URGENT! Need access to data in XP User Account on external hard drive

By WienSam ·

I have had total technology breakdown recently and the laptop that held all my data died but the hard drive is ok. I now have a new laptop and the hard drive from the old laptop has been extracted and installed into a USB unit that enables me to access and use the hard drive. The hard drive works fine. However, I do not know how to get at my data! The previous system was Windows XP Professional and I know the User Account account name and password but I cannot get at the data! How can I do this? It's VITAL and very very URGENT!



Thank you VERY VERY much in advance

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Encrypted data?

by oldskooldj In reply to URGENT! Need access to d ...

Are you saying the data you can't access is encrypted? Or is this a question of navigation, that is, not knowing where the data resides? Please clarify.

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"Access Denied"

by WienSam In reply to Encrypted data?

Thank you for your prompt reply. :-)

As requested, further information is as follows:

The data is held in a User Account under the name of 'Management', which was initially set up as the main administrator account. When it was the hard drive in the old laptop, I accessed it by booting up into Windows XP Professional (the only OS installed), selecting the User Account 'Management' and entering my password. Then I would be logged in.

It is possible to see the directory for this account under 'E:\Documents and Settings\Management' (where E: is the letter assigned for the external USB drive) but I cannot access it.

I have just come back from 3 hours spent with a laptop hardware engineer who tried accessing the data via various different laptops but none of these attempts worked. Nevertheless, it was possible in some circumstances that we tried to actually open up this directory and access all the sub-directories but the data would not copy or open. Every thing we tried to do would result in the message "Access is denied". He also tried swapping it for the hard drive in one of his own laptops but Windows XP would not boot up as, of course, it was no longer installed in the laptop for which it had been configured.

I cannot possibly be the only person on the planet to whom this has happened - the mother board and CPU died. It was a more cost effective option to buy a whole new laptop than replace the parts...

Does that help?

Thank you once again...

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OK No Problems Sort Of Anyway

by HAL 9000 Moderator In reply to "Access Denied"

What you need to do is take ownership of the files by following the directions here


Now for the not so easy bit if you are running Vista on the new NB I'm not sure if this will actually work as the procedure is specifically designed for XP so you may have to move to an XP Computer to take Ownership of the files and save them to something that you can then use to transfer them to the Vista Computer.

Also if you where using Windows Encrypted File System I'm fairly sure that the procedure for coping the encryption Key into the new OS will not work with Vista so you really need an XP Pro computer Please Note XP Home doesn't support Windows EFS so you have to use the Pro version to do this with but I'll add in the directions here just in case



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Using Windows XP Home or Windows 2000 Professional

by WienSam In reply to OK No Problems Sort Of An ...

Thank you for your reply.

Unfortunately, the new NB is running Windows XP Home Edition and I have another that runs Windows 2000 Professional. Neither one of them will give show up the 'Security' tab as outlined in your first link. There is also another problem in that the directory I wish to 'take ownership of' is now on a USB drive and starting in 'Safe Mode' surely would not allow access to a USB drive?

Unfortunately, your second link doesn't work

Would it help to install Windows XP Professional on the new NB?

Any further ideas?

Thanks again

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The problem here is the XP Home

by HAL 9000 Moderator In reply to Using Windows XP Home or ...

As it doesn't support EFS if it is being used on the XP Pro install. But if you didn't have Windows Encrypted File System in use you should be able to use XP Home to recover your data and you will be able to see the USB Drive in Safe Mode as I use this all the time on Customers HDD in external USB Caddies to recover their data.

But if your old system had EFS in use you have to find a XP Pro computer to recover your data and Encryption Key with as nothing else will support this option. It would also be helpful if you could Clone the OS as once you copy the Private Encryption Key that will effectively take control of the XP Pro computer and have everything on that system encrypted so if you could if only for a short time install XP Pro to the new NB it should cure your problem.


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Encryption Key?

by WienSam In reply to The problem here is the X ...

Thanks for your reply Hal.

I set up the damaged laptop from factory state myself and do not remember setting an Encyption Key, although I may well have done this by accident (or default). How do I know? What do I do?

Secondly, once I can finally access the data, how can I extract it so that I can read it on XP Home? Is there a way I can copy it to somewhere else and / or make all data accessible to all?

Lastly, "It would also be helpful if you could Clone the OS as once you copy the Private Encryption Key that will effectively take control of the XP Pro computer and have everything on that system encrypted...". This has me a little worried. Is there any way to avoid losing control of the XP Pro computer? I need to be able to use this data not lose control of a second computer or alternatively find I can only access the data via an XP Pro computer.

I await your response


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Well I use a disposable copy of Windows so that once

by HAL 9000 Moderator In reply to Encryption Key?

The present job is finished I just clone the drive from a Ghost Image and overwrite any changes that where made to the system while I was running any data recovery utilities or whatever you like to call them. The problem is that if EFS has been used it's very expensive to recover data once the Private Encryption Key has been lost/destroyed and this can happen by a repair Install or what M$ call an In Place Install as this will destroy any Encryption Key. But when you copy an Encryption Key to a working XP Pro machine you can backup all the data in an unencrypted form and that allows you to them move it to different computers as you like.

Like you said EFS may not have been employed but because it's Pro you have to first check just to be sure as the costs involved with a Data Recovery house are quite high for what is effectively the want of a few minutes work initially.

If you don't have a cloning utility you can use a copy of Ghost available on the Hiren's Bootable CD available for download here



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