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How to recover or find Windows user ID password.

Windows user ID password recovery? In a couple of words: You can't!

A customer wrote me about how to recover or find his user Windows user ID password for Vista.

Normally when you loose or forget your password you can either go to your Domain Admin or log on the computer with the Administrator ID and reset the password for your ID.

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The problem comes when you are using Vista and Windows 7 / 8 / 10 and the computer is not in a Domain.

Microsoft in it's great wisdom by default has disabled the Administrator ID account!

Wow, how convenient is that? How the heck can you use the account when you need it the most? When you are locked out of your computer? AND need to reset your Windows user ID password??


I can understand why for security reasons that the Administrator's ID would be disabled. The Administrator ID is a very powerful account and in the hands of a thief or hacker can be devastating and destructive.

However that does not do you any good when there are only two user accounts on the computer.

How do you recover your Windows user ID password or reset it when the Administrator's account is disabled?

Note: This process does not work for Home versions of Windows, the first user to log on is the Administrator! The best way to take care of this is to make another user ID, create a password, then add the new ID to the Administrators Group or better yet the Power Users Group. Then rename the real Administrator ID to something you will remember but NOT Administrator. (Make sense?)

You can't!

Well that is a real bucket of worms. You will have to have a tool that allows you to reset the password from outside the Operating System.

Back in the days of the ERD Commander CD there was a tool called Locksmith, that would reset passwords (IF the computer is NOT in a Domain!), and if you have it then it will work on Vista or Windows 7 accounts.

Or you can try this: Custom ERD?

Another way to reset the password was to go to the c:\windows\system32\config and delete the SAM file.

Note: With Vista and Windows 7 when you press the ctrl+alt+del keys will bring up the log off, task manager, reset password screen at the bottom there is a line "Create a Password Recovery disk".

You can create a 'Password Recovery' disk with either a floppy or a USB pen drive. However the warning reads: "Caution! Anyone can use this disk!" If you decide to make the password recovery disk or use a USB drive you have to insure the security of the disk/pen drive or anyone can reset your password and then you are hacked!

To use the reset password option you have to have the "Password Recovery" disk or file on a pen drive...

My recommendation?

Enable the Administrator ID, rename it, and set the password with complexity.

As a Best Practice corporations rename the Administrator ID and set the password with complexity and the password changed every 30 days for Administrator ID's and 60 days for regular user ID's. (This may not be practical for some people but if you are not changing the password at least once a year make it over eleven characters and use complexity).

As part of that "Best Practice" is setting the lock out of the User ID at three attempts for the password and the lock out duration of 9999 days (forever) this requires an Administrative ID to unlock the user ID, this keeps hackers from running a dictionary attack on the computer or Domain. (This forces the user to contact the network Admin or Support department, when this happens more than twice in a short time period the Admin should change the user ID because it has been compromised).

Windows user ID password using complexity is a password over eleven characters and contains upper case, special, numerical characters such as:  (1l0V3cOmPu73R$) - ( i-love-computers without the dashes...)

I read a little report a long time ago that a password of plain characters and less than seven characters can be hacked in 48 hours. A password like this - iamhere but the password above with the complexity will take over 200 years to hack, that is find all the characters.

In 200 years it will not matter if a hacker discovers the password, it should have been changed at least after 180 days.

Remember that security of your computer is your responsibility, if you want to keep your data you have to safeguard it.

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