A password reset disk can be created in the event you forget your password and need to reset it. But what if you never made a reset disk? How do you logon?
If you’ve forgotten your password and don’t have a reset disk prepared, Offline NT Editor can be loaded upon boot so your computer begins within a program instead of in Windows. The program can then be used to remove the password and let you back in your account – usable all the way through Windows 8.
Before we begin this process, it’s important to note that if the computer you’re intending on operating with has encrypted files created with Windows EFS, they will no longer be usable if you reset the password. This is due to the fact that Windows uses the account password to utilize these encrypted files. If the password is no longer the same, the files used by them will be rendered useless.
Please Note: If you choose to use this method you would lose access to encrypted email messages, stored passwords for Internet Explorer and network resources. If you haven’t used the Windows EFS feature to encrypt files, then you can proceed with this process without a hitch.
Create a Bootable USB or CD
There are two primary methods to load a program without booting into Windows. We’ll look at doing so via a USB drive and a CD.
The Offline NT Editor program comes in the form of an ISO image. The entire program is contained within one file that can be stored on either a USB device or a CD-ROM. The same file that is needed for a bootable CD can also be used for a USB.
Visit the download page here and scroll down to find the “Bootable CD image” link.
Unzip the file to reveal the ISO image.
ISO to USB
If you prefer to boot to USB, load up the program “ISO to USB” (found here) and browse for the downloaded ISO image.
Select the proper USB drive from the drop down. If you’ve just plugged one in after the program was opened, you may need to click “Refresh.” Ensure the “Bootable” check box is checked and then click “Burn.”
Note that the program became unresponsive for me for about a minute before returning to normal and displaying the following prompt upon completion:
ISO to CD
Maybe you don’t have open USB ports or prefer using CDs. No matter the case, we have a good guide here on how to burn an image file to a disc in Windows 7.
Just load the ISO file you downloaded above and follow the steps in the above mentioned article.
After you follow the prompts, your bootable CD will be ready. Now it’s time to load the program before your Windows OS boots in order to remove the password.
Boot to a USB Drive or CD
Different computers have unique ways of booting to a USB drive or disc. However, the logic in each circumstance is the same:
- Reboot to BIOS
- Modify the boot order (This puts USB or CD booting as first options instead of defaulting to the hard drive to load the OS)
- Reboot to the USB or CD to load the desired program
Start by rebooting the computer as you normally would. There is a key you need to repeatedly press to make sure you don’t miss the proper opportunity of entering the BIOS. The boot process is oftentimes quite quick, so pressing the proper key over and over will ensure you enter at first try.
“F2” is a common key to load the BIOS settings. This is the key I used for my installation. Others may very well be the “Delete” key or maybe “F8” or “F12.”
The screen that appears next may look something like this:
Choose the “Boot” section by keying over to the right with the arrow keys.
The available boot options will be shown here. Hover over the top option (which is likely the “Hard Drive”), and press the hyphen, or minus key “-“. This will move the “Hard Drive” option down the list. The point is to get either the “CD-ROM” or “Removal Devices” at the top of the list, depending on the device you burned the ISO image to.
To boot to the CD-ROM:
To boot to a removal drive:
Now move over to the “Exit” section and save the changes to reboot.
While the system restarts, you may be required to press a key on the keyboard to boot into the selected device, but the screen will indicate this during the process if it’s necessary.
Reset a Windows Password With Offline NT Editor
Upon booting into the software, the following screen will appear:
Press the “Enter” key to move on. Several pages of seemingly random text will flow down the screen. You can ignore this and wait until it stops.
The next screen is the first step. You need to choose the correct partition that hosts the operating system. I only have one drive with Windows installed, so the larger partition is where my install is. The purpose of this step is to begin the identification process for finding the proper location of the stored Windows password.
I entered “2” to continue.
The drive will attempt to mount. If the mount is unsuccessful at first, you may need to force it to work. Do this by entering the letter “y” to designate a yes.
Now the program must find the proper location of the registry. The location it defaults to is “Windows/System32/config,” which is correct for the OS we’re working with. If for some reason your registry is located in a different path, enter this here. Otherwise, press “Enter” to use the default.
Some registry items will load and then ask what you’d like to do next. Choose the first option to do a password reset, so enter “1” here.
The next step is asking what we’d like to do with the loaded registry hives. Because we need to bypass the forgotten password, we’ll choose option “1” for editing user data.
The available user accounts will display here. To edit the default admin password, you’d enter “Administrator” for this step. Otherwise, enter any of the listed accounts to move forward.
The selected user will display with information pertaining to any group it’s a part of, among other user information that we don’t need to focus on. The only thing we need to do at this point, which is the easiest to perform, is erase the password entirely.
Clear the password with option “1” so it’s left as a blank password. You could choose the second option to manually edit the password here in this step, but it’s safer to just do this within Windows itself after a successful login.
Look for the confirmation that the password has been cleared or changed. Change another account by entering a period “.” to list the users again. Or you can enter an exclamation mark “!” to finish.
You have another shot at editing other user accounts on this next step or you can choose “q” to quit.
It’s important to apply the changes that were made. Do this by entering “y” to confirm the changes.
Now that the changes have finished, the edit is complete. You can either run another edit, starting back at the beginning, or enter “n” to complete and exit.
Now you can enter “CTRL + ALT + DEL” to reboot.
The password should now be cleared, or edited, per the change made above.
Although the steps are somewhat long, there’s no need to worry if you’you’ve forgotten your password. Don’t panic by reformatting the complete system. Instead, simply boot to the Offline NT Editor program and you can easily clear out any password you want on any Windows OS version.