Recovering encrypted user data from a system image w/o original hardware

Hello everyone!

I've recently run into the following problem:

I create system images of my Windows 7 installation on a regular basis. A few days ago, my hard drive failed beyod repair, so I went ahead and bought a new one, assuming that I could then proceed to simply restore the most recent system image. However, that didn't work: When I tried to restore the image using the Win7 Installation Disk, the only option of reformatting the hard disk was disabled. Below it was suggested that in case of the option being disabled, I should try and install a suitable driver for the hard disk. I don't have one and I don't know where to get one. So, of course, recovery didn't work.

So I went on to reinstall Win7 entirely, hoping I could restore the data by mounting the .vhd from the image and then copying the data over to my new installation. However, the data in my user directory is encrypted using EFS (if memory serves correctly), therefore I can't simply access it by double-clicking the folder within the Windows Explorer. Which makes sense.
Still, I need to access my data, and since I have a complete system image, I should also possess the certificate necessary to decrypt my data. After hours of scouring the internet for a way to recover and apply said certificate however, I have come up with nothing, which leads me to assume that I'm looking in all the wrong places or simply don't have the knowledge required to find and understand what I need.

Can anyone help me out with that?

Thank you for your patience!

Cheers, Laoka


Excellent Member
Microsoft Community Contributor
You don't have to reformat a new hard drive. Just be careful it will not do anything to any drives, such as a flash drive that are not involved, in the original image. It should work with a clean drive just fine, since it always sets up the drive the way the image specifies.

This website is not affiliated, owned, or endorsed by Microsoft Corporation. It is a member of the Microsoft Partner Program.