Lost or forgotten Windows password
Disclaimer: Gaining access to an account or computer that is not yours without permission by using any of the steps below is against the law.
There are various options and utilities that can make it possible to gain access to a computer with a lost password. Below is a listing of the most popular options and utilities available to try.
Log into an alternate account
Often many users will leave the administrator account alone or have other accounts with administrator rights. If you are not logging into the computer using the administrator account or have other accounts that you can utilize, follow the steps below to reset your other account's password.
- Reboot the computer into Safe Mode.
- When logging into Safe Mode, you should be prompted with an option of which account you want to use. Select the Administrator account. If prompted for a password, try pressing Enter on the keyboard for no password. If this does not work, try other passwords you may have used. If you are unable to log into the Administrator account, skip to the next suggestion.
- Once you have logged into the Administrator account, open the Control Panel and User Accounts.
- In User Accounts, select the account you want to change, click Change Password, and then enter the new password or click remove the password to remove the password from the account.
Windows users and Creating a password reset disk
Note: Utilizing this option requires you to complete part of the process before having forgotten your password.
If you have Windows XP, use the "Prevent a forgotten password" option to create a password reset diskette. Use the diskette created to recover the forgotten password.
If you have Windows Vista or Windows 7, in the User Accounts utility (accessible in the Control Panel), select the "Create a password reset disk" option to create a password reset disk. You can then use the disk created to recover the forgotten password.
Offline NT Password & Registry Editor
The Offline NT password & Registry Editor is a great utility that enables users to overwrite their Windows SAM file, the file containing their passwords, with a new password. Unfortunately, you cannot see the previous password, but you can gain access to unencrypted files again.
Emergency Boot CD
The EBCD (Emergency Boot CD) has many useful features. One of the most important is the ability to change the password of any user without needing to know the previous password including the administrator password.
There are numerous other free and commercial utilities available for bypassing or changing an unknown password in Microsoft Windows. The above two utilities are the more popular solutions and are highly recommended. If these utilities do not suit your needs, you may also want to perform a quick search on your favorite search engine.
If you have tried the above suggestions and are unable to gain access to the files you need to access, some data recovery companies may be able to access your data.
Format and reinstall Windows on the computer
Finally, if after trying all of the above steps you are still unable to access your computer the only alternative solution is to erase everything on the computer and reinstall Windows.