Access registry on an external hard drive

Have you moved over to a new pc/hard drive? Have an old piece of software that requires activation which doesn’t work any more? Need license keys for software you’ve lost the licence for?

Most of these things are held in the registry of the old machine, if that hard drive is an internal one you can slave it with a SATA cable and follow the instructions below. Or you can put it in an external USB caddy or use the caddy for an external cd-rom drive and follow on.

Registry hives in a Windows installation are located in the following places:


Current User Settings:

Documents and Settings\%username%\NTUSER.DAT

Computer Settings:


Vista, 7

Current User Settings:


Computer Settings:


To open these Hives in REGEDIT:

1. Open Regedit by typing Regedit into the Run dialog or search bar and pressing <Enter>.
2. Select the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE registry branch.
3. Click on File and select Load Hive
4. Navigate to the location of the registry hives using the paths above.

  • Lisa

    Followed your steps. My external drive is on F. I received error, “Cannot Load F:WindowsSystem32configRegBAckSOFTWARE: Access id denied.