User Tools

Site Tools


Reset Administrator Password for Windows 7 and Vista

Item Boot up Windows XP in Safe Mode and log on with the built-in administrator account

When you installed Windows XP, you had to set a password for the Administrator account. If you still know this password, you can boot up in Safe Mode (by pressing F8 when your computer starts) and log on with the Administrator account. Read this Microsoft Knowledge Base article for more information about Safe Mode. Note that whenever you reset the password for a user using another account, this user will no longer be able to access files that have been encrypted with EFS (Encrypted File System). Stored credentials in the Windows Vault and Internet Explorer will also no longer be available. This method doesn’t work in Vista and Windows 7 because the administrator account is disabled by default in Safe Mode with these Windows versions. Below you will learn how to enable the built-in admin account in Windows 7 and Vista.

Use the Sticky Keys trick to reset the Windows 7, Windows Vista, and Windows XP password

The Sticky Keys trick to restore a forgotten administrator password is reliable, easy to carry out, and does not require third-party software. All you have to do is boot up from a Windows 7 or Windows Vista setup DVD, launch the Windows Recovery Environment (RE), and then replace the sethc.exe file with cmd.exe. You can also use this method for Windows XP, but you have to use a Vista or Windows 7 DVD.

Offline enable the built-in administrator account in Windows 7 and Vista

This method is useful if no other user account on this machine has administrator privileges. You also need a Windows setup DVD (Vista or Windows 7). With this DVD you can boot up Windows RE and edit the Registry to offline enable the built-in administrator account. Also read my article about the Registry editor if you don’t know how to edit the Registry in offline mode. After you enable the built-in Administrator, you can log on with this account without requiring a password and then reset the Windows password of any user account.

Get Petter Nordhal-Hagen’s free ntpasswd tool to reset the Windows password

The downside of this option is that you have to create a password reset CD first. Then you can boot up with this CD and manipulate the Security Accounts Manager (SAM) database. Please note that resetting the password with third-party tools can also cause data loss as described in option 4. Also note that this tool comes without any warranty. However, I’ve been using it quite a few times and never had any problem with it. The latest version also supports Windows Vista and Windows 7. The advantage of this method is that it is quick if you already have the password CD in your tool box. Thus it is useful for admins who have to perform this procedure often. In all other cases I recommend option 4. You can download the tool here.

Use the free Trinity Rescue Kit (TRK) to recover the admin password

The Trinity Rescue Kit (TRK) is a troubleshooting solution that belongs in every admin’s tool box. Please read thereview of the Trinity Rescue Kit for more information. This great tool allows you to reset the password of Windows XP, Vista, and Windows 7. It works similar to ntpasswd. After you have booted up with the TRK CD, you have to enter the command winpass -u user_name and then follow the instructions. Sometimes setting a new password doesn’t work; in this case, just set an empty password.

Use the free Kon-Boot tool to remove Windows passwords

We reviewed the free Kon-Boot tool a few days ago, and I can’t really recommend it because it crashed two Windows 7 installations during my test. I mention this free password reset tool here for the sake of completeness and because it is quite famous. Its main advantage is that it is very quick. You only have to boot up from the Kon-Boot CD and the tool will do the rest for you. It changes the contents of the Windows kernel on the fly while booting allowing you to log on without password. Thus the tool doesn’t change the SAM database. If you reboot again without using Kon-Boot you need the old passwords.

Use the free NTPWEdit tool to reset the Windows password

Especially if your computer doesn’t have a CD or DVD drive, you have to create a bootable Windows USB flash drive and then you can use the free Windows password reset tool NTPWEdit. Don’t forget to add NTPWEdit to the USB stick before you boot up.

Use Microsoft Diagnostics and Recovery Toolset to reset the administrator password

MSDaRT is a toolset from Microsoft that allows you to repair a Windows installation. This tool is only available for Microsoft volume customers, TechNet Plus subscribers, and MSDN subscribers. You can easily recover an admin password with its Locksmith tool. Please check out the review about MSDaRT for more information.

Get a commercial password reset tool

Many commercial tools are available that allow you to reset the Windows administrator password. Technically, they do the same as the free tools. Some of them might be easier to use or come with better instructions than the free tools. But before you spend money, I recommend trying the other options I described in this article. I don’t want to recommend a particular tool here. However, I would prefer a tool where the vendor offers support in case you run into problems. Be careful—there are many black sheep exploiting desperate people by selling overpriced tools.

Reinstall Windows

This might sound like a joke, but in some cases this is the best method. For instance, if you don’t want to lose your EFS-encrypted files or stored credentials by resetting your password, but you desperately need the computer, you can just install Windows a second time. You will have access to all the files of the previous installation. Just make sure that you don’t overwrite the original Windows installation during the Windows setup. This allows you to boot up the original Windows installation at a later time. I am sure you will remember your forgotten Windows password sooner or later. As to my own experience, the old password will pop up in your mind right after you finish the installation and go to configure your new administrator password. Please let me know in a comment below if you’ve heard of another option for resetting the Windows password.


Your ArtIT Team


reset_administrator_password_for_windows_7_and_vista.txt · Last modified: 2017/08/18 17:24 by chris