How to: Reset Any Password: Windows Vista, 7, 8, 10

Dennis Faas's picture

Infopackets Reader 'ltb223' writes:

" Dear Dennis,

I have a Windows 7 Pro computer which I haven't used for a long time. Now I want to use it, but I cannot remember my password. It has only one user account, so I believe I need to reset the admin password. Is there anyway to recover the lost password or am I stuck with reinstalling Windows and losing all previous data and programs? "

My response:

It's possible to reset the admin password, or any user password using a special password reset 'trick'. It involves replacing the 'Ease of Access' program at the Windows Logon screen with the command prompt program (cmd.exe). From there, you can enter a series of commands to reset the password. This password reset method works with Windows Vista, 7, 8 and 10; I've tested these methods myself and have written instructions accordingly in simple English.

Update 20151218: I have amended this article to include instructions for Windows 10. I have also included instructions using the Mini Windows XP via Hiren's Boot CD for those users who don't have access to a Windows DVD or have limited bandwidth.

How to Reset Admin Password for Windows Vista, 7, 8 and 10

In summary, here are the steps to reset the admin password, or any user password:

  1. Locate your Windows DVD, or use Hiren's Boot CD.
  2. Boot from the Windows DVD / USB or Hiren's Boot CD.
  3. Launch a command prompt and overwrite utilman.exe with cmd.exe.
  4. Restart your computer.
  5. At the login, click the Ease of Access button to open a command prompt.
  6. Convert Microsoft Account to Local Account (Win8 and 10 Only!)
  7. Reset your password using the command prompt.
  8. Login to Windows with your new password.
  9. Put back the Ease of Access feature.
  10. Restart your computer; create a password reset disk.

Below are the password reset steps in detail.

1. Locate your Windows DVD, or use Hiren's Boot CD

If you don't have a Windows DVD (or a DVD drive for that matter), you can download a copy from the Internet (for free, 100% legit) from Microsoft via DigitalRiver. Instructions on how to download and create a Windows DVD / USB are here.

Optionally you can download Hiren's Boot CD, which is significantly smaller in size compared to downloading a full Windows DVD (comparatively, it is 623 megabytes versus the approximate 2,500 megabytes for a Windows DVD). Once the file is downloaded you will need to unzip it - use 7ZIP (free). Then, download CD Burner XP and burn the ISO file to a CD. Note that same antivirus will flag CD Burner XP as a virus; that is a false positive. It includes bundled ad software during the install; choose not to install it and you're fine.

2. Boot from the Windows DVD / USB or Hiren's Boot CD

The next step is to restart your computer with the Windows DVD / USB or Hiren's Boot CD inserted.

If you're using the Windows DVD / USB:

When the computer restarts, the Windows install media should start booting and will present you with a message to "Press and key to Boot from DVD ..." At that point, press the space bar to begin. After the Windows install media boots, click Next, then on the proceeding screen, click the Repair your Computer option located at the bottom of the screen. Windows will scan your hard drive for repair options. Wait until it finishes scanning and then note the drive letter for your Windows 7 or 8 hard drive in the System Recovery Options window. Most of the time it is drive C but in the recovery options it may be drive D. Click next.

For Hiren's Boot CD:

You will be presented with a menu. Choose to launch the "Mini Windows XP" environment.

IMPORTANT: If the Windows install media or Hiren's Boot CD does not boot, you will need to adjust your boot sequence settings in your BIOS. Usually you can enter the BIOS if you press either DEL, F2, F8, or F12 -- look for the "Press X key to enter Setup" message when your computer restarts and keep pressing the key until you get into the BIOS.

3. Launch a command prompt and overwrite utilman.exe with cmd.exe

If you're using the Windows DVD / USB:

  1. On the proceeding System Recovery Options window, click on the link for Command Prompt.
     
  2. A black window will appear; enter in the commands below. Note if your Windows drive letter is not D (identified in Step #3 above), replace it with the corresponding drive letter.
     
  3. Next, input the following commands (below). Please carefully note the spaces between each command as you are typing it in, or the command won't work (resulting in an error message). When prompted to overwrite the utilman.exe file, select Yes:

    d:
    copy \windows\system32\utilman.exe \
    copy \windows\system32\cmd.exe \windows\system32\utilman.exe
    exit

If you're using Hiren's Boot CD:

  1. When the Mini Windows XP desktop appears, double left-click the Command Prompt icon.
     
  2. A black window will appear; enter in the commands below. Please carefully note the spaces between each command as you are typing it in, or the command won't work (resulting in an error message). When prompted to overwrite the utilman.exe file, select Yes:

    c:
    copy \windows\system32\utilman.exe \
    copy \windows\system32\cmd.exe \windows\system32\utilman.exe
    exit

Proceed to the next step.

4. Restart your computer

If you're using the Windows DVD / USB:

Upon typing in the 'Exit' command above, you should see the System Recovery Options window again. Click the Restart button on the bottom right of the window. When the computer restarts, you can remove the Windows DVD / USB drive as you will no longer need to boot from it. At this point, Windows should boot from your hard drive as usual.

If you're using Hiren's Boot CD:

After you type in 'Exit', the command prompt should disappear. Click Start, then Shut Down, then choose Restart from the menu and click OK. IMPORTANT: As soon as the computer restarts, remove the CD immediately, otherwise it will boot from the CD again.

5. At the login, click the Ease of Access button to open a command prompt

After the computer has rebooted, you will now be presented with the regular Windows login screen. Instead of entering your password, locate and click the 'Ease of Use' icon at the lower left of the screen. The Ease of Use icon is a square button, and somewhat resembles a clock (with dots). A black command prompt window will now appear.

6. Convert Microsoft Account to Local Account (Win8, 10 Only!)

If you are not using an email address to login to windows, please skip this step.

This step is for Windows 8 and 10 users and applies only to users that are using an email address to login to Windows. This involves: enabling the Administrator user, then converting your Microsoft Account (email login) to a local account so that you are then able to login to Windows with a new password. You can then convert your local account back to a Microsoft Account later, if you wish.

To do so, enter in the following command into the command prompt you opened in Step #5 (above). Please carefully note the spaces between each command as you type it in, otherwise you will get an error message.

net user administrator /active:yes
exit

Next: at the bottom right of the login screen is a 'power' icon - click it and select restart. After the computer has rebooted, Windows will display the login screen. Look at the bottom left of the screen and you should see an Administrator user icon. Click it to login as the Administrator user. Once that is finished, please refer to my article on how to convert your Microsoft Account (with email login) to a local account (no email login). This guide will also demonstrate how to set a new password for your account, so you can login to the machine using your account again.

Once that is done, you can come back to this article to undo the 'hack'. To do so: resume at Step #9 below (skip Steps #7 and #8).

7. Reset your password using the command prompt

If you are not using an email address to login to Windows, you are using a local account. In that case, follow the steps below:

Enter in the following commands, replacing User Name with your user name and your_new_password with your desired password. Use quotes around your user name and do not use any spaces for your password:

net user "User Name" your_new_password
exit

8. Login to Windows with your new password

At the Windows login prompt, select your user (if applicable) and enter the same password you used in the previous step. You should now be able to login to the system.

9. Put back the Ease of Access feature

You will want to put the Ease of Access program back to where it was originally; otherwise, anyone can open a command prompt window without having to login to your machine. To reverse the changes, reboot the computer using your Windows install media or Hiren's Boot CD (follow Steps 1-3 again); this time, enter in the following commands:

If you're using the Windows DVD / USB:

d:
copy \utilman.exe \windows\system32\utilman.exe
exit

If you're using Hiren's Boot CD:

c:
copy \utilman.exe \windows\system32\utilman.exe
exit

10. Restart your computer; create a password reset disk

If you're using the Windows DVD / USB: click the Restart button on the Windows Recovery Window.

If you're using Hiren's Boot CD: click Start, then Shut Down, then Restart, and click OK.

This will restart your computer and put you back to the Windows login screen. Everything is now set. Should you need to reset your password again, follow the same steps. Optionally you can create a password reset disk from within Windows, which would also reset your password should you get locked out again.

--

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Additional Support: From Dennis

If all of this is too technical for you and you need additional support getting the job done, I am able to assist you over remote desktop support. Simply contact me using the contact form and we'll set up a time to meet and discuss your options.

Got a Computer Question or Problem? Ask Dennis!

I need more computer questions. If you have a computer question -- or even a computer problem that needs fixing -- please email me with your question so that I can write more articles like this one. I can't promise I'll respond to all the messages I receive (depending on the volume), but I'll do my best.

About the author: Dennis Faas is the owner and operator of Infopackets.com. With over 30 years of computing experience, Dennis' areas of expertise are a broad range and include PC hardware, Microsoft Windows, Linux, network administration, and virtualization. Dennis holds a Bachelors degree in Computer Science (1999) and has authored 6 books on the topics of MS Windows and PC Security. If you like the advice you received on this page, please up-vote / Like this page and share it with friends. For technical support inquiries, Dennis can be reached via Live chat online this site using the Zopim Chat service (currently located at the bottom left of the screen); optionally, you can contact Dennis through the website contact form.

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Comments

lgehring_3984's picture

A few months ago, a friend of mine let herself get talked into granting remote control to her computer and was attacked with some kind of ransomware that required a password.

I was able to slave the laptop drive and retrieve all her files. I then reformatted and reinstalled her win XP OS. Is there something like this available for XP and would this solution work on such an attack on W7?

Dennis Faas's picture

The password reset 'fix' described in this article (which is technically more like a 'hack') would not be applicable to a malware / ransomware infection. In this case, the method you used would be the best approach to clear the malwarwe, or by downloading and burning an antivirus CD.

vicupdate_3992's picture

You can simply use a bootable Linux Cd, or any bootable cd/dvd with DART (Digital Advanced Response Toolkit).

bill.adragna's picture

I think that using a HIRENS boot CD, and the password reset utility are far fewer steps than this method, plus I think the instructions should include replacing the ease of access executable.