Retrieving a lost Windows XP Administrator password
Q: We had a death in the family, and I inherited a Dell Vostro PC with Windows XP Professional Version 2002 Service Pack 2. Unfortunately, I cannot get into any of the administrator properties under User Accounts because I do not know the previous owner’s passwords. Is there some way I can reset the computer back to its original state or reset the administrator passwords or something so that I can make myself the administrator?
A: Here’s a short segment from my book, PCs: The Missing Manual, that helps people retrieve lost or forgotten administrator passwords:
If somebody else on that PC also owns an administrator account, he or she can remove the password from any other account by opening the Control Panel’s User Accounts area, selecting an account, and selecting “Remove the password.”
Note: Resetting the password also prevents your access to any of your email that’s encrypted, any Web site passwords saved on your PC, and any encrypted files.
If you’ve forgotten the password to your PC’s only administrator’s account, you’re still not out of options. Try either of these tricks, depending on whether you use Windows XP Home or Professional.
- Windows XP Home. Restart (Start -> Turn Off Computer -> Restart) your PC. Immediately press F8 repeatedly until the Boot Mode menu appears. Start Windows XP in troubleshooting mode by choosing Safe Mode. When the Windows log on screen appears, a new user account called Administrator appears at the top. Log on with that account, which rarely needs a password. Once you’re in, reset the password on your User Account.
- Windows XP Professional. When Windows XP’s log on screen appears, press Ctrl+Alt+Del twice, quickly. Type Administrator, leave the password blank, and you’re usually in. Head for the User Accounts area to remove the password from your user account.
If your luck’s waning at this point, you have another option: Visit the Login Recovery Web site. The site offers a downloadable file that creates a bootable CD or floppy disk. Start your PC with that floppy in your A: drive (or your CD in your CD drive), and the program grabs your encrypted password file. Email that information to the site and twiddle your thumbs for about two days until the site’s computers manage to decrypt and email you the password. (You can reduce the wait to about ten minutes by forking over around 20 bucks.)