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I have upgraded my Windows 8 to Windows 10 recently. After that, I bought a SSD drive for my notebook and removed the regular HDD drive from it and installed a fresh copy of Windows 10 (Home edition). The HDD was put in a external USB case, so I can access my old files and old Windows installation partition as well.

The problem is now I'm having some issues to activate my fresh installation of Windows. I'm not really sure that I should've installed Windows 10 Home or another version.

How can I determine which Windows version is in the old HDD, given that all files are still accessible, but the system itself is not running?

I could just swap the SSD and the HDD again and boot the old system, but it'll be better to find a "software" way of doing that. This answer addresses what I'm looking for, but for Windows XP. The proposed file doesn't exists in my old installation.

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  • This OEM hardware?
    – Ramhound
    Oct 5, 2016 at 3:51
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    github.com/Superfly-Inc/ShowKeyPlus/releases/tag/ShowkeyPlus If that doesn't work there are existing answers on how to view OEM Windows 8 keys
    – Ramhound
    Oct 5, 2016 at 3:56
  • mount the registry ("E:\Windows\System32\config\software" - change E to the drive letter of your other HDD) from the other HDD in regedit, go to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion of the mounted windows registry and look for the ProductName value Oct 5, 2016 at 7:43
  • You may use ProduKey from Nirsoft.net. Mention the SOFTWARE registry hive location of your offline Windows drive. magicandre1981 told you the hive path.
    – w32sh
    Oct 5, 2016 at 11:01
  • @Ramhound it is an Asus k45VM notebook. It came with Windows 8 and I made the free Windows 10 upgrade. Oct 5, 2016 at 11:56

4 Answers 4

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Where is my Windows OS Product information stored?

In a functional copy of windows, there is a couple of registry values which contain information about the Windows system.

This can be accessed through the Registry Editor by searching under:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion"

The registry 'hive', which is a subset of keys and values for the system, contains information such as CurrentVersion, ProductName and EditionID - these can be used to evaluate your type of Windows.

To check your version of Windows, locate the CurrentVersion value.

If you are running Windows 10, there are two new values that can be used to evaluate the OS version, CurrentMajorVersionNumber and CurrentMinorVersionNumber.


What if I want to check the version of an offline Windows?

  • Plug the offline storage of Windows into a host machine (E.g. An old copy of Windows on a HDD).
  • Locate the Registry Hives for the offline Windows. They are usually stored under C:\Windows\System32\config. You should notice the hives as regular file types named in ALL CAPS (E.g. SOFTWARE, DRIVERS, VSMIDK)
  • Open the host system's Registry Editor by running regedit.exe.
  • Select the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE folder. Click File/Load Hive. Load the SOFTWARE hive from you offline Windows folder.
    • Do not import the hive.
  • Give the loaded hive a recognizable name so that you can locate it later.
  • View/Modify the loaded hive/value is required. Click File/Unload Hive once you are done.

Alternatively, you can use a third-party registry editor on you host machine to view/modify the hives.

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    I'll mark this as the answer, but i must add that: 1) You should elaborate a bit on how to open the hives in regedit. I had to look around how to do it because it's not intuitive. To focus in the answer, add that as a tip or a link, for example. For future users, that would be an up. 2) Although my CurrentVersion, CurrentMajorVersionNumber and CurrentMinorVersionNumber are the same as before, ProductName is different. This key showed what is wrong with my installation. Oct 6, 2016 at 1:05
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    Thanks for the tips. I wrote this on a mobile device hence the 'brevity' of it. I have taken your comments into considerations and rewrote the answer in a more obtuse fashion.
    – Carrein
    Oct 6, 2016 at 8:36
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If you’re only concerned about the version, not edition or channel or whatever, you can simply look at \Windows\system32\ntoskrnl.exe:

enter image description here

You must then cross-reference that version number with known version numbers found on the Internet.

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  • Checked these on one of my machines, and for some strange reason it shows with winver.exe the correct version 14393.222 from 30.09.2016, but, ntoskrnl.exe Properties/Details shows the previous version 10.0.14393.206 from 15.09.2016 .. How come this can be happening?
    – PeteVfi
    Oct 6, 2016 at 9:16
  • That’s unfortunately as good as it’s going to get, the file version’s tend to drift a little as files are affected by updates.
    – Daniel B
    Oct 6, 2016 at 11:46
  • OK, thanks. Checked now my 3 machines, and all of them are Windows 10 Pro and on the level 14393.222 from 30.09.2016 by KB3194496, but the ntoskrnl.exe is level 10.0.14393.206 from 15.09.2016 . So, now it's proven, that the levels may also differ slightly.
    – PeteVfi
    Oct 6, 2016 at 15:54
  • Yes, now after the latest update KB3194798 my Windows 10 Pro got to the level 14393.321 on 12.10.2016 and the ntoskrnl.exe to the same level 10.0.14393.321 dated 05.10.2016.
    – PeteVfi
    Oct 13, 2016 at 12:29
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Boot using a password recovery tool using a usb stick. They all basically work the same way: First go into the BIOS and select usb boot. Using a different machine prepare a password recovery usb stick. These boot into some type of linux, edit the registry and either change or remove passwords. A little homework may be needed but choose one you are comfortable with. If all else fails, reinstall windows.

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  • Why would I change the password if what I want to know is the Widows version? Jul 6, 2020 at 18:15
  • Sorry, might have been trying to answer a different question.
    – wb3
    Jul 7, 2020 at 17:54
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If you have a Microsoft Account you can check https://account.microsoft.com/devices/ (log into you Microsoft account in any browser on any computer, this even works if your old windows disk is completely broken).

If you see your device listed there, click show details and for me it showed the version of windows including the edition :)

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