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I am attempting to recover an old computer that won't boot and I'm not sure what version of Windows it is running. How do I tell simply by examining the file system?

I am fairly confident it is either Vista or Windows 7. There is a small chance it is Windows Server 2008.

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Are you using another Windows computer to perform the recovery? – William Jackson Nov 30 '11 at 15:11
Related: – iglvzx Nov 30 '11 at 17:22

5 Answers 5

up vote 10 down vote accepted

Your best bet is going to be finding the properties of a Windows Executable (such as explorer.exe). In my case it's File and Product version is 6.1.7601.17567

6.0.xxxx.xxxxx will denote Windows Vista (with 6000, 6001 and 6002 being RTM, SP1 and SP2 respectively).

6.1.xxxx.xxxxx will denote Windows 7 (with 7600 and 7601 being RTM and SP1).

The same version numbers will apply for Windows server as well so I'm not sure how you'd tell the difference with those using this method.

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Using the registry you can look up version and edition

I found this answer over at Stackoverflow to the question Determine Windows Version, Edition and Service Pack OF AN OFFLINE DISK IMAGE

Use the values under HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion. I presume you know where to find that hive?! The respective hive can be found under %SystemRoot%\System32\config with the name SOFTWARE.

Side-note: you can attempt to verify your results by looking at some well-known files (e.g. kernel32.dll, ntdll.dll) and into their version information resource (what you're looking for is the file version: with, e.g. GetFileVersionInfo()).

Edition values, if that's needed, can be found at HKLM\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\ProductOptions.

More specifically, how to load the hive of another registry:

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-1 OP mentioned it won't boot making viewing the registry quite tricky... – HaydnWVN Nov 30 '11 at 16:54
You can load a different hive into regedit, I'm fairly sure. If not, I bet there's a tool that can do it. – Rob Nov 30 '11 at 16:56
+1, as that's what I use all the time. I load up Magic Jellybean Keyfinder, and point to the Windows folder to read the registry. Tells me what version and edition – Canadian Luke Nov 30 '11 at 17:15

If you can still run executables from that filesystem, you can run C:\Windows\System32\winver.exe

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Wouldn't that just give you the version that you run winver.exe on? – Rob Nov 30 '11 at 16:56
I ran it and it gave me the correct version of Windows (home premium, starter, etc.), which build, which service pack, and whom the version of windows was licensed to. – Yzmir Ramirez Jul 1 '12 at 15:00

Look at the file


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Open the file bootmgr in notepad it is located on the hard drive you are wanting to know the version of it will be a hidden file so select show hidden files in folder options sorted

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