ITsVISTA Tip 50: Reset your lost Vista password without a reset disc

TipsYou boozed it up with your friends last night, and now you’ve gone and killed the brain cells that held your Vista password. What do you do? Thankfully there is a way to reset your password so you can get back in, but you’ll need access to another computer, and your wallet, to make it work.

  1. You go to logon but you can’t remember your password. Try as you may, it’s not letting you in.
    Logon Password not accepted
  2. There’s an option to ‘Reset your password’, but you find when you click it that you should have previously created a ‘Reset Disc’ as I described in an earlier tip. If you had created that disc, you’d be able to reset your password without further hassle, but since you didn’t, it’s going to cost you in time, effort, and dollars.
    Reset Password Reset Password Wizard
  3. Active@ Password Changer to the rescue! I always prefer free alternatives to any task, and I’ve read that there is a way to reset a password through a Linux disc, but I’ve also heard you need to know Linux to build it and make it work. In a situation like this where you need to get back in easily and quickly, sometimes spending a few dollars is justified (if you’re time and data isn’t worth the cost of the software, you can always reinstall Vista). On another computer, go to the Password Changer website and purchase Active Password Changer ($39.99-$59.99). The method I’ll be displaying here is available through the less expensive 3.0 version. Look for a review soon that will show how the newer 3.5 version works. Note that there is a demo version available that works for all but the last (and most important) step of actually resetting the password.
  4. Once you’ve purchased and installed the software (they send you a link to download the software), create a bootable ISO CD/DVD using the steps I describe in my post called “ImgBurn: A free Vista compatible disc image burning package“. You’ll find the iso image file at C:\Program Files\Active Data Recovery Software\Active Password Changer\Pwd-changer-boot-cd.iso if you used the default installation options.
  5. Once you have the boot disc created, pop it into your Vista computer and start it up. Depending on how your BIOS is set, it may automatically boot from the disc, or you may have to bring up a boot device menu. On Dell computers you can do this by pressing F12 at the beginning of the boot process, most boot screens will display information on what key you need to press to get the menu where you will then want to choose your CD/DVD drive (Leave a comment letting others know your brand of computer and how you got to your boot menu!).
  6. When the computer boots from the boot disc you’ll see this initial screen asking how you’d like to boot. Type 0 to do a clean boot with the Active@ Password Changer software.
    Welcome Screen
  7. You’ll then get three options, I selected option 2 (type 2 then press Enter to let the software go find the file it needs.
  8. The software will search the available drives on your computer looking for SAM databases, which is where your user account information is stored.
  9. Once it finds it, press Enter to continue. If you have more than one OS installed, you’ll need to select the one you wish to reset.
  10. You’ll see a list of accounts that exist in the selected SAM database. If you’re the only user on the computer there will likely be three accounts: Administrator, Guest, and your account. Type the number of your account (probably 1) and press Enter.
    Select account
  11. You’ll see how the software is going to change that users account, namely by clearing the users password. Press Y to tell it to make the change.
    Clear password
  12. Done! You’ll be told that the change was made, your password has been reset to be empty. You can now eject the boot disc, and restart your computer.
  13. Vista will load, and if your’s is the only account, it will automatically login. You’re back baby!
    Welcome Back!

Once you’re back in you should set a password (stay tuned, the next tip will describe how to do that) and you should also create a reset disc as I describe in tip 9 (sure you have a way to reset the password, but it’s always good to have options).

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