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PC skeleton key lets you reset forgotten passwords

A USB "key" seeking funding on Kickstarter contains software that can reset any forgotten Windows password to regain access to your account.

A USB "key" seeking funding on Kickstarter contains software that can reset any forgotten Windows password to regain access to your account.

(Credit: Jonty Lovell)

We can't say definitively that anyone at CNET Australia has ever forgotten their computer passwords (logging in and out 10 times a day tends to keep the memory fresh), but it's certainly something that does happen. And, according to IT professional Jonty Lovell of London in the UK, password management isn't always an easy prospect for individuals or small businesses.

That's why he's turned to Kickstarter with his Password Reset Key. A key-shaped USB, it contains software that allows you to boot your Windows PC in an administrator mode that allows you to view all user accounts for that PC — and reset any or all of the passwords, quickly and easily. You can also use it — along with antivirus software — to clean up after malware that locks you out of your PC.

"While other utilities exist to help with this activity they are often complex to setup, require technical knowledge to use and need a working computer with an Internet connection before you can get started," Lovell wrote.

(Credit: Jonty Lovell)

As for any potential security concerns, Lovell told CNET Australia that Windows PCs are not particularly secure anyway — if you wish to gain unauthorised access to a Windows PC, you can find methods online to bypass a Windows password within minutes with ease.

"My tool is designed for use by system administrators, home hobbyists and the generally forgetful to allow them to gain access to their computer(s). It also highlights the inherent insecurity of the Windows password system," he said. "If users are concerned about how this might compromise their system then this is a good thing. To prevent this type of access users should install disk encryption on their computer. In the computer security industry there is a saying, 'physical access is complete access'. If I have physical access to a computer I can simply take out the harddisk, copy all of the files onto another computer and put the harddisk back. The user would be unaware that their machine had been compromised. With my key the password is reset to a blank value. So if someone were to compromise your machine in this way you would know because your account would no longer have a password."

The Password Reset Key can be yours for a minimum pledge of £10 (around AU$18), or you can get a software installer to create your own key for £8 (around AU$14.70), with an estimated delivery date of February 2014.

You can find out more about how they work and a step-by-step walkthrough on using one on the Password Reset Key Kickstarter project page.