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A friend recently passed away, and his wife asked me to gain access to his Windows laptop for which she doesn't know the password.

When I try to guess the password, I get this error message:

You can't sign into your device right now. Go to account.live.com to fix the problem, or try the last password you used on this device.

I can't change the password on account.live.com, because the email address associated with the account no longer exists.

I took the computer offline and tried again, and I get this error message:

Your device is offline. Please sign in with the last password used on this device.

I tried this method, which got me access to cmd.exe and allowed me to change the passwords for all of the local users. But that doesn't allow me to log in; it still tells me I need "the last password used on this device".

So it seems that changing the local password isn't good enough, and that I actually need to know the last password used. Or at least be able to change that.

Does anybody know how I can hack this computer so that I can log in?

Thanks.

Update: I am now able to log in as Administrator, thanks to the help below. I still cannot log into the target account (same error message). I also cannot figure out how to switch it from Live to local login whilst logged in as Administrator.

Update: I changed the title to reflect my current situation: I have Administrator access to the laptop, and can change the target account's password. But I can't figure out how to change the target account from Live to local.

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    I fixed the link. The cmd.exe I was able to run says "Microsoft Windows [Version 10.0.17134.228]", so I think it's Windows 10. I will update my tag. Thanks. – Martin Del Vecchio Aug 31 '18 at 18:05
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    The simplest solution IMHO would be to boot PC from any LinuxLiveCD and copy files to external hard drive and reinstall windows. It would work of cause if there wasn't used encryption. – Alex Aug 31 '18 at 18:06
  • Are you able to log on to other user accounts now, but not the user you want to log on to, or are you unable to log on at all? – 3D1T0R Aug 31 '18 at 18:24
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    I can now log in as Administrator. I think the next step is to switch the target account from Live to local, but I can't figure out how to do that while logged in as Administrator, and I can't get PCUnlocker to boot from a USB drive. – Martin Del Vecchio Aug 31 '18 at 20:04
  • According to Leceur on Microsoft's TechNet forums you can use HKLM\Software\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Winlogon settings to logon without having to set the password for it to use. (I'm not sure if this is accurate or not, but it's probably worth a try.) Here's the link: social.technet.microsoft.com/Forums/windows/en-US/… – 3D1T0R Aug 31 '18 at 23:37
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Here are some methods which might help.

Create an alternative administrative account

If you can get into cmd, try to create a new user account :

net user /add [username] [password]

You may then adds it to the Local Administrators Group :

net localgroup administrators [username] /add

This will not work if cmd doesn't have elevated permissions.

Use PCUnlocker

I don't know PCUnlocker, but it's referred to in more than one article.

From the article Locked out of Microsoft Account? Get Back into Windows 10 By Changing to Local Account:

  1. Download the trial package of PCUnlocker Enterprise. Unzip to extract the pcunlocker.iso file.

  2. Burn the ISO file to a CD, for example using the freeware ISO2Disc.

  3. Boot the locked computer using the PCUnlocker Live CD to start the PCUnlocker utility. You may need to change the boot order in the BIOS.

  4. By default, the program lists all local user accounts that it can find on your computer.

  5. Select the linked local account and click on the Reset Password button. The program will convert your locked Microsoft account to local account and you can set a new password for the converted local account. You'll get the message saying your password is reset successfully. Click OK.

  6. Restart after removing the CD and login.

The Microsoft Support method

You could use Microsoft Support to reset your password of online, if you have access to the deceased's email, phone, or Skype name. Otherwise, phone support for your country can be found in the Global Customer Service phone numbers. If you are able to supply proof to your claim, the Support technician will be able to suggest a solution.

  • I cannot get PCUnlocker to boot. I have no CD/DVD drive, so I am trying USB. I can't get the ISO burned with Rufus (boots to a blinking cursor) or Universal USB Installer (starts to boot, but crashes). – Martin Del Vecchio Aug 31 '18 at 19:25
  • Is the BIOS in legacy boot mode? – harrymc Aug 31 '18 at 19:29
  • I am able to boot other images from USB, including Xubuntu. I just can't get PCUnlocker to work. – Martin Del Vecchio Aug 31 '18 at 19:40
  • Since you can login as the built-in admin (if not then just enable it), run lusrmgr.msc > Users, right-click the locked user and try to reset its password. – harrymc Aug 31 '18 at 20:04
  • lusrmgr.msc has no Users option. In Control Panel > User Accounts > User Accounts > Manage Accounts, when I right-click on the target account, no menu pops up. When I double-click it, I do not have a "change password" option. I think this is because it is a Windows Live login. When I double-click Administrator, I do have a "Change the password" option. That is a local account, not a Live account. – Martin Del Vecchio Aug 31 '18 at 20:26
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Note: If Bitlocker or another disk encryption system was used on the Windows 10 PC, this procedure will not work. Is there a blue screen asking for the Bitlocker PIN or passphrase, this process will not work.

On another Windows PC, create a Linux Live USB by downloading the Universal USB Installer which allows you to select the Linux distibution of your choice without first downloading it. I favor using Xubuntu or Cinnamon Mint since their desktops are more Windows-like than most, but your mileage may vary.

Create the Live USB with persistence, as you will need to add an app once you have made it. That's selected in item 4 of the Universal USB Installer.

Reboot from the Live Linux USB. The keyboard choice to boot from USB varies; on my Lenovo Think Pad, there's a blue button which lets me choose how to boot. Other PCs can use F10, F11, F12, or other keys.

Install the cntpnw app by opening a terminal window and doing

sudo dnf install -y chntpw

which is described for the Fedora distribution of Linux in step 4 of https://opensource.com/article/18/3/how-reset-windows-password-linux.

The two Linux versions I mentioned above, Mint, and Xubuntu, are Debian-based. The installation command with Debian-based Linux distributions is

sudo apt-get install chntpw  

Once installed, follow steps 5-8 of the aforementioned https://opensource.com/article/18/3/how-reset-windows-password-linux which I will test once I get home tonight where I have a Linux machine to test with. (I post this without the full detail I would prefer in the interests of your time and sanity.)

  • It will reset only passwords for local accounts, it won't work for microsoft accounts. BTW, one can use bootable CD with password reset tool from original author of that tool: pogostick.net/~pnh/ntpasswd without messing with Ubuntu or Mint – Alex Aug 31 '18 at 18:20
  • This solution got me very close. There was no option to change passwords in chntpw; option 2) was unlock. So I instead reset the password for all of the accounts. For the account I am trying to enable, I still get the "Please sign in with the last password used on this computer" error, but I am able to log in as Administrator. Unfortunately, when I try to change the target account's password according to lifewire.com/…, that option is not lsited. I think because it is still a Live login; will investigate. Thanks. – Martin Del Vecchio Aug 31 '18 at 19:03
  • I am not aware of any tool, that will give you access to a local account, connected to an MS account. However, unless the friend used EFS, access to this linked local account isn't required. You can gain access to the machine through the built-in Administrator account, create a new Administrator account, and simply take ownership of all files. However, MS accounts can be recovered if you forget the password, you just need access to whatever recovery options were set (most likely a text message to a mobile phone number. – Ramhound Aug 31 '18 at 19:54
  • @Ramhound we don't have access to the email address linked to the Live account, as it hasn't existed for a few years. I am hoping to avoid the duplicate account/take ownership path, as my hope is to hand this laptop back to his wife with a "here it is, just as he left it, but with a known password". Thanks. – Martin Del Vecchio Aug 31 '18 at 20:06
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    You cannot reset an account that is linked to Microsoft Account. So what you want isn't possible. – Ramhound Sep 1 '18 at 0:45

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