the product keys of your current running system, you can also search the OS product key stored in BIOS, and search product keys by using WMI.

To scan the product keys from the SOFTWARE registry hive from an external hard drive, choose the option “Scan Registry file on external hard drive” and mention the file path accordingly.

Using ShowKeyPlus

ShowKeyPlus (via Microsoft Store) finds your Windows product key. With ShowKeyPlus, you can also load a SOFTWARE registry hive to retrieve the product key from it.

To retrieve the key offline, click on the Check Edition and browse to select the SOFTWARE registry hive.

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 would automatically delete the windows.old folder 10 days after upgrading to Windows 10 or 11. It would help if you got the Product keys well in advance from the Windows.old directory.

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

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