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Unable to access System Administrator account in XP Pro

by Silverman166 / July 29, 2009 6:41 PM PDT

I'm using an HP Compaq laptop with XP Pro, bought a year ago, and set up for me by the vendor. The logon screen has always shown Administrator in a box, and I simply clicked on that to log on - over time it became routine and I thought no more about it.

Now, my wife expressed an interest in using the laptop herself, and I created an account for her using the normal channels via Control Panel.

Having only limited knowledge of the workings of computers, I was a little puzzled to find that I didn't have an option to set her account to 'Limited', but proceeded anyway. Her account was, of course, set up as an Administrator.

I now find that I am completely unable to access my own account, and now understand that all this time I have been using it as System Administrator - fine on my own, but now.....nightmare to a not -too-savvy (computerwise) guy like me.

How do I get my account back, please, and furthermore how can I set it up as a 'normal' Administrator account, so I can set my wife's account as a second User.

As I'm not exactly familiar with the terminology, please, if possible, keep it simple!


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Yep, that's normal
by MarkFlax Forum moderator / July 29, 2009 8:08 PM PDT

That "System Administrator" account is created by Microsoft to allow users to access their new machines as an Admin user. If it wasn't there, users would be locked out of administrative options.

It is always recommended, at least in these forums, for users to, immediately, create their own Admin capable account for normal use. As soon as they do that, the "System Administrator" account then disappears from the Welcome Screen. It is accessible in Safe Mode. Why do we recommend that? If that System Administrator account became corrupted, the user would have absolutely no access, and no recourse but to re-install XP.

We also recommend that users then create a 2nd Admin capable account. if their own admin account becomes corrupt, they can still access the system without having to use the System Administrator account.

So, this is where you are now. A new Admin capable account, and the System Administrator account is hidden from view. To get that back you would have to delete that new admin account, but you cannot log in to XP using that account to delete it. You would have to load XP into Safe Mode, log in using the System Administrator account, then delete the new account whilst in Safe Mode.

How to start XP in Safe Mode.

But I would not recommend that!

What you could try is Microsoft's guidance for recovering from a "Corrupt Profile". If we assume, for the sake of argument, that the System Administrator account is corrupt, then that guidance steps you through how to create a new Admin capable account, and copy all data from the corrupt account to the new one. The guidance is in the link below;

Please be aware that;

1] I do not know if this will transfer all data across from the System Administrator account properly. I have never done this for that account, and there may be peculiarities with that account as opposed to a normal Admin account. But the theory is good.

2] If you use Outlook Express for your email management, this procedure may not transfer all the email data to the new account. Microsoft mentions that, so you may want to look at their further guidance for finding those data files and copy them across. That link is

3] This is not foolproof. It is a method to get out of a sticky situation. But no data from the hidden account is lost, so you may consider this worth an attempt.

I hope that helps.

I am unsure why you were not able to create a limited account, except that, since the System Administrator account is designed to disappear when a new account is made, perhaps this is a safety feature to prevent users creating a limited user account, then having their only admin capable account disappear. With your new admin capable account you created for your wife, perhaps you will be able to create that limited account.

You asked for simple. Sorry, but that is not always possible.


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Problem solved....!
by Silverman166 / July 30, 2009 5:49 AM PDT
In reply to: Yep, that's normal

Thanks very much, Mark. It took some doing, but with your brilliant guidance, I've managed most of it.

Just need to retrieve e-mails - I'm using Firefox and Thunderbird, and having retrieved the address book, no doubt I'll eventually find the info via Mozilla.

I was interested to see your comment that you would not recommend starting SP in Safe Mode - why was that? Because of my inexperience, perhaps, or is there a more sinister reason? I am, by nature, cautious on these things, so would appreciate any advice.

If I get stuck in the future, how can I access System Administrator? I'm not sure how to start in Safe Mode, but am willing to learn.

Anyway, many thanks again.

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Ahh, sorry, I didn't make myself clear.
by MarkFlax Forum moderator / July 30, 2009 7:09 PM PDT
In reply to: Problem solved....!

it seemed obvious at the time, but re-reading my post I can see why I confused you.

I wasn't saying that it is not wise to access the Safe Mode list of options. I was just suggesting that I would not, at this stage, revert back to your previous setup of only one admin capable account, the pre-installed "System Administrator" account.

You may have heard of Murphy's Law. "Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong". It is true! Happy

I am not a betting man myself, but I would bet Murphy would intervene if you had loaded XP into Safe Mode, logged into your hidden System Administrator account to delete your wife's admin account. Murphy's Law says, as soon as you did that, your System Administrator account would become corrupt and then you would be locked out of the computer.

But, accessing Safe Mode for any other reason wouldn't harm your system, and in fact, you may want to try it, just to see how to do it, and see what XP looks like in Safe Mode. It is quite different. Having access to Safe Mode can be useful at times to troubleshoot problems. That link in my post above shows how to load XP into Safe Mode using the "F8" option, (the safest). To return to normal state, just restart the computer as you would normally.

So, where are we now?

I take it you managed to create another Admin capable account, and copy across all of the data from the hidden System Administrator account to your new one? If so, good work, and well done. And thank you for being my 'guinea pig' test case, Devil

Did you also manage to create a "Limited User" account?

Finding and transferring your Thunderbird email files should be easy. Have a look at the guidance held here;

In short, find your old Thunderbird folders and files stored in the System Administrator 'Mozilla' folders, copy them all, then paste them into your new account's 'Mozilla' folders.

Let us know how you get on.


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Thanks for that, Mark
by Silverman166 / August 2, 2009 4:16 AM PDT

Before I went away for the weekend, I'd got myself back to where I was before all this started, by creating an Admin account for myself under my wife's existing Admin account, so that now we each have our own, named, account, which is how it ought to be, from what you say.

Whilst, as you said, it should have been straightforward to copy files from Firefox and T'Bird, Murphy took over and made life difficult! However, I got there in the end, which almost took its toll on my sanity!
Fortunately the w/e sojourn had the desired effect, and I'm ready for anything now!

Many thanks again for your absolutely invaluable assistance.

Will 'play' with Safe Mode sometime when I'm feeling brave!

Oh, how do I access System Administrator - is it Ctrl-Alt-Del at the Welcome screen, and once in how do I get out!!??

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That's good work, and congratulations.
by MarkFlax Forum moderator / August 2, 2009 8:05 PM PDT
In reply to: Thanks for that, Mark

Welcome to the "almost took its toll on my sanity!" members club. We've all been there.

If you really want to log in to the System Administrator account, the only way to do so is via Safe Mode. When you boot up into the Safe Mode list of options and select the one to Load Windows in Safe Mode, the Welcome Screen will appear as normal, but that System Administrator account will also appear as a choice.

However, all the files and folders for that account are available to any other Admin account holder on that computer, through My Computer or Windows Explorer.

Glad I could help.


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