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How to open a registry file from a crashed computer

When a computer crashes and you have access to the old hard drive from your new computer, can you open the registry to recover data stored in the registry, such as Outlook settings, CD Keys, etc?


First, find the registry files. If the old computer uses Vista, Windows 7/8, you need to go to [x]:\users\{username}\NTUSER.DAT, where x is the drive letter of the old drive. In Windows XP, you'll browse to [x]:\Documents and Settings\{username}\. (To make it easier later, copy the path from the Windows Explorer address bar.)

You need to open the upper case “NTUSER.DAT” and not “ntuser.dat”.

Note: you may need to configure Windows Explorer to show all files and folders and protected system files to see NTUSER.DAT”.

1. Open the registry editor. You can do this by pressing the Windows key + R and typing regedit then pressing Enter.

2. Select the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE branch.

3. Go to the FILE menu and choose LOAD HIVE.

4. Browse to the location of the old registry hive. If you copied the path from Windows Explorer, paste it in now.

5. You'll get a dialog asking for a key name. This is just to identify the registry hive. You can use any name you want – "Dead Computer" works well. 🙂

6. Find the key(s) you are looking for and Export (File menu).

7. Open the exported .reg file in Notepad.

If you are going to import it into the new computer, you'll need to edit it. At the very least, you'll need to use Find and Replace to replace Local_Machine with Current_User and remove the "Dead Computer" key name.

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Dead Computer\Software\Microsoft...
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