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Resetting a user account password on Windows

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Resetting a user account password on Windows

Have you lost or forgotten the password for a user account on Windows? You’ve come to the right place: I’ll show you how to reset the password for one of your user accounts so that you can access Windows again.

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Here are three methods to reset the password for a local user account on Windows:

  • Method 1: using the Rescatux backup USB key . Rescatux allows you to accomplish various rescue tasks, including erasing the password of a Windows user account.
  • Method 2a and 2b: by exploiting a Windows security flaw that allows you to reset the password of any user account from a USB key of a Linux distribution like Puppy Linux (method n ° 2a) or Windows Recovery Environment (method # 2b).
  • Method 3: using the MediCat backup USB key . MediCat is a backup operating system (live CD type) which provides access to a suite of tools for troubleshooting your computer.
  • Method 4: Using the Offline NT Password & Registry Editor program (also known as chntpw), which allows you to erase or change the passwords of any user account by modifying the SAM data (Security Account Manager), the Windows user account database. chntpw is also able to promote a standard account to an administrator account.

The three methods presented to reset a forgotten or lost password work with Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8 and 10.

Method 1: with Rescatux

Rescatux is a rescue USB / CD key for GNU / Linux and Windows that allows you to perform various rescue tasks, including erasing the password of a user or administrator account on Windows.

Here’s how to use it:

  1. Download the ISO from Rescatux.
  2. Create a USB key with Rescatux using the Rufus program:
    Create a bootable Linux USB key (Ubuntu, Debian…)
  3. Start your PC from the USB key containing Rescatux.
  4. Select the language , the keyboard layout and then click the Start button .
  5. In the Rescapp program , click on the Blank Windows password button .

    Note that you can also promote a standard user account to an administrator account by clicking on Promote Windows user to Admin .

  6. Click the Run button .
  7. Select the Windows partition and click OK .
  8. Select the user account for which you want to clear the password.
  9. And There you go ! The user account password has been deleted.
  10. All you have to do is restart your PC and log in with your user account.

Congratulations! You have correctly reset the password for a user account on Windows using Rescatux.

 

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Method 2: with utilman.exe

Reset a user’s password thanks to a Windows security flaw …

How it works ?

When Windows starts, an executable file is loaded: utilman.exe. This file provides access to Windows ergonomics options (magnifying glass, visual keyboard, narrator, etc.). It can be started manually by pressing the keys . + U

The technique is to replace the ergonomics options with the command prompt . To do this, we will rename cmd.exe(the command prompt executable file) to utilman.exe. So when we press the keys , it will launch the command prompt instead of the ergonomics options, allowing us to change the password of a Windows user account. + U

Method 2a: via Puppy Linux

Thanks to a USB key / CD from a Linux distribution , we will be able to replace the ergonomic options with the command prompt and reset the password of a user account on Windows.

I advise you to use the Puppy Linux distribution.

It is very light (a few hundred MB) and is more than enough for the manipulations we have to do to reset the password of a Windows user account.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Download the ISO of Puppy Linux (64 bits: bionicpup64-8.0-uefi.iso / 32 bits: bionicpup32-8.0-uefi.iso) then create a USB key of Puppy Linux:
    Create a bootable USB key of Linux
  2. Start your PC from the USB key containing Puppy Linux.
  3. Select Find /grub.cfg then Start xenialpup64 .
  4. Once Puppy Linux is launched, change the country ( fr_FR French, France ) and the keyboard layout ( fr ), then click OK .
  5. A restart of the X server is necessary to validate the changes. Click Restart X .
  6. Now you need to locate the name of the drive where your Windows installation is located. Look at the bottom of the Puppy Linux desktop, you should see a list of readers ( sda1 , sda2 …). Open each of them until you find the one on your Windows partition (the one with the Program Files, Users, Windows… folders).

    In the example above, the Windows partition is located in / mnt / sda4 .

  7. Launch the console application on the desktop of Puppy Linux and enter the following commands to replace utilman.exewith cmd.exe(replace sda4 with the name of the drive where your Windows installation is located):
    cd /mnt/sda4
    cd Windows/System32
    mv Utilman.exe Utilman.exe.bak
    cp cmd.exe Utilman.exe
  8. Restart your PC.
  9. On the Windows login screen, press the keys to launch the command prompt (instead of the ergonomics options). + U
    launch-home-windows-u-prompt-commands
  10. To reset the password for a user account, type the following command (replace nouveau_mot_de_passewith the password you want to assign to the user account):
    net user "nom_compte_utilisateur" nouveau_mot_de_passe
    change-password-windows-user-cmd
  11. Restore the Windows ergonomics options : restart your PC from the USB key of Puppy Linux, open the Terminal (as we did previously) then enter the following commands:
    cd /mnt/sda4
    cd Windows/System32
    rm Utilman.exe
    mv Utilman.exe.bak Utilman.exe

Congratulations! You have correctly reset the password for a user account on Windows using Linux.

Method 2b: via Windows Recovery Environment (WinRE)

Note: if you want to reset the password for an administrator account and this is the only administrator account on your system, this method will not work . Indeed, in this method, we use the command prompt, and to access it, we need… to connect with an administrator account!

This method therefore works only if you know at least the password of one of the administrator accounts of your system. If not, follow method # 2a with Puppy Linux.

  1. Launch the command prompt:
    • With Windows XP , via the Recovery Console: start your PC on a Windows XP installation USB key then press the key Rto launch the Windows Recovery Console.
      repair-installation-cd-windows-xp

      Enter the number corresponding to the location where your Windows XP installation is located (most often it is 1 ) then enter the password for the administrator account. If you are running Windows XP Home Edition, a password may not have been set. If so, just press the button Entréewhen prompted for the administrator account password.

      console-recovery-windows-xp
    • With Windows 7 and Vista , via System Recovery Options: select Repair computer> your Windows installation> Command Prompt.
      command-prompt-cd-installation-windows
    • With Windows 10 and 8 , via Advanced Boot Options: select Troubleshooting> Advanced Options> Command Prompt.
  2. Go to the drive letter where your Windows installation is located. Please note this is not necessarily the letter C:! To find out which letter corresponds to your Windows installation, enter a drive letter (for example E:) then enter the command dirto list its contents. If you find the files specific to Windows (Program Files, Users, Windows, etc.), you have come to the right place!
    e:
    dir
    Le volume dans le lecteur E s’appelle OS
    Le numéro de série du volume est C016-7234
    
    Répertoire de E:
    
    12/04/2018  01:38    DIR          PerfLogs
    13/06/2018  19:35    DIR          Program Files
    12/04/2018  18:19    DIR          Program Files (x86)
    13/06/2018  13:40    DIR          Users
    13/06/2018  22:11    DIR          Windows
  3. Once you are on the drive containing Windows, move to the folder WindowsSystem32:
    cd Windows
    cd System32
    change-windows-system32-prompt-commands
  4. Create a backup of the file utilman.exe, we will restore it when we have reset the password:
    copy Utilman.exe Utilman.exe.bak
    utilman-copy-prompt-commands-windows
  5. Replace the ergonomics options with utilman.exethe command prompt cmd.exe:
    copy cmd.exe Utilman.exe
    replace-cmd-utilman-prompt-commands-windows
  6. Restart your PC.
  7. On the Windows login screen, press the keys to launch the command prompt (instead of the ergonomics options). + U
    launch-home-windows-u-prompt-commands
  8. To reset the password for a user account, type the following command (replace nouveau_mot_de_passewith the password you want to assign to the user account):
    net user "nom_compte_utilisateur" nouveau_mot_de_passe
    change-password-windows-user-cmd
  9. Restore the Windows ergonomics options : restart your PC, access the Windows Recovery Environment (WinRE), open the command prompt (as we did previously) then enter the following commands:
    cd Windows
    cd System32
    del Utilman.exe
    ren Utilman.exe.bak Utilman.exe
    restore-options-ergonomics-windows-prompt-commands

Congratulations! You have correctly reset the password of a user account on Windows using WinRE.

 

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Method 3: with MediCat USB

MedicatUSB is a backup operating system that installs on a USB key and provides access to various tools for troubleshooting your computer.

To reset a Windows password with MediCat USB, follow this tutorial:

Reset a lost or forgotten Windows password with MediCat USB

Method 4: with Offline NT Password & Registry Editor

Offline NT Password & Registry Editor is a program for removing or changing the password of a Windows user account.

How it works ?

Windows stores user accounts and passwords in a database called SAM (Security Account Manager). SAM is one of the components of the Windows Registry.

Offline NT Password & Registry Editor allows you to manage the content of SAM, it is thus able to:

  • remove the password from a user account;
  • change the password for a user account;
  • change the type of an account (switch from standard user to administrator);
  • activate / deactivate a user account.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Create a CD or USB key with Offline NT Password & Registry Editor:
  2. Start your PC from the USB key / CD containing Offline NT Password & Registry Editor.
  3. When Offline NT Password & Registry Editor starts, press the key Entrée.
    boot-offline-nt-password-registry-editor
  4. Enter the number corresponding to the partition where your Windows installation is located. Look at the partitions found under Candidate Windows partitions found and trust their size or their label to find the correct one, the one where Windows is located.
    select-disk-offline-nt-password-registry-editor
  5. The program asks us what is the path that leads to the Windows Registry. Leave the default choice by pressing Entrée.
    select-registry-offline-nt-password-registry-editor
  6. Press again Entrée to load the SAM database, the Windows security account manager.
    password-reset-offline-nt-password-registry-editor
  7. Press again  Entrée to change the passwords for user accounts.
    edit-user-data-passwords-offline-nt-password-registry-editor
  8. The program now displays all user accounts on the system. For each account, we see its name ( Username ), if it is an administrator account ( Admin ) and if the account is disabled or locked ( dis / lock ). Enter the name of the user account for which you want to delete or change the password, then press Enter. In the example below, I enter the user « The Crab ».
    username-offline-nt-password-registry-editor
  9. You have several choices:
    1. Clear the password for the user account .
    2. Set a new password .
    3. Change the type of account: standard user to administrator.
    4. Unblock and activate the user account.
  10. Choose whether you prefer to erase the password or set a new password for your user account by entering the appropriate number. In the example below, I choose to erase the password by entering the number 1 and then doing Entrée.
    user-edit-menu-offline-nt-password-registry-editor
  11. Come in ! (the exclamation mark) to exit the menu for editing user accounts. Attention the keyboard is in QWERTY: to enter the exclamation mark, you have to press the keys simultaneously .MAJ (⇧) + &
    quit-offline-nt-password-registry-editor
  12. Enter a (as the keyboard is in QWERTY, press the key q) to exit.
    exit-offline-nt-password-registry-editor
  13. Confirm the changes you have just made by entering y and pressing Entrée.
    confirm-offline-nt-password-registry-editor
  14. Exit the program permanently by entering n .
  15. All you have to do is restart your computer by pressing the keys and log in with your user account.Ctrl + Alt + Suppr

Congratulations! You have correctly erased or reset the password for a user account on Windows using the Offline NT Password & Registry Editor.

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