How many times have you forgotten a password in the last year? Losing a website password isn’t a huge deal, because you can reset them with your email address. But forgetting your computer password is scarier, because they’re hard to reset.
If you’ve forgotten the password for a Windows administrator account, don’t fear. There are several methods you can use to recover it. We’ll show you how to reset administrator passwords in Windows.
1. Reset the Windows Administrator Password With a Microsoft Account
One of the major benefits of using a Microsoft account with Windows 10 is that you can reset your password by going through Microsoft’s tools without much hassle.
First, make sure that you really can’t access your Microsoft account (perhaps your keyboard has a stuck key or something similar). Go to login.live.com on your phone or another computer and try to sign in with the Microsoft account you use on your PC, making sure you don’t mistype anything.
If you still can’t get in, then proceed with resetting your Microsoft password. Head to the Microsoft password reset page to get started; you can also reset your password from the Windows 10 login screen now.
After confirming your identity with the details you’ve provided on your account, this page will walk you through resetting your Microsoft account password. Once that’s done, use the new password to sign into your PC.
It’s worth noting: if you have a Microsoft account, you should take a few minutes to update your security info on your Microsoft account page. Adding a phone number and secondary email address gives you options to reset your password easily; without them, it’s much more of a hassle.
2. Reset a Local Windows Admin Password Using the Lock Screen Workaround
If you don’t use a Microsoft account to log into Windows, you’ll have to reset the password for a local account. Windows 10 allows you to set security questions for local accounts that help you get back in easily from the lock screen if you forget the password. If you haven’t set those up already, however, they won’t do you much good now.
Should the locked account be the only administrator account on your PC, you’ll need to first enable the hidden Windows admin account to use this workaround.
But if you have another administrator account on the computer aside from the locked one, you don’t need to go through all these steps. In that case, jump down to the Resetting the Password section and follow those steps to reset the password using another admin account.
Setting Up the Workaround
First, you’ll need to create a bootable Windows 10 disk on a flash drive. Once you’ve done that, insert the drive into your PC so you can boot from the new installation. On most machines, you need to press F12 or a similar key as soon as you power on your computer to choose a device to boot from.
Boot from your flash drive, let the Windows installer load, and when you see the initial Windows 10 setup screen, press Shift + F10 to open a Command Prompt.
Next, you need to know which partition the Windows installation is on. Usually, this will be the C: drive, but it might be different for you. To check, type the following command, which will change the current directory of the Command Prompt to the root of the C: drive (or whichever letter you insert).
If the command returns The system cannot find the drive specified, then that letter isn’t right; try another one. Once you find the right drive, you’ll want to change the directory again using the cd command. Type this line to access the System32 folder:
Now we’ll pull a little trick. Windows provides a shortcut to the Ease of Access menu on the sign-in page for users who need accessibility options. You can use a few commands to replace this shortcut with a Command Prompt link instead, giving access to many more commands.
To do this, type these two commands, one at a time. The first backs up the Ease of Access shortcut so you can restore it later; the second replaces it with a Command Prompt shortcut.
ren utilman.exe utilman.exe.bak
ren cmd.exe utilman.exe
You’re all done here, so type this command to reboot the computer and head back to the normal sign-in screen:
Enabling the Windows Administrator Account
Back on the sign-in screen, click the Ease of Access shortcut in the bottom-right of the screen to launch a Command Prompt. It looks like clock hands surrounded by a dotted line; you’ll find it between the power and network connection icons.
Now that you’re into a Command Prompt interface, use the following line to enable the default Administrator account:
net user Administrator /active:yes
After this, you need to reboot again, which you can do quickly with this command:
shutdown -t 0 -r
Back on the sign-in screen again, this time you should click the Administrator account in the bottom-left corner. There isn’t a password on this account, so it should sign you in. Now, you can reset your own password.
Resetting the Password
On Windows 10 Pro, you can right-click on the Start button and choose Computer Management, then click Local Users and Groups on the left sidebar to open the user manager.
Here, expand the Users folder, then right-click on your account and choose Set password to choose a new password. Windows will warn you that this will result in the loss of some data, but it’s not anything that will affect most users.
After you set a new password, sign out of the admin account and make sure you can log back into your own account.
If you use Windows 10 Home, you’ll have to perform the same action through the Command Prompt. Right-click on the Start button and choose Command Prompt (Admin) (or Windows PowerShell (Admin)) to open a new terminal window, then type this command to see all user accounts:
Locate the name of your account, then type this command with your name inserted and the system will prompt you to set a password:
net user USERNAME *
After this, enter a new password, log off, and you’re all set to log back in to your account.
Creating a New Account Instead
If your account is really screwed up and you can’t reset the password for some reason, your should make a new account and set it as an administrator instead. To do this, open an administrator Command Prompt as above, then type these commands one-by-one, replacing USERNAME and PASSWORD with your chosen info:
net user USERNAME PASSWORD /add
net localgroup Adminstrators USERNAME /add
Once done, reboot and sign into your new account with the new password. To recover your files, browse to your old user directory in the File Explorer at C:Users[Old Username] and copy everything you need to your new account.
Wrapping Up: Put Everything Back
Once you’ve successfully logged into your own account or created a new one, you’re almost done. You just need to fix the shortcuts you changed.
Reboot again into the Windows 10 installation disk you created earlier. Once the initial welcome screen loads, press Shift + F10 and navigate to C:WindowsSystem32 as you did before.
Use these two commands, one at a time, to put the Ease of Access shortcut back as it was:
ren utilman.exe cmd.exe
ren utilman.exe.bak utilman.exe
Because the default Admin account is a security risk, you should disable it here until you need it again. Type this to disable it:
net user Administrator /active:no
After one more reboot with the below command, you can get back to your normal computer usage:
3. Reset the Password by Booting Into a Linux USB
If you can’t get into any account on your PC, you can create a Linux drive on another machine and use it to reset your Windows password.
Boot Into Linux
First, you’ll have to make a bootable Linux USB drive; it doesn’t matter which flavor of Linux you use, but Ubuntu and Mint are two beginner-friendly options.
Once you’ve done that, reboot your PC and look for the prompt to press F12, ESC, Delete, or similar to choose your boot device. Pick your flash drive and give Linux a moment to start up.
Complete any setup tasks like setting the time zone, then open the OS’s file explorer app. On Ubuntu, this is the folder icon on the left sidebar. If you’re using Mint, it’s in the bottom-left corner like Windows.
Mount Your Windows Drive
With a file explorer window open, press Ctrl + L to edit the Location path and type this to see all your drives:
Find the drive that you have Windows installed on. If you only have one hard drive in your computer, it will be the only one present. Right-click on that drive and click Mount so Linux can access it.
Reset the Password
From here, you’re going to work in the Linux Terminal. Don’t worry—it’s not scary, even if you’re new. The shortcut to open it in Mint and Ubuntu is Ctrl + Alt + T.
First, you need to install a password reset utility called chntpw. Type this command to install it:
>sudo apt-get install chntpw
Change the working directory (the cd command stands for change directory) to your Windows folder with this line:
Next, get a list of Windows users by entering this:
sudo chntpw -l SAM
You should see the user whose password you want to reset in this list. To ensure that you make edits to this user only, type the following command, replacing USER NAME with the user you need to edit. If it’s a one-word username like “Mike”, you don’t need any quotation marks. For multi-word usernames like “Mike Jones,” place quotes around the words or it won’t work:
sudo chntpw -u "USER NAME" SAM
Now, type 2 to enter editing mode. Type a new password for the user, then hit Enter to submit it. When prompted, enter y to confirm.
If you’d like, you can set the password to blank instead of assigning a new one. To do so, type a 1 instead of 2 after you enter the username command and enter y when prompted to save it.
Reboot into Windows and use the new password to sign in. If you set a blank password, open Settings, browse to Accounts > Sign-in options, and choose Password to set a new password.
How to Avoid Losing Your Password in the Future
While none of these methods are too difficult, you don’t want to lose your password again in the future and have to rely on them. There are several ways to prevent yourself from having to reset your Windows password down the road.
First, if you don’t already use a Microsoft account to sign into Windows 10, we recommend doing so. This way, you can easily reset your password via the web interface if you ever forget it.
Even if you don’t use a Microsoft account, setting a PIN on your Windows account gives you another option for signing in that’s easier to remember.
We also strongly recommend using a password manager to store all your passwords safely. When using a password manager, you only have to remember a few passwords instead of dozens.
Finally, Windows also lets you create a password reset disk to avoid these lengthy workaround methods in the future. Connect a flash drive, then search for password reset disk in the Start menu to launch the Create a password reset disk tool.
Walk through the steps to create a reset disk using your flash drive. If you get locked out of your account in the future, you can plug in that drive to regain access. This works no matter how many times you change your password, but keep in mind that anyone who has the drive can use it to access your account. Keep it safe!
Forgotten Administrator Password? No Problem
Forgetting your password isn’t fun, and it’s a pain to reset an admin password. But at least it’s possible. Anyone can use these methods even if they’re not tech-savvy, and they’re a lot better than completely reinstalling Windows because you’re locked out. And with a little preparation, you can prevent this from happening again in the future.