Having one of those “senior moments” and forgotten the Windows login password you’d set? Or maybe you had to restart that old Windows machine and don’t remember the password that you’d used. Whatever the reason, it turns out to be amazingly simple to clear your password to gain access to your Windows machine. Once you regain access to your account, you can re-establish a new password (or the same one, if you can remember what it was).
Warning: If you have any files that are being encrypted by Windows itself (not a third party application), deleting or changing the password outside of Windows will lock you out of accessing those files. Instead of resetting the password, you will need to recover the password and login “properly.” There are tools that allow you to unlock passwords with varying degrees success, depending on the complexity of your password. Follow these simple steps:
- Download the utility from pogostick.net/~pnh/ntpasswd/bootdisk.html—scroll down to the “Download” section (you’ll probably want either the CD or USB version).
- Create bootable media (CD, USB, or floppy)—I suggest a CD, assuming your PC has an optical disk player.
- Boot the Windows machine from the CD (or whichever bootable media you created in the prior step)—you may need to set your machine’s BIOS settings to to preempt booting from the hard drive.
- When the computer boots (Linux), answer the prompts to clear the password as described in the “Walkthrough” or as shown in the YouTube video (I did not create the video, but I kind of like the accent).
This utility also allows you to change passwords and registry editing without booting Windows. I have not tried these features.
Creating a Password Reset Key
To avoid having to go through this process in the future, you can create a “Password reset disk.” This disk (or other removable medium) acts as a physical key to enable you to reset your password, should you forget it again. Only one such key is valid, if you run the utility again, the prior versions are no longer valid. As stated in Microsoft’s instructions(you’ll need removable media such as a USB flash drive or floppy disk),
- Open User Accounts by clicking the “Start button,” clicking “Control Panel,” clicking “User Accounts and Family Safety,” and then clicking “User Accounts.”
- In the left pane, click “Create a password reset disk,” and then follow the instructions. Make sure you store the password reset disk in a safe place.