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Windows: How to reset the administrator password?

I have a Windows XP VMWare Fusion image whose admin password is not known. How can I reset or recover the password?

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migrated from serverfault.com Aug 22 '10 at 19:53

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

marked as duplicate by Sathya, random Aug 23 '10 at 0:50

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2 Answers 2

My solution was to boot the XP vm via a Linux system rescue disk and clear the password using the tools provided therein. Here are the steps:

  1. Download the sysrescuecd ISO (sysresccd.org/Download).
  2. In VMWare Fusion, head to the Settings for the XP vm and set CDs & DVDs to "Use disk image", pointing to the ISO.
  3. Boot up the vm and access the BIOS. By default the BIOS is flashed instantly, so you may have to add a delay (instructions here).
  4. Once in the BIOS, change the boot order so that CD-ROM is first.
  5. Save and Exit the BIOS to restart the vm.
  6. Boot into sysrescuecd by following the onscreen instructions. Default settings are fine.
  7. When presented with the /root % prompt, execute the following commands to clear the admin password:

    Mount windows:
    % ntfs-3g /dev/sda1 /mnt/windows

    Change password (and confirm):
    % cd /mnt/windows/WINDOWS/system32/config
    % chntpw SAM

    Exit Linux:
    % halt

  8. Your password should now be cleared. Undo the changes you made in steps 2-4 and restart the vm.

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I've found the best (simplest) solution is to use the Offline NT Password & Registry Editor. Despite its name, it works just fine on XP. For clearing the Administrator password on an XP machine, it's as simple as booting the ISO in your VM and following the prompts. For the majority of the prompts, you'll just be taking the defaults. The ISO is here and you'll be wanting cd100627.zip. The article above includes complete step-by-step instructions and screenshots. What I like best about this solution is that you're not required to enter any commands; It's completely prompted. Very easy.

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