You’re a busy person and honestly don’t have time to figure out why you forgot your password; you just need to get back into your computer so you can get on with your day.
That’s why in this article I’m going to show you how to reset your Windows password and log back into Windows. Just give me 15 minutes of your time and I’ll have you up and running again.
Resetting your Windows password is really easy especially if you have the original Windows 7 DVD laying around, however, if your home office is teeming with more papers, folders and stationary than Hallmark then avow that you’re never going to find that DVD and move on. It’s lost and you don’t have time to burn a Windows ISO to a blank DVD that’s why I’m going to show you a trick to break into your own computer.
Stuff you need
In order to make this work you need three things:
- Another computer you can burn a CD from
- A blank CD
- A plate of delicious Kimchi
Petter Nordahl-Hagen created a wonderful little program called the Offline Windows Password & Registry Editor that lets you reset the Administrator password to your Windows 7 PC.
I’ll spare you the byzantine details of how it works but basically the CD you’re about to create launches a Linux bootloader that completely bypasses the normal Windows startup process. This tool detects all locked or disabled user accounts and then let’s you pick which accounts to reset.
You can read the play-by-play with Petter’s commentary; however, it might confound you especially if you’ve never seen a Linux terminal. Since there’s no graphical interface the screen might seem austere. This might daunt average users; however, you’re not an average user so I won’t treat you like one.
I want to show you why you should feel zero trepidation about the command line by demonstrating how easy this tool is to use.
Ahh, I promised you just 15 minutes of your time right? Okay, I better get to it. Let’s start.
Download the Bootloader
Once you appropriate your friend’s PC, download the 4MB bootable CD image and extract it.
Just leave the default path and make sure Show extracted files when complete is checked.
Now pop in your blank CD and burn baby burn.
The burn should complete in a few minutes.
Eject the CD from your friends computer and head back over to your dilapidated machine. We’re about to tackle this thorny issue head on; you’re half way there.
Plop that freshly burned CD in your computer and fire it up.
We need to boot from the CD. If your computer ignores the CD and boots to Windows, restart and press F8, F11, F12, ESC or DEL to enter the BIOS and change the boot order. You’ll know you got it right when you see this esoteric screen:
Don’t bemoan the stark reality of the obscure text before you. We’re going to navigate this screen with the dexterity of a pro.
The first thing we want to do is hit Enter.
This unleashes scrolls of cryptic text that flies across the screen faster than you can read it.
Eventually you’ll see the text in the image below:
Allow me to translate:
Hey, listen up, I need to know where your copy of Windows is installed? It’s where I think it is right?
Press Enter to affirm.
Next, you’ll see another nebulous question (I’ve highlighted it below).
Thanks, OK, now where can I find the Windows database that stores all that configuration stuff?
Hit Enter again to take the default path.
Now we need to tell our tool which part of the Registry (the Windows database) to load. We want the Windows Security Accounts Manager (SAM) because the SAM file is where Windows stores cryptic information about user accounts.
Guess what you need to do to make that happen?
Yup, smash the Enter key.
Now you’ll see something that made me laugh…
It’s called Loaded Hives: <SAM>…
Who the heck is SAM and why does he have Hives?
I promise you this has absolutely nothing to do with that itching outbreak of pale ruddy bumps also known as Urticaria.
In the context of computers, hives refers to the top-level portion of the Windows Registry. The Registry is hierarchical so you can think of a hive like a parent folder.
Okay, let me stop laughing before I digress…
SAM isn’t sick…
Since we want to Edit the user data and passwords tap the Enter key again.
Now check out the bottom of the screen. You can:
- See all computer accounts
- Check whether or not they have Administrative rights and
- See if they’re disabled or locked.
My account is simply called Vonnie so type the username of the account you need to reset and hit Enter.
The next screen shows you a bunch of facts about your account. You see my password is set to Never expire and is a normal account. The only thing that matters here is that trusty Enter key.
Press the number 1 then Enter to clear the password.
Great! The password is cleared. Now we just need to save the changes and reboot.
Type the exclamation point symbol to go back one level (or bang as I call it, exclamation point has too many syllables, bang is easier) then press q to save and exit.
The tool asks you if you’re sure that you want to save the changes.
Type y then hit Enter.
You should see it big capitalized letters:
***** EDIT COMPLETE *****
Now either press CTRL + ALT + DEL to reboot or hard reset the computer. Make sure you remove the CD or else it’ll boot back into the password reset tool.
When you get back to the Windows prompt just press Enter to login without a password.
Now you can finish working on that memo to your boss and get on with your day…
Oh and by the way, you owe a great big plate of Kimchi to your friend who loaned you that PC. If neither you nor your friend know what Kimchi is you better find out! Me and my wife eat this stuff all the time and can’t get enough of it.
So that’s it. If my post helped you get back on your feet in less than 15 minutes please boast below in the comments. Also, if you showed this trick to a friend let me know too.