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What can you do if you forgot your Windows admin password?

by Lee Koo (ADMIN) CNET staff/forum admin / April 4, 2014 10:37 AM PDT

What can you do if you forgot your Windows admin password?

I had some serious problems with my desktop computer and finally gave up and went and bought a new desktop. I couldn't get a Windows 7 desktop anymore so I ended up with a Windows 8.1 computer. I set every thing up, register the unit, name, password, the whole 9 yards. I wrote everything in a little book I keep with all my screen names and passwords in. I like AOL. I put an AOL disk in to download AOL 9.7, it starts to download, stops and asks for my administrator password. Windows 8.1 won't take my password, I tried several times, same thing invalid password. I couldn't retrieve my password, and tried several other passwords--still invalid password. I finally got frustrated and gave up and took the computer back to the store and got my money back. Their best tech told me once you place the password and screen name, you can never retrieve it or change it, if you have forgotten the password. That doesn't make much sense to me. Is that really the case? I won't ever own a Windows 8 computer. What do you do if you forget your screen name or password? Are all Windows OSes like this?

-- Submitted by: Cliff B.
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windows 8 and 7
by gene_71 / April 4, 2014 2:33 PM PDT

You should be able to install windows 7 with no adverse effects. Most windows 7 machines will run windows 8, So it should work in reverse.

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Sorry, but it does not work in reverse.
by bigbear639 / April 11, 2014 11:17 AM PDT
In reply to: windows 8 and 7

You can upgrade to w-7 from XP with a clean install, and upgrade from 7 to 8, but you can never downgrade from any version of 8 like in the pre w7 days.

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Downgrade windows
by donhh42 / April 11, 2014 11:23 AM PDT

Of course you can if you have a windows 7 CD......I downgraded from windows 8.1 to windows 7 and did not have a single glitch.

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Well I'm not sure about that but..
by JCitizen / April 11, 2014 12:37 PM PDT
In reply to: Downgrade windows

Too bad Win7 and 8 disable the Hidden Administrator by default, although I'm not sure what service pack did this, because in Vista it came long after Win7 was on sale. You could boot to safe mode and click in the hidden administrator there, and voila! You have control again. Good luck getting this down though. Other advice here is probably more pertinent. I use my old Knoppix Linux disk to change passwords, but so many computers no longer use optical drives, that doesn't count anymore either. Besides the fact that Win7 begins with a different version of filing system called NT6, so my old methods may no longer work.

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well, yes and no
by porsche10x / April 13, 2014 4:07 AM PDT
In reply to: Downgrade windows

Be careful when you say "downgrade". first of all, in most cases, Windows 8 does not include downgrade rights as part of its license. You can only "downgrade" Windows 8 Professional, and ONLY if the Professional version came with the machine when brand new. You can't downgrade Windows 8 "home" to Windows 7. Also, if you add Windows Pro as an upgrade, you can't downgrade it to Windows 7. The Pro version has to come with the PC when new.

Now, that being said, of course, if you own a legal copy of Windows 7, or buy one, you're certainly free to install it, a fresh install with its own new license, not a "downgrade".

Last, you should be careful. Very often, new Windows 8 PCs aren't compatible with Windows 7; no drivers are available, etc. Even if your Windows 8 Pro license allows the downgrade, that doesn't mean it will actually work. If you want to downgrade, check very carefully to see that the model you buy will be compatible with the downgrade. Check for driver availability, forum discussions, etc. The manufacturer's website and Google are your friends.

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Use the Offline Windows Password & Registry Editor
by ben_myers / April 4, 2014 2:49 PM PDT

Download Petter Nordahl-Hagen's wonderful Offline Windows Password & Registry Editor from . Follow the instructions on his web site to create bootable media (CD, flash stick or floppy). Boot the software and follow the instructions in the simple (Linux) command line interface. It allows you to reset passwords to no password at all and to unlock user IDs previously locked. Make sure you write the changed information back to the Windows registry.

The so-called "best tech" is uninformed! You can reset the password of ANY user name in ANY version of Windows since Windows 2000 with Offline Windows Password & Registry Editor.

If you change your mind and buy another Windows 8 computer, see the answers to last week's question for how to make Windows 8 useful.

As for "downgrading" a computer from Windows 8 to Windows 7, it may or may not work. Sometimes the manufacturers of the newest hardware do not provide drivers for older operating systems.

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Windows admin password recovery
by Tindie / April 7, 2014 11:46 AM PDT
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by Quartzkyte / April 11, 2014 5:37 PM PDT

Petter Nordahl-Hagen's CD save my life numerous times.
This is a solid, rustic solution that works 100% of the times and I like it for that...

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Totally Agree with ben myers
by goofygeef / April 12, 2014 12:11 PM PDT

I second and third and fourth his reply. I have been using this utility, on a bootable CD for years, it has never let me down. People say the MS tech are uninformed, totally the opposite, they are instructed to tell people you must reformat your disk, as MS doesn't want people to know you can get at your password. Being able to edit the registry offline is a plus, also.

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A good repair shop can help you
by bruvensky / April 4, 2014 2:55 PM PDT

There is one good shop that I have gone to where I live. They never need to ask me what my password is, because they know how to bypass it. So look around until you find one where you live that can do this.


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bypassing admin password
by gene_71 / April 7, 2014 2:56 PM PDT

I can do that. Where it says user name, type in administrator, in the blank where it asks for Your password, enter the word password. I know it worked with xp

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Not Really
by Hforman / April 11, 2014 11:40 AM PDT

It only worked on XP if the person who installed XP on the computer used the word, password, as the administrator password.

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I remember when..
by JCitizen / April 11, 2014 12:53 PM PDT
In reply to: Not Really

You could hit Ctrl-Alt-Del twice at the welcome screen to enable the hidden administrator logon. Then simply click through and avoid entering a password at all. But this will only work if your lucky and the hidden account has not been disabled by a service pack. Out of desperation and to save, time I ALWAYS try it! Many times this solves the problem in the git-go, because the installation CD does not disable the hidden account by default. I'm pretty sure this works on pre SP1 versions of Win7.

Has saved me aggravation many times. Silly

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The tech is mistaken
by 4Denise / April 4, 2014 7:49 PM PDT

It sounds like you accidentally typed the password in wrong the first time. You aren't the first to do this.

There are numerous ways to reset passwords. The most obvious way is to reinstall everything to factory state. There are less extreme ways, though, and they could work for you. What you need is a program that resets passwords. Many of these are free. I have never used one, but it is my understanding that they work. Even if you got one that doesn't work, that doesn't mean that another won't do the job.

Do a search through a site that offers free software downloads (use the normal precautions) and find one or two to try if you run into this problem again. As a last resort, you can always just reinstall the OS and do the whole thing over again.

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What he means is..
by JCitizen / April 11, 2014 12:56 PM PDT
In reply to: The tech is mistaken

make sure your free password recovery program works for NT6 - if you con't know what that means, it won't matter if the recovery software says it works with Win7 and 8/8.1

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Wrong password
by Hyort / April 11, 2014 2:40 PM PDT
In reply to: The tech is mistaken

4Denise has a good point. You might have had Caps Lock on when you first typed your password. Try turning it on and typing in the password you wrote down. There's a good chance it will work.

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Forgot password
by n5ngt / April 4, 2014 8:35 PM PDT

Suggestion: check to see if u used lower or upper case. U said u wrote down the password , try using upper case for first letter and lower case for the rest. Or a mixture. Ur computer view upper and lower case as different character .

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lost password recovery
by rreinman / April 4, 2014 8:55 PM PDT


this is simple.
use a Linux bootable cd or usb portable O.S.
use the Ultimate Boot Disk: which has a password reset tool in it. You can reset any password to blank and get in any windows.

too bad the store "Tech" did not know this.



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by bangitsmom / April 11, 2014 12:52 PM PDT
In reply to: lost password recovery

I love this option. It's frightening how easy it is to use the Linux bootable option to recover a password.

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Simple for you guys but...
by JCitizen / April 11, 2014 12:59 PM PDT
In reply to: Yes!

confusing as hell for my Joe and Jill Sixpacks! I'm not criticizing them, it is just that they don't think in PC organization ways of logic. They might be geniuses at other things! Happy

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It's not that frightening
by Hyort / April 11, 2014 2:41 PM PDT
In reply to: Yes!

Yes, it's easy to reset the password with a bootable disk. However, to do that, whoever's doing it has to have physical access to your computer. If they have physical access, they can pull the hard drive out, plug it into another computer, and get your files anyway.

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Control Alt Delete, Cliff
by Random Arrow / April 4, 2014 11:34 PM PDT

Hi Cliff,

That was a good move to return your new computer and get a refund. I am not surprised that you got such a negative response from the "Best tech" at such a "Big Buy" retailer. They are only there to sell boxes with computers in them, not to help you.

Your Best Bet is to look in the Yellow Pages (or just ask about for references). and find a computer professional who will work for you - not some corporate bottom line. Look for someone who has been in business locally for 10+ years and who has no affiliation with any upstream provider. In other words, some one who works for YOU!

Visit or call several local computer professional services firms and explain the problem with your old computer. When you find someone you are comfortable doing business with bring your old machine to them. For a minimal fee they will be able to evaluate it and suggest the best solution for you. (I know this sounds optimistic but I am writing from Vermont).

If you are currently running Wind 7 they should be able to fix you up. If you are currently running Wind XP (no longer supported) or Wind VISTA (horrible) they will let you know if your machine can be upgraded to Windows 7. If so, GO FOR IT! If your machine is too old for an upgrade your local pro should be able to tell you where you can obtain a WIND 7 desktop or laptop online. Consider refurbished machines. Many corporations rotate their machines out after 3 years, nothing wrong with them and they get refurbed and a new warranty.

You mentioned loading AOL software. IMHO NEVER load AOL software. It is an archive from the 1990's and as you noted messed you up. This is not your grand-daddy's dial-up. Your internet service is provided by your ISP (the company - phone or cable- that you pay every month). They provide you with your internet access not AOL. DO NOT send any money to AOL for any reason! If you want to access AOL just open your browser and go to

Once again local computer professional can help you with the transition and help you set up a more secure Google or other email account.

I wish you the Best!

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by bigjohnl / April 11, 2014 11:17 AM PDT

What OS is Wind?

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What OS is Wind?
by tqmon / April 11, 2014 12:16 PM PDT
In reply to: Huh?

Just a long shot guess - Windows. Never type more than you actually need to type.

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by JCitizen / April 11, 2014 1:04 PM PDT
In reply to: What OS is Wind?

I remember a LONG time ago telling everyone, friends just don't let friends do AOL!!! But to be honest, my brother has been using it for years, because his family likes it. He hasn't had a problem one. I think he must have a guardian angle, because NONE of my clients could avoid unmitigated disaster with it!!! Shocked

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AOL works if you access it via a browser
by mijcar / April 12, 2014 6:36 AM PDT
In reply to: HA!

I used to use the AOL program to access AOL and nothing else. It worked fine. Somewhere along the line, AOL started trying to incorporate too much, so I gave the e-mail browser access version a shot and liked it. Organization is better than any of the competition, and so is security -- although not perfect, which I haven't seen from any e-mail provider yet.

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A thought about AOL
by porsche10x / April 13, 2014 4:25 AM PDT

While I have a number of email addresses, I still have an old AOL email address that I sometimes use. Too much trouble to abandon it, but I too have stopped using AOL's intrusive program. Their web-only access works quite well.

I have noticed one thing, though. For all the bad things you could say about AOL (and there are many), I will say one good thing about it. For years now, I have never, ever, received even a single spam email that actually originated on an AOL mail server. Sure, sometimes someone fakes an AOL return address, but never from an email that actually originated on AOL itself. I sometimes wonder, let's pretend that AOL was sooo successful, that the entire internet was run by AOL (sort of like "ALL restaurants are Taco Bell" in the movie, "Demolition Man" Happy ). If such a single-provider system were to evolve, would there be no more spam?

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by alfadog67 / April 15, 2014 6:37 AM PDT
In reply to: A thought about AOL

Too funny!

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admin passwrord recovery
by gene_71 / April 11, 2014 9:50 PM PDT
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Reset PW
by jagans78 / April 5, 2014 12:36 AM PDT

Historically, all you do is reset the bios by shunting a couple of pins on the Motherboard. There are three pins for the CMOS clock, and three for the admin PW. You move the shunt from pins 2,3 to pins 1,2 for ten seconds them move it back to 2,3 to clear it.

On another subject, it sounds to me like win 8 is a gigantic mistake by Microsoft. I wonder how long they are going to stick with this loser. Did their employees just need something to do? That's two big boners they pulled, the Surface, and win 8. Most companies would not survive this but hey, when you charge what they do for a lousy OS, I guess they can screw up a lot and survive it.

Ubuntu, anyone?

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