Disclaimers and Warnings

This guide was written specifically about Windows XP and Magical Jelly Bean Keyfinder version 2.01, but should also work on Windows 2000, Windows Vista, Windows 7, and with newer versions of MJBK.

Read all of this guide carefully and back up your data before starting the Product Key recovery. I’m assuming you have a basic familiarity with hand tools and basic mechanical ability. If you’ve never unscrewed a screw before, this isn’t the time to start. However, if you’ve built models or repaired anything (especially anything with a motor or bicycles), then you’ll probably be OK.

Try to collect any documentation about your computer you can before starting removal of a hard drive. Study it for any descriptions or pictures that may help you. Service manuals will have the most detailed descriptions and best pictures. Almost all of the larger manufacturers have manuals available for download from their websites.

Remember that screws in computers are usually easy to tighten or loosen except for the last or first half turn. If it’s difficult to put in or remove, stop and see if you’re doing something wrong. Also, computers aren’t usually subject to vibration or environmental degradation as autos, motorcycles, bikes, etc. are, so go easy when loosening or tightening them up. If you don’t, you may strip a screw or two and create a metal shaving – which you DON’T want floating around inside a computer where it might bridge a couple of circuit board traces.

I cannot judge your ability and this guide cannot foresee or describe every possible circumstance. You are responsible for using your own skills, intelligence, and good judgment while attempting to follow this guide. In other words: Don’t blame me if you screw something up. Every repair person makes mistakes – otherwise he/she wouldn’t be human. The shop makes mistakes too – they just add a percentage of a mistake’s cost to everyone’s bill.

Get The Product Key From The COA

The best way to get the Product Key is from the Certificate of Authenticity sticker on your computer or from the sticker on the packaging. If your computer was purchased with Windows already on it, it’s supposed to have a COA sticker on it. If the computer wasn’t purchased with Windows on it – or has had a new version put on – there is a sticker on the package Windows came in with the Product Key on it.


This is one type of Certificate Of Authenticity. Others can be seen here.

There’s No COA Sticker/I Can’t Find The Windows Packaging! What Now?

If the label is illegible or missing, you can use one of the following methods to recover the Product Key but that’s not as desirable as using the one printed on the COA sticker. Many manufacturers use a generic Product Key to install Windows on the many computers they build and Windows will usually fail activation with this recovered Product Key if activation is done over the internet. You’ll have to telephone the activation number, go through some hoops, and probably tell your story to the support person to get the code from them which will activate Windows. Never fear! I’ve telephoned to activate Windows a hundred times or more and have never been refused.

Can you Log On To Windows?

Can you log on to the computer you want the Product Key from (the Recovery Subject) – either normally or in Safe Mode? http://support.microsoft.com/kb/315222 If you can, the utility I use for such situations is the Magical Jelly Bean Keyfinder: http://www.magicaljellybean.com/keyfinder/

You won’t be able to get on the internet in Safe Mode unless you choose Safe Mode with Networking – even then it may not be possible. You may have to view this and download any files while on another computer that has internet access.

Download the keyfinder onto another computer (if that computer is running Windows 2000, you’ll need an unzipping utility such as WinZip if there’s not one already on it). Double click keyfinder.2.0.1.zip, copy keyfinder.exe and paste it onto something to transfer it to the Recovery Subject computer – a USB stick or floppy disk, or record it to CD/DVD. Put the media containing keyfinder.exe into the Recovery Subject computer. Double click keyfinder.exe and it will show the Microsoft software installed in the left pane and its associated Product Key in the right pane.

I Can’t Log On To Windows – Not Even In Safe Mode!

If you cannot log on at all or even start the computer, you should be able to recover the Product Key with Magical Jelly Bean Keyfinder if you remove the hard drive and attach it to a functioning Windows 2000 or newer computer (Host Computer). If you prefer to hire a technician to do this for you, it won’t take him/her any longer than one hour to remove the hard drive, attach it to another computer, run MJBK, remove it from the other computer, and replace it in yours. It will take you longer if you’ve never worked on a computer before.

Take Pictures Or Make Sketches

It’s a good idea after opening the case and before removing the drive to take some pictures with your digital camera of the hard drive, its cabling, and the other data cables going from other hard drives, optical drives, or floppy drives to the motherboard. You could also make a sketch or two. Use them as a reference if you dislodge one accidentally.

What Do I Need?

You will need a standard #1 Phillips screwdriver (a small one) for a laptop, or a #2 Phillips screwdriver (regular size) for most desktops to remove the drive. You will also need an external drive enclosure, USB adapter, or internal adapter (the internal adapter will allow you to attach your drive to a desktop computer only – the first two will work on a laptop or a desktop) of the correct type for your drive like one of these:

USB adapter:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16812200155
Enclosures:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16817801038
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16817155701
Internal adapter for use in a desktop computer:
For IDE laptop drives only (usually not needed for SATA or desktop IDE drives)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16812200053

If your hard drive is SATA and the desktop was bought in Jan. 2007 or later, it probably has one or more SATA drives in it. You may need an SATA cable and maybe a 1 to 2 Y power connector for an SATA drive, depending on the motherboard and power supply in the computer. You might also need a 1 to 2 Molex Y connector. A canned air duster is optional but recommended.

Of course Fry’s, Tiger Direct, other mail order houses, and local retailers sell similar products. I like the customer reviews and the pricing at Newegg.com. If you have to take the drive to another location to attach it to the Host Computer, you’ll also need an antistatic bag to transport it in. They’re usually free for the asking at a computer store.

Identifying Your Drive’s Type

The pictures below will help you identify your drive’s type so you can get the correct adapter. SATA is Serial ATA. IDE drives are sometimes called P(arallel) ATA drives.

Shown are both types of laptop hard drives - SATA and IDE
Shown are both types of laptop hard drives - SATA and IDE
A Western Digital desktop SATA hard drive - note that the connectors used are the same as those on a laptop SATA drive
A Western Digital desktop SATA hard drive - note that the connectors used are the same as those on a laptop SATA drive
A Seagate IDE desktop hard drive
A Seagate IDE desktop hard drive

General Procedures and Warnings

Shut down your computer to power off before removing the hard drive – NEVER remove parts from a computer that is on, in standby mode, or in hibernate mode. Then turn off the power switch on the back of the computer if it has one, or unplug it if it doesn’t. Hard drives are extremely fragile; even a slight bump can damage the drive. If the drive gets bumped, it might kill the drive and the data on it. If you remove the hard drive from the computer when the drive is hot, do not touch the metal housing of the hard drive.

You MUST take appropriate precautions against static discharge while working on the computer – failing to do so could damage the hard drive or other electronic parts making them unusable. Wear an antistatic wrist strap and ground yourself before removing the hard drive, while handling it, and while replacing it. A ground can be a cold water pipe, a piece of metal driven deeply (2 feet or .5 metres) into the soil, or the bare unpainted metal chassis of an appliance (like a computer, washing machine or a portable dishwasher) that has a grounded (three prong) plug and is plugged into the wall – NOT into a power strip.

What I do is plug a three prong power cord into the wall that has had the two power (flat) prongs removed. I make sure that the strap is touching bare skin on my wrist, then I attach the clip of my antistatic strap to the wire that’s connected to the ground prong. I then ground myself on the ground wire. You can also ground yourself – DO NOT move your feet after grounding yourself – and periodically reground yourself while working on the computer if you aren’t using an antistatic strap (using a strap is much safer and easier).

Laptop Hard Drive Removal

First shut down Windows and wait until the laptop is powered off before starting to remove any screws. Use antistatic precautions before touching the drive, then remove the hard drive. Instructions for removing and replacing a hard drive in one Dell laptop model are here:
http://support.dell.com/support/edocs/systems/latd505/sm/hdd.htm#1123687. In other laptops, the hard drive may be in a similar location, or underneath an access panel on the underside of the laptop. Some older laptops have the hard drive underneath the keyboard – it will have to be removed before you can remove the hard drive.

You may have to remove additional screws to release the hard drive after any plastic covers are taken off. This is where the laptop’s documentation may be worth its weight in gold. If you have to take the drive to another location to attach it to a Host Computer, put it in the antistatic bag at this time with the connectors at the bag’s open end. That way you can handle it by the bag without having to take antistatic precautions.

Desktop Hard Drive Removal

To remove a hard drive from a desktop computer, you will most likely have to remove both sides of the case and then the hard drive. Drives are usually fastened into the case with four screws, but sometimes quick release arrangements are used. There’s a video here showing how to add an additional hard drive to a desktop computer – most of what’s shown is applicable to removing one. You do not have to change the jumpers – they are already set up correctly.

First shut down Windows and then turn off the power switch on the back of the computer after it’s powered off or unplug it if there isn’t one. Carry out your antistatic precautions, then open the case by taking the case’s left and right sides off (left or right on a computer is the left or right side when you’re looking at the front of it).

The method of opening the case differs between cases. Usually there’s two or three screws on the rear vertically near the left and near the right hand edges. The sides should then slide back and then off. Sometimes there are screws all around the rear edge and the entire cover lifts off. Sometimes it’s sliding catches or buttons of some kind – you may have to look at the manual. And sometimes the screws are hidden under the case’s front bezel (this was more common, but is rare now). You pull off the front bezel or unscrew and remove it, and then remove the screws underneath and slide the covers off (there aren’t always screws underneath). There are many different ways to open a case – I can’t describe them all.

Clean Is Good

This is a good time to blow out the computer with a canned air duster and get rid of the dust that’s hindering cooling (you may want to do this outdoors). Work from top to bottom and get into all of the crevices. Use the plastic tube provided with the duster to go into slots or between fins on heat sinks. The cleaner a computer is, the cooler it operates, and the longer it will last.

Unplug the power and data cables from the hard drive, then unscrew the screws or unfasten the catch or catches keeping it inside the computer. Remember your antistatic precautions and then remove the drive. Again, if you have to take the drive to another location to attach it to a Host Computer, put it in the antistatic bag at this time with the connectors at the bag’s open end. That way you can handle it by the bag without having to take antistatic precautions.

Using a USB Enclosure or USB Adapter

If you’re using a USB enclosure or USB adapter, you can put your laptop or desktop drive in or attach your drive to the device as appropriate. Look at the pictures below for help with the connectors.

Make sure the Host Computer is in Windows, attach the power to the enclosure or adapter and plug it in, turn the power switch on (if there is one), and plug the USB cable into the Host Computer. Windows should automatically find and install the drive. You’ll get a pop up when it’s ready that says something like ‘Your device is installed and ready to use’. Now go down to the section, “Running Magical Jelly Bean Keyfinder”.

Internally Attaching An IDE Drive To A Host Computer

If using an adapter to attach your laptop IDE drive or attaching your desktop IDE drive to a desktop Host Computer internally, first copy Magical Jelly Bean Keyfinder to the Host Computer’s hard drive while the HC is in Windows. Then shut down the HC to power off and remove the side so that you can see the motherboard – similar to the picture below. Usually the left side is the one to remove. It’s a good idea to blow the dust out of the computer with a canned air duster.

The IDE 0 and IDE1 labeling in the photo isn’t relevant to this guide. In these photos you can see a red marking on the edge of some of the IDE data cables. It’s on all of them but not always visible. That denotes the #1 wire in the cable, and tells you how to plug the connector into its socket. The cable is always plugged into its socket so that the #1 wire is closest to the power connector. The plug and socket are keyed so it can’t be put in backwards, but remembering how it should go will save you from trying it the the wrong way.

A picture of cables and drives
A picture of cables and drives

If there isn’t an available power plug (Molex plug) inside the desktop, disconnect one from a CD/DVD drive or you can purchase and install a Y connector.

Molex Y cable for adding another power plug if there isn't one free
Molex Y cable for adding another power plug if there isn't one free

Shown below are two male Molex plugs. Notice that two corners on the same side are cut off – they are keyed. This is so you plug them in correctly – they only fit one way.

White male Molex power plug
White male Molex power plug
Black male Molex power plug
Black male Molex power plug

Then remove the IDE (ribbon) data cable from the CD/DVD drive(s).

IDE cables and CD drive from inside the computer
IDE cables and CD drive from inside the computer

The rightmost group of pins on the laptop IDE drive (inside the red circle in the picture below) is for power. Attach the appropriate plug to them – it comes with the adapter and has a Molex female socket on it. Attach the adapter to the drive, the free end of the ribbon cable that you just unplugged to the adapter, and the Molex socket to a Molex plug from the computer. If attaching a desktop hard drive, attach the IDE cable you just removed to the drive and a Molex plug to the drive’s socket. Be careful not to knock any other cables loose – it’s easy to do. Reattach them if you do.

The power pins are circled
The power pins are circled

It’s OK to let the drive hang from a cable for the short time it’ll be inside the Host Computer – but if you do, be very cautious that you don’t set it swinging so that it bangs into a part of the computer. Don’t do anything that will cause the drive to be bumped. If the drive gets bumped, it might kill the drive and the data on it. I’ve done it a few times by accidentally dropping a drive. Luckily it’s always been mine, not a customer’s. I’m extra super double cautious when handling a loose drive that doesn’t belong to me.

Note the yellow IDE cable in the picture below. Running just above its lower section is a red SATA data cable. Fortunately, laptop and desktop SATA drives take the same connectors for data and power. They are keyed so that they can’t be connected to the wrong plug or in an incorrect orientation.

Red SATA data cable just above the yellow IDE data cable
Red SATA data cable just above the yellow IDE data cable

Connecting A SATA Hard Drive Internally

The procedures for attaching a SATA drive to a Host Computer are similar to those used in attaching an IDE drive (see above) – the connectors are just a bit different. You should blow the dust out of the computer with a canned air duster before attaching the added drive.

The SATA data connectors in the Host Computer will look like the black or red sockets below. They’re on the computer’s motherboard.

Motherboard SATA connectors
Motherboard SATA connectors

Here’s a picture of someone installing a SATA cable onto a motherboard. It’s the same process to plug the cable into a drive. If there aren’t any empty sockets, you can take off the cable from a SATA CD drive.

Installing an SATA data cable
Installing an SATA data cable

Plug the drive into a spare power connector in the computer. The connector will look like the picture below. If there aren’t any spares, you can remove one from a CD/DVD drive and use it, or purchase a Y connector or a Molex to SATA power plug adapter and hook it up.

SATA power connector
SATA power connector

Be careful not to knock any other cables loose – it’s very easy to do. Reattach them if you do. Again, it’s OK to let the drive hang from a cable – but if you do, be very cautious with the computer that you don’t set the drive swinging so that it bangs into a part of the computer. Don’t do anything that will cause the drive to be bumped.

Now That The Drives Are Hooked Up Inside The Host Computer…

Once hooked up to the appropriate cables and to the computer, you can close the side of the computer’s case. It’s a good idea to do this so that the cooling inside works how it was designed to. You don’t have to replace all of the screws if that’s what you had to do to take the case’s side off – just put one back in.

Plug the computer back in, start it, and go into Windows. You’ll have some bubbles pop up near the time display in the lower right hand corner of the monitor notifying you of Windows’ progress in installing drivers for the added hard drive. Eventually one will say something like ‘Your new hardware is installed and ready to use’.

Running Magical Jelly Bean Keyfinder

Now double click keyfinder.exe wherever it is on the Host Computer. Click Tools > Load Hive. Then point it to the Windows installation on the disk you’ve hooked up to the HC. It should be located at [letter assigned to added drive]:windowssystem32config (for Windows 2000, the path will be: [letter assigned to added drive]:winntsystem32config). If the Host Computer has Windows Vista on it, you may have to right click on keyfinder.exe and then click Run as administrator. Respond appropriately to any prompts. Magical Jelly Bean Keyfinder will show any Microsoft software installed in the left pane and its associated Product Key in the right pane. Write down the Product Key.

You can now remove the drive from the Host Computer and replace it in your computer. Replace any cables you may have disconnected in the Host Computer to hook up your drive and close and screw up the case as required. You can then run a repair installation or fresh install of XP if needed on your computer and enter the Product Key you retrieved in the right spot during Setup.

You may have to activate Windows XP right away to be able to log on, and you may have to do it over the phone. Once Windows is activated, connect to the internet and remember to first update your antivirus and then update Windows (click Start > All Programs > Windows Update or Microsoft Update).