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How to Reset / Recover Forgotten Windows NT / 2000 / XP / 2003 Administrator Password?

Here are a few methods / utilities which can be used to recover Windows password:

1st Method

The first thing which you check if you forget login password. When we install Windows, it automatically creates an account "Administrator" and sets its password to blank. So if you have forget your user account password then try this:

Start system and when you see Windows Welcome screen / Login screen, press CTRL+ALT+DELETE keys twice and it'll show Classic Login box. Now type "Administrator" (without quotes) in Username and leave Password field blank. Now press Enter and you should be able to log in Windows.

Now you can reset your account password from "Start -> Control Panel -> User Accounts" or by running "control userpasswords2" from the command prompt.

Same thing can be done using Safe Mode. In Safe Mode Windows will show this in-built Administrator account in Login screen.

2nd Method

Windows XP and further versions also provide another method to recover forgotten password by using "Reset Disk". If you created a Password Reset Disk in past, you can use that disk to reset the password. To know more about it, please visit following links:

How to create and use a password reset disk for a computer in a domain in Windows XP

How to Log On to Windows XP If You Forget Your Password or Your Password Expires

How to create a password reset disk

Note that this procedure requires one blank, formatted floppy disk.

To create a password reset disk for your local user account, follow these steps:

  1. Press CTRL+ALT+DELETE. The Windows Security dialog box appears.
  2. Click Change Password. The Change Password dialog box appears.
  3. In the Log on to box, click the local computer--for example, click Computer (this computer).
  4. Click Backup. The Forgotten Password Wizard starts.
  5. On the Welcome to the Forgotten Password Wizard page, click Next.
  6. Insert a blank, formatted disk in drive A, and then click Next.
  7. In the Current user account password box, type your password, and then click Next. The Forgotten Password Wizard creates the disk.
  8. When the progress bar reaches 100 percent complete, click Next, and then click Finish. The Forgotten Password Wizard quits and you return to the Change Password dialog box.
  9. Remove and then label the password reset disk. Store the disk in a safe place.
  10. In the Change Password dialog box, click Cancel.
  11. In the Windows Security dialog box, click Cancel.

How to use a password reset disk

If you forget your password, you can log on to the computer by using a new password that you create by using the Password Reset Wizard and your password reset disk.

To gain access to your local user account on a computer that is a member of a domain, or has been disconnected from a domain, follow these steps:

  1. In the Welcome to Windows dialog box, press CTRL+ALT+DELETE.
  2. In the Log On to Windows dialog box, type an incorrect password in the Password box, and then click OK.
  3. In the Logon Failed dialog box that appears, click Reset. The Password Reset Wizard starts. You can use the Password Reset Wizard to create a new password for your local user account.
  4. On the Welcome to the Password Reset Wizard page, click Next.
  5. Insert the password reset disk in drive A, and then click Next.
  6. On the Reset the User Account Password page, type a new password in the Type a new password box.
  7. Type the same password in the Type the password again to confirm box.
  8. In the Type a new password hint box, type a hint that will help you remember the password if you forget it.

    Note This hint is visible to anyone who tries to log on to the computer by using your user account.
  9. Click Next, and then click Finish. The Password Reset Wizard quits and you return to the Log On to Windows dialog box. The password reset disk is automatically updated with the new password information. You do not have to create a new password reset disk.
  10. In the Log On to Windows dialog box, type your new password in the Password box.
  11. In the Log on to box, click the local computer--for example, click Computer (this computer), and then click OK.

3rd Method

If the above mentioned tricks don't work, then try following trick which is actually a loophole in Windows XP Setup and a big security hole:

  1. Boot using Windows XP Setup CD and follow the instruction like Accepting EULA, etc.
  2. When it asks to repair your existing Windows installation, accept it and press "R" to run the repair.
  3. Setup will start repairing your Windows and will start copying files, etc.
  4. After a few minutes setup will restart your system and when it restarts don't press any key when it shows "Press any key to continue..." otherwise Setup will start from the beginning. Don't press any key and setup will resume where it left.
  5. Now it'll start doing other tasks and will show a small progressbar with a few details in left side.
  6. Look carefully at the details and when it shows "Installing devices", press <Shift>+F10 keys in your keyboard.
  7. It'll open a Command Prompt window. Now type nusrmgr.cpl and press <Enter>.
  8. It'll open the same "User Accounts" window which you see in Control Panel.
  9. Now you can remove or reset any account password without any problem.

4th Method

There are many 3rd party utilities which claim to recover forgotten Windows password:

Windows Geeks Lost Forgotten Password Service:

Windows Geeks have a program that works instantly to remove any lost or forgotten password. With this program you can get back in very quickly:

Windows Geeks Lost Forgotten Password Service

Emergency Boot CD:

EBCD is a bootable CD, intended for system recovery in the case of software or hardware faults. It is able to create backup copies of normally working system and restore system to saved state. It contains the best system software ever created, properly compiled and configured for the maximum efficient use.

You may download image builder utility which creates image of bootable CD-ROM (.ISO file), plus basic set of system tools. When the image is ready, write it to CD-R or CD-RW, and then everytime you'll need convenient and powerful system tools they'll be just at hand.

It is easy to customize the disk for your needs. You can include to CD any program you like, or remake the structure of CD completely. All you need is to change a few lines in configuration XML files.

Download Link

Offline NT Password & Registry Editor:

This is a utility to reset the password of any user that has a valid (local) account on your NT system. You do not need to know the old password to set a new one. It works offline, that is, you have to shutdown your computer and boot off a floppydisk or CD. It'll detect and offer to unlock locked or disabled out user accounts. It is also an almost fully functional registry editor.

Download Link

Windows XP Login Recovery:

Login Recovery is a service to reveal user names and recover passwords for Windows NT, 2000, XP, 2003 and Vista. As long as you have physical access to the computer, your passwords can be recovered.

Download Link

Ultimate Boot CD (UBCD):

Ultimate Boot CD runs independently of any operating system. It will boot from any Intel-compatible machine, regardless of whether DOS/Windows/Linux/BeOS is installed on the machine. However, you do need an operating system and a ISO-capable CD writer software to create the Ultimate Boot CD from the downloaded ISO image file.

Download Link

ISO Recorder - CD Image recording utility for Windows XP/2003. See also ImgBurn

5th Method

If all fails, then simply reinstall Windows and create new accounts. To recover lost data, you can use Data recovery tools available on net but the chances will be very low to get data back.

Much of this is based on http://www.askvg.com/how-to-reset-recover-forgotten-windows-nt-2000-xp-2003-administrator-password/ and the links referenced above.