Note: The methods presented in this article work in Windows XP only and are meant for users that have been locked out of their own computer.
Do not attempt this on computers that you do not own. Using these methods to unlock computers you do not have rights to is an invasion of privacy and may be punishable by law.
Being locked out of your own computer because you forgot the password is one of the worst experiences you can have as a computer user.
When you forget or lose your password you can’t go past the login screen. That means you can’t access the internet, all your files and data are locked inside and you can’t use any Windows feature.
The best way to protect yourself against this problem is to prevent it altogether. After you create a password for your user account always create a password reset disk.
Once created, the password reset disk will allow you to reset your password an unlimited number of times even if you change the password afterward.
Password reset disks can be created using any removable media like CDs, DVDs and USB flash drives.
If you don’t know how to set up a password reset disk, take a look at this Worldstart tip.
If you don’t have a password reset disk and you really can’t remember your password, you can still get into your computer without resorting to drastic measures like reinstalling Windows.
The first thing you can do to reset your user account password is to enter Safe Mode and see if the default administrator account is password protected.
You will need to restart your computer and press the F8 key from the keyboard repeatedly. This will bring up the Windows Advanced Options Menu.
Now, use the arrow keys on the keyboard to select the Safe Mode option and press the Enter key from the keyboard twice.
After a few seconds of loading, you will be presented with a login screen that will show all your user accounts and the default administrator account.
Click on the Administrator account and Windows should open in Safe Mode. If the administrator account asks for a password, just leave it blank or type admin and press the Enter key.
Next, you will be presented with a dialog box asking you if you want to use System Restore. Press the YES button to enter Safe Mode. Once you’re in Safe Mode, you will see a very limited and basic Windows interface.
Go to the Start Menu, click on Control Panel and then click on User Accounts.
In the User Accounts window click on the user account you want to change and either click on Remove the password or Change the password.
Note: If you have important files that are encrypted, do not try this method. Please seek professional advice on how to recover the data. Either option you choose will result in the loss of any encrypted files and folders as well as any website passwords stored in Internet Explorer.
Then restart your computer and your user account will be accessible again.
If the administrator account is password protected, here’s how you can reset your administrator password.
For this to work you need to have access to any user account even if it’s just the guest account.
Log in with the guest account (if it’s enabled on your computer) or any other limited account.
Go to the Start Menu, click on Run and type in cmd. This will open the command prompt.
Type in the net user administrator * command. Make sure you pay attention to the spaces.
Next, you will be prompted for a password. Type in something you will remember and press the Enter key. Then, type the password again to confirm and press the Enter key again.
Now, close the command prompt, restart the computer and follow the steps above to access Safe Mode again. This time when you reach the administrator account, type in the password you entered in the command prompt window.
Once you have access to the administrator account, follow the steps above to remove or change the password on your user account.
If all else fails, and you still can’t get into your user account, you can try this final method. It’s more complex than the previous two and it requires that you have an Windows XP installation disk.
Note: This method uses the Windows installation disk to repair your current Windows installation. This is like reinstalling your operating system but without losing any files or folders. While this operation is safe to use, there may be some unexpected side effects.
First, insert your Windows XP installation disk in your computer’s drive.
Then, boot your computer from the installation CD and perform a Repair installation of Windows XP.
Refer to this Worldstart tip if you don’t know how to perform a Repair installation.
As the graphical interface of the installation wizard starts, press the Shift + F10 key combination from your keyboard. This will open the command prompt window.
In the command prompt window, type the command nusrmgr.cpl and press Enter from the keyboard.
This will open the User Accounts window, which will allow you to remove or modify any passwords from any user accounts, including the administrator account. You also have the option to create a new account.
After you make your changes, close the User Accounts window and let the repair installation continue as normal.
Note: If you’ve never used the installation disk before or if you’re not comfortable attempting this procedure, please seek expert advice.