How To: Recover a lost Windows password
Applies to: Microsoft Windows NT, Windows 2000, Windows XP
Recover lost user password
If you have lost and forgotten the password of a user of the Windows computer, but can still log in to the system under another user, there are several ways you can regain access to the account.
- Use Windows Password Cracker. This is a tool that reads the hashed (encrypted) copies of the passwords from the system, and then uses dictionary and/or brute force methods to find the password that matches the hash. The stronger the password (the longer it is, whether it uses random letters and numbers or words and names) the longer this will take.
- Use Recover My Password
- Use Spotmau BootSuite or Spotmau Password Recovery
Recover lost administrator password
If you have lost the administrator password and are unable to log in to the computer at all then you must reset the password to something known. This is achieved by booting the computer from another disc and using a tool that rewrites the part of the registry where the password hash is stored. Only the last two of the tools mentioned above allow the creatuin of a password recovery disc.
This tutorial illustrates how you can reset the Windows administrator password using Spotmau BootSuite or Spotmau Windows Password Finder.
Using Spotmau BootSuite
We recommend that you use Spotmau BootSuite. This tool is easy to use, with a graphical interface. It also has many other uses, so it is not something that you may only need to use once.
Spotmau Password Recovery is the password recovery component of Spotmau BootSuite sold on its own.
Resetting the password
Insert the Spotmau BootSuite CD and start the computer. The main menu will appear.
Click 5. Password Recovery.
On the Password Recovery menu click Windows Admin/User Password.
An informational message appears. Note that changing or resetting the password will make any encrypted files unreadable, because the files are encrypted using the original password. There is no way round this. If you have encrypted files, you have to remember the original password. Assuming that you don't have any encrypted files, click Next.
On the Windows Admin/User dialog, select the location of your Windows installation. Usually there will only be one choice. In the screenshot above, Windows XP and Windows Vista were installed in separate partitions. Click Next.
Now select what you want to do. You can either set the password to blank, or change it to something new. In our example, we will set it to blank. You can re-set it to something new once you are back inside Windows. Click Blank Admin/User password.
Enter the name of the user whose password you want to reset. The default name is Administrator. Click Next.
Confirm the action you have selected by clicking Yes.
A message is displayed to tell you that the password has been reset. Remove the Spotmau BootSuite CD from the drive and click OK to restart the computer and log in to Windows.