How to reset or Change a Forgotten Administrator Password in Windows XP & Vista (and Win 7) With a Boot Disk
A forgotten administrator password in Windows is never a pleasant thought. There are ways to recover this password built into Windows, but they are not very convenient. Some say that doing a System Restore to a point before you changed it works, while others suggest using the Windows Password Recovery Disk.
I personally have had no luck with the first method. And the second method is dependant on making the Password recovery Disk BEFORE you forget the password. Most people, including myself, never make these disks.
The goal here is to reset the built in administrator account password from 'outside' of Windows. This is better known as an 'Offline Password Reset'.
<UPDATE> THESE INSTRUCTIONS HAVE NOW BEEN TESTED WORKING ON WINDOWS 7
To get this job done, you will need a tool called a Offline NT Password & Registry Editor. Basically, you boot from a CD or floppy disk with this tool and reset your Windows Password without ever loading Windows. It looks a little scarey, but it's not too bad once you get a good look at it. Here is a link to the site that has this tool:
Using the Password Reset CD
These instructions are written assuming a Bootable CD is being used, but are essentially the same for a bootable floppy disk.
1 - Download the ISO file from the site above and use your favorite burning software to create the CD.
2 - Make sure your computer is set tto boot from CD
3 - Boot from the CD. Most drivers will automatically load, but there is a manual selection option.
4 - Select the disk that contains your Windows installation when prompted. The defaults are usually correct.
5 - Select the path to your Windows registry data. Again, the default is usually correct.
6 - Select which parts of registry to load. For this section choose 'Edit user data and passwords'
7 - Select the user who's data you want to edit. The local administrator account is selected by default. Just press 'Enter'.
8 - Type an asterisk (*) to blank the password. This works better than setting a new password for some reason.
9 - Type an exclaimation (!) to quit after the password has been blanked.
10 - You will be asked if there is something to be saved. Type 'Y' for Yes.
11 - Now it will ask to wright back to the registry. Select Yes again.
12 - Reboot and you should now be able to logon with no password for the administrator account.
***Sometimes these steps need to be done twice to be effective***
This method of resetting a forgotten password is the most effective that I know of and works in almost any situation. A word of caution however; if you are running EFS (Encrypted File System), you will need to remember the original administrator password to access any files that were encrypted under that password.
This tool will also work with Windows Vista.
Thanks for reading, and GOOD LUCK!!!