I'm 99% sure, at this point, that the answer is, "not possible." But I figured there are tons of smart people here who might be able to help me out, even if that help is just to validate that it's not possible.

About a year ago, I migrated my home computer to Windows Vista, with a clean install. The clean install is where I went wrong -- like an idiot (and I admit this), I did not back up the EFS key in use on a bunch of my financial and other sensitive files.

I copied all those files (as well as my other documents, source control repositories, etc.) to my second hard drive (formatted NTFS, so EFS stuck around) before the migration. Again, the EFS attributes stuck around, and -- because I'm a dork -- I not only didn't back up the EFS keys, but I also didn't remove the encryption from these files. (I would like to state at this point that the lesson has been learned; I don't even use EFS anymore at all.)

I've tried a variety of applications available online, including several paid apps, and none have had any luck. My hunch is that this is due to wiping and rebuilding the OS from scratch, as the SIDs of my user accounts obviously changed, and the EFS keys were simply gone, not part of the OS.

I'd like to get at these files, or at least be able to delete them without reformatting the drive they're on. :) Does anyone have any advice? (Again, even if "not possible" winds up being the answer. Something definitive.)

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    I don't have an answer to your problem, but I have a suggestion to avoid it in the future. Before I do any major adjustment to a system (formatting, upgrading, etc), I always image the drive with something like Ghost or Acronis True Image. I'm sure it's a no-brainer to you now, but maybe someone else will appreciate the advice. – Russ Warren Jul 15 '09 at 16:32
  • It is a no-brainer now (lesson learned!), but I voted up that comment for exactly the reason you cite -- helpful to the next guy. – John Rudy Jul 15 '09 at 16:32

If you tried the folks at Elcomsoft and they couldn't help you - it's dead, Jim. Sorry. There is no backdoor to EFS.


  • That's exactly what I figured. And yes, Elcomsoft was who I'd tried ... I'll probably accept this answer in a few days if no one else has suggestions. – John Rudy Jul 16 '09 at 13:34
  • Have "the folks at Elcomsoft" helped anyone at all? – tplive Oct 20 '14 at 13:34

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