Recovering Lost Windows Passwords

Compared to a typical online web site that contained password recovery services like Q&A, email resets, and worst case phone resets, Windows password recovery options are pretty limited.  Typical worst case scenario for lost Windows passwords is reinstalling Windows – a time consuming process which will likely cause you to lose data.  This article outlines how to quickly and easily recover lost Windows passwords.

Use A Local Administrator Account
If you forgot the password of a local user account but know the password of an administrator account, simply login as the local administrator (or a Domain Administrator) and reset the password of the local user.  To  learn how to change user account passwords on your version of Windows, visit the follow site: http://pcsupport.about.com/od/tipstricks/f/change-password-windows.htm

Modify the SAM
The SAM (Security Accounts Manager) is a registry file (C:WINDOWSSYSTEM32CONFIGSAM) that stores local user passwords in hashed format.  Using the right tools, you can reset the hash of a user account password to a hash of a new password (thus resetting the password):

  1. Download UBCD
  2. Build the UBCD
  3. Boot the target computer from the UBCD
  4. Run”Start | Programs | Password Tools | NTPWEdit”
  5. Ensure the path to the SAM is correct and then click “Reopen” to open it
  6. The account names should now appear. Select the desired account and click “Change Password”
  7. Enter a new password and click OK