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Windows: How to reset the administrator password?

I am faced with an unsettling situation. A friend of my father's has rather suddenly become a widower. Naturally they've taken care of the bank accounts and all the normal mundane things that people have been doing for a century or so.

However, she was the computer user of the household. He was aware that they had some online banking stuff and bill paying stuff ... and that she spent lots of time on FaceBook and stuff like that. However, he doesn't know what her local passwords were (actually only vaguely aware that her couple of desktop and couple of laptop system even had passwords). He's never heard of "admin" passwords so that's no good either.

In the past I've used KNOPPIX and the old LinuxCare "bootable business card" to recover NT passwords. I've never done this with MS Windows Vista.

So, I'm looking for the best advice on how to do this. Naturally I do have physical access to the systems (the two laptops are charging across the room from me; and her old desktop systems are, naturally, still back at his place). Getting it right is much more important than fast or easy (I don't want to mess up those filesystems and possibly lose some photos or other stuff that he or his kids or grandkids will want).

(BTW: if anyone things this is some social engineering hack to play upon the sympathies of the community to get the information I'm asking for ... think about it for a minute. I know about IRC and the "warez" boards. I know I can find this stuff out there if I dig enough. I'm just asking here because it'll hopefully be faster and, secondarily to raise awareness. As more of us put more of our lives online ... as we get older and as places like FaceBook continue to widen the appeal of computing to a broader segment of older people ... we are, as computer nerds, going to see a lot more of this. Survivors will needs us to be careful, sensitive and ethically responsible as they try to recover those bits of legacy during their bereavement. I can now tell you, first hand, it sucks!)

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migrated from serverfault.com Jun 19 '10 at 23:17

This question came from our site for professional system and network administrators.

marked as duplicate by nhinkle, Diago Dec 29 '10 at 7:31

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1 Answer 1

Top 5 Free Windows Password Recovery Tools

The list of tools mentioned in the article. Follow link above for description of each application.

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+1 for Ophcrack. Used it many times successfully. –  Keith Jun 20 '10 at 1:06
    
Yup Ophcrack should reveal the windows account passwords and Cain & Abel will reveal any passwords saved on the system from web browsing. Nirsoft also provides additional password tools. nirsoft.net/password_recovery_tools.html –  James T Jun 20 '10 at 1:21
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