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I have forgotten the Administrator password of my Windows XP installation and locked out. Is there a way to reset it? I do have physical access to the PC.

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7 Answers

up vote 34 down vote accepted

You can use Offline NT password and registry editor to reset it. You also can use Ophcrack.

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What the hell are you talking about? Many bootable CDs include Offline NT Password (pogostick.net/~pnh/ntpasswd), which takes about 2 minutes to reset a Windows password. There are plenty of other tools as well, ERD Commander includes 'Locksmith', which has a simple interface, and takes about 10 seconds to do it. Cracking a password is a last resort, and unless the password is less than 15 chars, is close to impossible. Below that, with a decent set of rainbow tables (I have a 12GB set), you've got pretty good chances, but it's not guaranteed. Windows passwords are easy to remove. –  Dentrasi Dec 5 '09 at 9:14
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This answer is very old, before I even knew about offline NT password & registry editor. I've updated my answer though. –  John T Dec 5 '09 at 14:32
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pogostick.net/~pnh/ntpasswd is really great and easy to use. Thanks for the tool! –  Pierre Arnaud Apr 14 '10 at 9:18
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ntpasswd didn't work for me, I have been trying to reset password of a windows xp vhd –  Kumar Sep 4 '12 at 18:29
    
Yes, they can work. But as I know there is NO warranty that they will work, and NO warranty that they will not harm the system. They can crash the registry if something goes wrong... –  Jet Sep 30 '13 at 15:09
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Use this method:

  1. Boot from Windows PE or Windows Recovery Environment (or use any LiveCD/USB/ ANY Windows installation disk / Anything bootable that can see NTFS/Fat32/...), and run the Command Prompt.

  2. Find the drive letter of the partition where Windows is installed. It is usually C: (Vista and XP). It could be D: under Windows 7 because the first partition contains Startup Repair and will be assigned with C:. To find the drive letter, type C: or D: and search for the Windows folder. Note that Windows PE (RE) usually resides on drive letter X.

  3. Create a backup copy of sethc.exe with this command (for later restoration):

    copy c:\windows\system32\sethc.exe c:\
    

    (replace c: with your correct drive letter if needed)

  4. Replace sethc.exe with cmd.exe:

    copy /y c:\windows\system32\cmd.exe c:\windows\system32\sethc.exe
    
  5. Reboot your computer and start the Windows installation where you forgot the administrator password

  6. After you see the login screen, press Shift five times. It will open a command prompt.

  7. Enter the following command to reset the Windows password:

    net user YOURUSERNAME NEWPASSWORD
    

    (If you don’t know your user name, just type net user to list all available user names)

You can now log on with the new password. Now you have privileges of user SYSTEM and you can do whatever you want with your current system (be careful)!

Advantages:

  1. It works with all Windows versions you can find nowadays from Windows XP to 8.1, x86 or x64, and probably it will work on earlier and newer versions too.

  2. No need to prepare anything. You can do this with any bootable media media which is in your hands at that moment. Started from MS-DOS* bootable disks and Windows installation disks to LiveCD/USB/and others.

  3. Many other programs that change password from registry are usable, but if something goes wrong, they can damage the OS. This method is safe and can't damage anything.

  4. Finally, it's free.

*Note: If it's MS-DOS bootable media, make sure it has NTFS driver (NTFS4DOS/Paragon NTFS or something like it).

Source

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Nice trick. What if I have the 5x Shift shortcut disabled - is it user-specific setting or will it affect the logon screen too, thus breaking this method? –  gronostaj Jul 28 '13 at 11:45
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5x shift is enabled by default. It opens Utility Manager which allows the user to configure through the one window the following special Accessibility features : Magnifier, Narrator, and On-Screen Keyboard).You can also use Win+U to open it. –  Jet Jul 28 '13 at 12:23
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+1 However, be so fair and mention your source if you copy&paste it. I have done this for you this time –  nixda Jul 28 '13 at 12:54
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ALSO replacing Utilman.exe, OSK.exe, Magnifier.exe will do the same work. –  Jet Sep 30 '13 at 14:38
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This is easy & clean. Worked with Windows Vista –  buffer Dec 1 '13 at 6:46
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There are a whole bunch of options and tools listed in "Forgot the Administrator Password?" they vary from recovery/cracking tools to those that simply let you reset the password (such as Emergency Boot CD).

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You should summarize your source in future. Now the site is down and your answer is partially useless. –  nixda Aug 11 '13 at 15:12
    
Link is not working. –  Jet Sep 30 '13 at 14:35
    
Here's correct link: petri.co.il/forgot_administrator_password.htm –  Boris_yo Mar 14 at 10:29
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Let me give my 2 cents on this question. I personally would use using KON-BOOT , it bypasses all windows password checking, so you can boot to windows and change the password. Its like a live cd that boot prior to windows and tricks it when asked for the password.

Great tool for hacking your own box (you can only change the pass, you can't see the old one)

From the site:

Kon-Boot is an prototype piece of software which allows to change contents of a linux kernel (and now Windows kernel also!!!) on the fly (while booting).

In the current compilation state it allows to log into a linux system as 'root' user without typing the correct password or to elevate privileges from current user to root. For Windows systems it allows to enter any password protected profile without any knowledge of the password.

It was acctually started as silly project of mine, which was born from my never-ending memory problems :) Secondly it was mainly created for Ubuntu, later i have made few add-ons to cover some other linux distributions.

Finally, please consider this is my first linux project so far :)

Entire Kon-Boot was written in pure x86 assembly, using old grandpa-geezer TASM 4.0.

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KON boot is not open source. It does a very sophisticate hack to avoid reseting the psw, and because of this, I can't trust it doesn't do any other things, malicious or not. Some people says it doesn't, but who knows. Also the free version doesn't work with x64. –  Mister Smith Oct 5 '11 at 14:38
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This is very easy to do, but rather than explain it all here, ive found two articles that show you exactly how to do it.

This is the easiest method, but for this you need to have the Windows Setup DVD that came with you computer, if not go to the second link.
http://www.online-tech-tips.com/windows-7/forgot-lost-administrator-password-windows-7/

If you dont have the setup DVDs, then follow this link to fix it. This method requires a bit more work though, but is just as effective.
http://www.online-tech-tips.com/computer-tips/forgot-your-windows-password-how-to-recover-your-lost-password-try-login-recovery/

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Assuming you can log on, I have read that running explorer using the at scheduler in the command prompt gives you admin rights, I haven't tried it though :)

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Yes, and works only on WinXP SP2. As I remember it couldn't work on Vista and 7... –  Jet Feb 11 at 14:17
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Right click on My Computer, select Manage. Select Users under Local Users and Groups in the tree pane, right click on the Administrator and click Set Password...

This obviously assumes that you can log in to Windows though!

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...and that you have admin rights... –  Fredrik Mörk Jul 16 '09 at 8:29
    
or at least a not "limited" user... –  Jet Feb 11 at 14:21
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protected by Jeff Atwood Jun 7 '10 at 4:38

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