Forgot your Windows password? No problems : Password resetting and recovering techniques
A lot of people think that after having lost their Windows admin password, they absolutely have to reinstall their OS. Let me tell you something: They are wrong! There are a couple of free utilities on the internet that let you get back in your system without a sweat (or almost). Some risks are associated with the procedure, but who cares? You do have to get back in right? Sometimes, applying strong password security measures to your account can have its negative side doesn't it? To help you out, at the end of this article, we linked a few articles to help you choose easy to remember, secure passwords.
As a system administrator, I've tried a couple of these utilities through the years, and my personal favorite is the Offline NT password & Registry editor. This utility is used to reset the password of any user that has a valid and local account on any NT based system: NT4, 2000, XP, Vista and 2003. If you need to reset a password stored in active directory, stop right here, this editor will not allow you to do it. Follow this marvelous guide instead (Page won't load in IE, the author doesn't seem to like Internet explorer). You could also try to unravel the password using a brute-force hacking technique, but it could take a while.
The editor works offline. This means that you will have to shutdown your system and use the utility on a bootable media. A fully functional automatic bootdisk creator can be downloaded via the author's website (on the bottom of the page). The created disk has everything you need to start working on your inaccessible system. The bootdisk supports IDE, most SATA controller and also some SCSI controllers. You can also access the editor via the Ultimate Boot CD. UBCD is a very good product that gives you access to a lot of essential freeware tools to help you diagnostic various computer problems.
How does it work? Just follow the instructions provided by the author. They are pretty straightforward, with minimal interaction required by the user, so most default choices will get you through.
WARNING: If you have some encrypted files (EFS) saved on your system and you reset a password, all the files for that user will become unavailable. You could always recover them using an EFS recovery software like the Advanced EFS Data Recovery utility from Elcomsoft. This utility works great, but it is not free. To prevent this from happening, you can also consult this detailed article from Microsoft about Data Protection and EFS Recovery.
If you want to try your luck with something else, you may want to check Austrumi out. Austrumi is a live Linux distribution CD that allows you, amongst other things, to reset your password the same way the Offline NT password & Registry editor does. Just create a bootable CD with the provided ISO, and boot on it. When you get at the prompt, type boot: nt_pass. This will start the utility and display a menu that let you modify any user's password on the current system. NT_pass is only included in version 0.9.2, so be sure to get this distribution if you want to use this feature.
Speaking of password security, here are a few other ressources that you might find interesting:
How to Write Better Passwords
The Simplest Security: A Guide to Better Password
Pass the Chocolate / Safe and Simple Passwords
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