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I would like to know if there are any files or directory structures that will tell me what was the previous version of Windows that created the windows.old folder.

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Windows Vista and Windows 7 and Windows 8 all use identical file structures. The contents of Windows.old is only the contents of the profile directories. – Ramhound Sep 7 '13 at 18:10
up vote 6 down vote accepted

In C:\windows.old\system32, open the properties for any system file, like 'ntoskrnl.exe'. On the Details tab, you see the Product Version:

  • 6.3 = Windows 8.1
  • 6.2 = Windows 8
  • 6.1 = Windows 7
  • 6.0 = Windows Vista
  • 5.2 = Windows Server 2003
  • 5.1 = Windows XP
  • 5.0 = Windows 2000
  • 4.0 = Windows NT 4

It gets a bit trickier if you need to know whether it was a home,pro, enterprise or server version.

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I just wanted to know if the previous installation was vista or 7. I think that should do it. Thanks a bunch! – John R Sep 7 '13 at 18:14

Open the "\Windows.old\system32\license.rtf" file in a text editor and look at the 2nd title row, it will tell you the exact Windows edition, as was initially installed. I verified this method on Windows Vista Business, Win7 Ultimate and Win8.1 Pro.

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