Forgotten Windows password can be an extremely frustrating problem. Especially if you have important documents on your computer that you need to access as soon as possible. If you forgot the Windows admin password and have no other account with administrator rights, things can get tricky. The methods and free tools explained here can reset Windows password for all Windows versions—that is, for Windows 7, Vista, Windows XP, Windows 2000, Windows Server 2003, and Windows Server 2008 R2. In this article I only talk about the Windows client editions, but the methods also work for the corresponding server versions.
1. Use your password reset disk to recover the Windows password
Windows XP/Vista and Windows 7 allow you to create a password reset disk, which enables you to reset your password without much hassle. The problem with this option is that you have to create the reset disk before the password is lost. Thus if you don’t have a password reset disk, this option is not for you.
2. Boot up Windows XP in Safe Mode and log on with the built-in administrator account
When you installed Windows XP, you had to set a password for the Administrator account. If you still know this password, you can boot up in Safe Mode (by pressing F8 when your computer starts) and log on with the Administrator account. Note that whenever you reset the password for a user using another account, this user will no longer be able to access files that have been encrypted with EFS (Encrypted File System). This method doesn’t work in Vista and Windows 7 because the administrator account is disabled by default in Safe Mode with these Windows versions.
3. Use Microsoft Diagnostics and Recovery Toolset
MSDaRT is a toolset from Microsoft that allows you to repair a Windows installation. This tool is only available for Microsoft volume customers, TechNet Plus subscribers, and MSDN subscribers. You can easily recover an admin password with its Locksmith tool.
4. Take a commercial password reset tool
Many commercial tools are available that allow you to reset the Windows administrator password. Some of them might be easier to use or come with better instructions than the free tools. I would prefer a tool named Windows Password Unocker where the vendor offers support in case you run into problems, which is an efficient and professional Windows password recovery tool in the software market, allowing to reset Windows password with a writable CD/DVD or USB flash drive.