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Windows 7 - After You Forget Your Password

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Forgetting the password to your computer account is an unpleasant experience. It’s definitely no fun to have your own computer thumb its proverbial nose at you and tell you it’s not going to let you in to get your own files. If this happens to you, take a deep breath. You might recover from this. Here are the steps to try, in order of preference:

1. If you created a password reset disk, as described earlier in the chapter in the section “Before You Forget Your Password,” you’re in good shape. Follow the instructions in the next section, “Using a Password Reset Disk.”

2. If you are a member of a domain network, contact the network administrator to have him or her reset your password. The administrator might be able to recover any encrypted files you created.

3. Log on as a Computer Administrator user and use the User Accounts control panel to change your primary account’s password.

4. If you don’t remember the password to any Administrator account, or you can’t find someone else who does, you’re in big trouble. Programs are available that can break into Windows and reset one of the Computer Administrator account’s passwords. It’s a gamble—there’s a chance these programs might blow out your Windows installation. Still, if you’re in this situation, you probably will want to risk it.

Here are some programs you might look into:
• Windows Key (www.lostpassword.com) creates a Linux boot disk, which pokes through your NTFS disk volume, finds the Windows security Registry file, and replaces the administrator’s password so that you can reboot and log on.

• Active@ Password Changer (www.passwordchanger.com) works on a similar principle, booting up in Free-DOS from a CD or floppy disk. The program finds the security Registry file on your Windows installation and deletes the password from selected accounts.

• There are several free password-reset programs that you can download from the Internet. The ones we tested did not work with Windows 7 or Vista, and we found that some of them didn’t even work on earlier versions of Windows as they claimed to. We’d try to get one of the for-sale products if possible and would attempt a free program only if we were really desperate.

5. If you need to retrieve only files, you can remove the hard drive and install it in another Windows 7, Vista, XP, or Windows 2000 computer as a secondary drive. Boot it up, log on as an Administrator, and browse into the added drive. You probably need to take ownership of the drive’s files to read them. (If the hard drive is encrypted with BitLocker, this technique won’t work either).

6. If you get this far and are still stuck, things are pretty grim. You’ll need to reinstall Windows using the Clean Install option, which will erase all your user settings. Then, as an Administrator, you can browse into the \Users folder to retrieve files from the old user account folders. Again, you’ll need to take ownership of the files before you can give yourself permission to view or copy them.

If you are not a member of a domain network, you can avoid all this by creating a password reset disk ahead of time.

If you have to resort to option number three (logging on as an administrator and changing your primary account’s password), you will lose any stored website passwords linked to your account and, worse, any files that you encrypted using Windows file encryption (a feature found on Windows 7 Professional, Enterprise, and Ultimate only). There will be absolutely no way to recover the encrypted files.

The existence of such programs that allow you to reset passwords should raise your eyebrows. The fact is that with physical possession of your computer, people can get into it. However, these break-in tools won’t work if your hard drive is encrypted with BitLocker, a feature available in the Enterprise and Ultimate editions.

Source of Information : UE Microsoft Windows in Depth (09-2009)

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