How many times have you forgotten your password in the last year? Losing website password is not a big problem as you can reset it with your email address. But forgetting your computer password is scarier because it’s hard to reset.
If you’ve lost track of the password for your Windows administrator account, fear not. There are several methods you can use to recover your account. This can save you from a bad situation, but don’t forget that a password manager can prevent you from getting locked out altogether.
Use Lock Screen Solution
Assuming you’re not using a Microsoft account to sign in to Windows, you’ll need to reset your local password. If the locked account is the only administrator account on the PC, you must first enable the hidden admin account to use this solution.
We have covered this method in detail in our complete guide to reset Windows 10 password. We will summarize them here, but please see that article for more details.
Boot From Installation Media
If you don’t already have one, create Windows 10 installation media on a flash drive using another machine if necessary. Insert that drive into your machine, and pay attention to the prompt to press F12, Delete, or another key to select your boot device. Boot from the flash drive, and wait until you see the first Windows 10 setup screen. Press Shift + F10 here and you will open Command Prompt.
Your Windows installation may be on your C: drive, so if you try the command below and it doesn’t work, type cd D: or another drive if your drive is different. Type this command to browse to the System32 folder:
Add Command Prompt to Windows Lock Screen
Now, you can use a trick to change any of the elements on the Windows lock screen. The Ease of Access menu collects accessibility options such as an on-screen keyboard and dictation for users with disabilities. Using a text command, you can replace this icon with a shortcut to the Command Prompt. Enter these two lines one at a time to back up the shortcut and replace it:
ren utilman.exe utilman.exe.bak
ren cmd.exe utilman.exe
That’s it for now, so type this command to reboot as usual:
Back at the normal login screen, click the Ease of Access shortcut at the bottom right to open Command Prompt.
Type this command to activate the Admin account:
net user Administrator /active:yes
Now you need to reboot again. Use this command as a shortcut:
shutdown -t 0 -r
After restarting, click on the Administrator account name at the bottom left. There’s no password for this, so you’ll jump straight to the desktop. You will need to open Command Prompt once again to reset the password. Right-click the Start button and click Command Prompt (Admin), then type this command to see all users on your PC:
Your username should be clear. Now, replace the USERNAME in this command with your own, and Windows will let you set a new password:
net user USERNAME *
Set a password, log out, and your account is now accessible. Once you’ve confirmed that you’re able to log in, boot back into the Windows 10 installation disc once again. Open Command Prompt with Shift + F10 again and browse to C:WindowsSystem32, then type these two commands to fix the shortcut you changed:
ren utilman.exe cmd.exe
ren utilman.exe.bak utilman.exe
Admin accounts are not secure, so you should disable them until you need them later with this command:
net user Administrator /active:no
Boot into Linux USB and Reset
Keeping Linux on the USB drive is a good idea. This lets you recover files when Windows won’t boot, but is also useful for resetting passwords. If you can’t log into any of the accounts on your PC, you can create a Linux drive on another computer and use it to reset your own password.
Boot into Linux
First, you’ll need to create a bootable Linux USB drive; it doesn’t matter which Linux flavor you are using. Try the process in the file recovery article above to install Mint, or follow our guide to getting Ubuntu on a flash drive.
Once done, reboot your PC and look for a prompt to press F12, ESC, Delete, or something similar to select your boot device. Select your flash drive and give Linux a minute to get started.
Complete any setup task such as setting the time zone, then open the file explorer.
Mount Your Windows Drive
On Ubuntu, it’s the folder icon in the left sidebar. If you’re using Mint, it’s in the lower left corner just like Windows. Press CTRL+L to edit the Location path, and type this to see all your drives:
Find the drive where you installed Windows. If you only have one hard drive in your computer, it’s definitely present. Right-click on that drive and click Mount so Linux can access it.
From here, you’ll be working in the Linux Terminal. Don’t worry – it’s not scary! The shortcut to open it in Mint and Ubuntu is CTRL + ALT + T. First you need to install a password reset utility called chntpw. Type this command to install it:
sudo apt-get install chntpw
Change the working directory (the cd command stands for change directory) to your Windows folder with this line:
cd / min / Windows / System32 / config
Next, get a list of Windows users by entering this:
sudo chntpw -l SAM
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You should see users whose passwords need to be reset in this list. To make sure that you are editing only for this user, type the following command. Replace USERNAME with the user you need to edit. If it’s a one-word username like “Mike”, you don’t need the quotes. For multi-word usernames like “Mike Jones,” put quotes around the words or it won’t work.
sudo chntpw -u “USER NAME” SAM
Now, type 2 to enter editing mode. Type the new password for the user, and press Enter to submit it. When prompted, enter y to confirm. If you like, you can set the password to blank instead of setting a new one. To do so, type 1 instead of 2 after you have entered the username command and enter y when prompted to save it.
Reboot into Windows and use the new password to log in! If you set a blank password, go to Settings, browse to Accounts > Sign-in options, look under the Password heading for a button to change your password.
Try Windows Password & Registry Editor Offline
There is plenty of Windows software to help you reset your password. One option is the same tool we detailed in the Linux method above. It gets the job done quickly, so let’s talk about how to use it without Linux. Of course, if you can’t get into your own PC, you’ll have to download the software on another computer.
Boot into Offline Password Editor
Go to the download page and look for the Downloads header. Below that, you should see a file with a Bootable CD image next to it – named cd140201.zip at the time of writing. Download the ZIP to your desktop or other convenient location and use a file extraction tool to get the ISO inside.
You’ll need to burn this ISO file to a USB drive (or a CD if you prefer) using a free program like Rufus. Once done, insert the drive into your PC and reboot. Look for the key to select the boot device (such as F12) otherwise it will boot to USB automatically. Once the tool is loaded, you will see the line boot: at the bottom of the terminal output. Press Enter to get started.
A lot of text will scroll while the tool is getting ready. Finally, it will ask you to select the partition on which Windows lives. If you only have one hard drive on your computer, you’ll probably see two options here – don’t choose the one that’s around 100 MB and labeled BOOT. Type the number corresponding to the larger option and then Enter.
Next, you must confirm that the default path to Registry (Windows/System32/config) is correct. There’s a 99% chance of this happening, so hit Enter to accept it. You will see a further list of options. Type a number for the password reset option (usually 1) and press Enter again.
From now on, the instructions are similar to the Linux process. Press the number 1 to select Edit user data and password and Enter to confirm. You will see a list of usernames. It will have the account selected by default; type your username and press Enter.
Now you will choose what you want to do with this user’s password. You can type 2 to set a new password, or use 1 to make it blank. Press Enter to confirm, and you will see Password deleted! message if you reset. Type! and press Enter to leave the user edit screen.
You’re almost done! Type q and then Enter to exit the tool. Before closing, the screen will detail your changes and ask if you want to save them. Type y and press Enter for these changes to take effect. You’ll see an Edit Complete message to confirm. Hit Enter again to say no when asked if you want to run the tool again since you’re all done here.
Now you are done! Eject the disc or USB drive and restart your computer. Boot into Windows as usual and click on your username. If you type a new password, enter it to regain access to your account. If you leave it blank, you will be logged in. Make sure to add a new password to keep your account safe! Go to Settings, then Account > Sign-in options. Under the Password heading, there is a button to add a password.
Microsoft Accounts, and Future Planning
Note the method described above works if you use a local account on your PC. However, if you use a Microsoft account to sign in to Windows 8.1 or Windows 10, it’s much easier to reset your password. Visit the Microsoft account password reset page to quickly generate a new password via your email.
While you can complete all of these tasks in no time, there are better ways to avoid getting locked out of your account. Consider using a Microsoft account to sign in if you frequently forget your password. If the numbers are easier for you to remember, you can use a PIN to log in even if you are using a local account. We also recommend using a password manager so that your passwords are just a few clicks away.
Finally, Windows lets you create a password reset disk so you can avoid this lengthy method in the future. Connect the flash drive and launch the tool by typing password reset disk into the Start Menu. If you get locked out of your account in the future, you can plug in the drive to regain access.
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