Windows Password Reset Category: Security "I changed my Windows login password yesterday, and now I can't remember it! Is there any way to reset the windows password, so I can regain access to my computer?" How to Reset Your Windows Login Password It's a sickening, powerless feeling to be locked out of your own computer. Sometimes people forget passwords. Sometimes the stored password on your hard drive gets corrupted in a system crash. Sometimes, malware changes your password without your knowledge. Whatever the cause, you CAN reset your password and get back into your Windows system. Password resetting was not built into Windows prior to Vista. To get the reset job done you need to exploit a "bug" in Windows XP's Setup process, or use a third-party password recovery program. First, here is how to use Windows XP's Setup to reset your password: Insert your retail Windows XP CD in your CD drive Start or restart the computer When the "Welcome to Setup" screen appears, press Enter Setup offers to repair a damaged installation. Select your Windows XP installation from the list and press R to begin the Repair process. Pay close attention, you will soon interrupt this process! You will be required to reboot after the "copying files" stage; select "reboot" or wait for it to happen autmatically in 15 seconds. Put your fingers on the Shift and F10 keys and be ready! When you see "Installing Devices" progress bar in the lower left-hand corner of the screen, press Shift-F10 together. A command console window will open. Enter NUSRMGR.CPL and press Enter. The User Accounts Manager console will appear. Pick the account you need to change and enter a new password. Ta-da! This method seems tedious but it's no more so than third-party password recovery utilities. Some of those cost up to $200 - you might as well just buy a new operating system! But there are many free password recovery utilities out there, which will either recover your existing password, or bypass the Windows password. Free Windows Password Recovery Utilities Here are two free password recovery utilities. They work with Windows XP and may work with other versions or even other operating systems. Be advised, you will have to download them; burn them to a CD or USB flash drive; figure out their often geeky instructions; and then execute commands. You might as well just use the Windows CD you already own. Ophcrack tries numerous passwords until it gets the right one. There's no telling how long that will take. Offline NT Password & Registry Editor simply deletes your password. Then you can log on to Windows XP or Vista without entering a password, go to User Accounts management and set a new password for security. This program has not been tested on Windows 7, but my guess is that it will work there as well. Password Reset for Vista and Windows 7 Windows Vista and Windows 7 have password reset features built into them. But you will have to exercise foresight and create a password reset disk before you need it. Here is the general procedure; to find instructions in your version of Windows Help, search Help for "password reset". Click Start and then Control Panel Open the User Accounts console Look for the "create password reset disk" link and click it A wizard will pop up to prompt you through the rest of the process. You can use any sort of removable media to create a password reset disk: CD, DVD, USB drive, even a floppy disk if you still have such a thing. A keychain USB thumb drive is the most convenient and popular choice. When you see an "incorrect password" message again, don't panic. Just click OK to bring up the "reset password" link. Click that and follow instructions. You will insert your password reset disk, Windows will read it, and you be allowed to create a new password. Ta-da! The Dark Side Have you figured out there's a dark side to this password resetting business? If YOU can reset the password on YOUR computer, without having the current password -- then so can anyone else who has physical access to the machine, or to your password reset disk. Bottom line, Windows login passwords should not be relied upon to secure your system from intruders. Got something to say about Windows password reset/recovery?