How to reset a lost or forgotten Windows password

Updated: 12/31/2020 by Computer Hope

There are various options and utilities that 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.

Disclaimer

Gaining access to an account or computer that's not yours without permission by using any of the steps below is against the law.

Log into an alternate account

Windows password log on

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.

  1. Reboot the computer into Safe Mode.
  2. When logging into Safe Mode, when prompted to choose an account, 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 cannot log in to the Administrator account, skip to the next suggestion.
  3. Once you have logged in to the Administrator account, open the Control Panel, and click User Accounts.
  4. 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.

To create a password reset disk in Windows Vista, 7, or 8, open the Control Panel, and click User Accounts, then Create a password reset disk.

If you have Windows 10, type Password Reset in the search box, then select the Create a password reset disk option in the search results. Follow the on-screen steps to create the password reset disk.

Tip

You need to connect a USB flash drive to your computer before accessing the "Create a password reset disk" utility in Windows Vista and later versions. If you don't, you may get an error stating the utility could not find a USB drive attached.

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 Kit

The EmBootKit (Emergency Boot Kit) has many useful features. One of its most important features is changing the password of any user without needing to know the previous password including the administrator password.

Other utilities

There are many free and commercial utilities available for bypassing or changing an unknown password in Microsoft Windows. The above two utilities are 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.

Data recovery

After trying the above suggestions, if you cannot gain access to the files you need to access, some data recovery companies can access your data.

Format and reinstall Windows on the computer

If, after trying all of these steps you cannot access your computer, we recommend erasing everything on the computer and reinstall Windows.