If you forget your Windows password and can’t log in, here’s what to do.
If your PC or laptop does not have a fingerprint sensor or Windows Hello support, you might still rely on a password to enter.
Even though this may be a memorable combination of numbers, letters and characters, what if the unthinkable happens and you forget it? Or maybe to increase your security, do you have a different password for each device you have?
However, all is not lost. There are a number of things that you should try before you think about reinstalling Windows altogether.
The purpose of this tutorial is to help you get access to a personal PC that you have covered. We do not recommend, or forgive, that you use these tips to get access to other people’s devices.
Before we begin, it’s a good idea to check that you haven’t accidentally pressed Caps Lock. You might type the right password, but because it is case sensitive, the password will not be recognized.
Use a hidden administrator account
We will mainly deal with Windows 7 here because in Windows 10 it is likely to use a Microsoft account, rather than a local Windows login. Click here to go to the Windows 10 password reset section, which also includes Windows 8.
Windows 7 (and some previous versions) have an administrator account that is not visible under normal use.
Note: this method might not work if the account has been deactivated, which is default by some Windows 7 installations.
- Turn on (or restart) your computer and press F8 repeatedly
- From the menu that appears, select Safe Mode
- Enter “Administrator” in the Username (note capital letter A), and leave the password blank.
- You must enter safe mode.
- Open the Control Panel, then User Accounts
- Select the account for which you want to reset your password
- Change password
When finished, here’s how to make Windows log in automatically and not ask for a password.
Use a Windows boot disk or a USB drive
If you can find a Windows DVD or a USB drive that can be booted with Windows, you might be able to use a command prompt to activate the disabled administrator account.
Or, you can also try to force Windows to start recovery startup by turning on your computer and when you see the Windows loading screen, hold down the power button for four seconds to turn it off.
The next time you start, Windows will offer a boot menu with options: Launch Startup Repair.
Select this and let Windows look for problems.
When done, look for a drop-down menu called See problem details. Scroll down and click the last link.
This opens a text file. We are not interested in this, because we use it to access File Explorer.
At the top of the window, click File> Open. Navigate to your Windows drive (the drive letter might have been changed) and then find the Windows \ System32 folder.
Scroll down and find the sethc file. You may need to change the ‘Files of type’ to all files instead of just text files.
Right-click on sethc and select Rename. Change the name by adding numbers or letters. It doesn’t matter which.
Click file to save your changes.
Now scroll down to cmd (command prompt) and right-click on it. Select Copy, then right-click on the white space and select Paste.
This will make a copy, but rename it as you did with the actual sethc file before.
Close all windows, then click Finish. Your computer will shut down.
Boot again, and wait for the login prompt to appear.
Press the Shift key five times. This will launch the command prompt.
This will list all user accounts. Let’s say your user account is called Jim
Jim internet user *
Now you can enter a new password for the account. If you don’t want it, just press Enter to create a blank password. You will be asked to type the password again to verify it.
Close the Command Prompt window and now you can enter the user account with a new password.
Use a password reset utility
If all this fails, you can download a utility that claims to damage or bypass the Windows password. Again, we cannot forgive this use for anything other than restoring your own files on your own computer.
You will find this easily if you search online for the ‘Windows password reset tool’, and one that is worth a try is simply called NTpasswd.