Easily reset a forgotten Windows password

Windows Password recoveryWindows password recovery is something you’ve probably wanted to do at some point. Maybe you’ve tried to login to an old computer that’s not been used in a while, or maybe you just managed to enter the same typo twice without knowing it when changing your password. If you just want to get back in with the minimum of fuss, then here’s how. Strictly speaking, this method won’t recover your password – it simply resets it – allowing you to login again.

Note: While this method will certainly get you back into a Windows XP, Vista or Windows 7 machine, this is NOT the way do it if you want to look for incriminating data on a PC. If that’s your aim, then you need to leave the computer turned off and seek the help of a data forensics specialist.

A simple hack of the sticky keys feature

Windows has a feature called sticky keys – it’s an accessibility feature that allows the Shift, Alt, and Ctrl keys to be toggled on and off rather than only being active while held down. Sticky keys is managed by a program usually located at

What we are going to do is temporarily replace this program with the program that launches the command prompt. So, instead of being able to activate the sticky keys feature, we will get a fully functional DOS window in which to carry out our devious work. On with the games, but a cautionary notes first.

This will cause the user account to lose access to credentials saved in the Windows Vault, saved Internet Explorer passwords, and files encrypted with the Encrypting File System (EFS). The only way to recover the first two is if you had an offline copy somewhere, and the latter can only be recovered if you previously took a backup of the EFS private key. If you don’t rely on the above systems

Windows XP – if you are still rocking XP, then you will have to find a Windows Vista/7/8 rescue/install disk because the Windows XP one won’t give you a command prompt without you already knowing the password.

Step 1 – Boot from Rescue or Windows installation CD/DVD

You can actually use any LiveCD that will give you access to the Windows installation, but in these example, we’re going to use the Windows setup CD/DVD.

When it gets to the language dialogue box, just click Next

Windows Password Reset

Then, click the Repair your computer link

Recover Windows Password

Then, select the Windows installation you want to repair (you probably only have one, as shown) and click Next

Windows 7 Password recovery

Step 2 – Open the command prompt

Open the command prompt

Open command prompt

Step 3 – Replace sticky keys sethc.exe with cmd.exe

From the command line type the following commands one after the other, replacing d: with the location of your Windows installation from Step 1, above.

It will look a little like this

Replacing sethc.exe

You can now remove your installation/rescue disk and click Restart from the System Recovery Options dialogue box.

Step 4 – Resetting your password

Once your PC has rebooted and you are back at the password screen just press the shift key five times and a DOS window will appear – cool huh?

Now, you just need to tell windows to reset your password by entering the command:

Just replace username with your own login username and newpassword with whatever you want to use as your new password. It will look a little something like this:

Setting Password from Command Line Windows

You can close the DOS window or type exit and hit return.

That’s it – you can now login with your new password!

Clearing up afterwards

This technique is quite well known, and tapping the shift key a few times is the first thing I would try if trying to login to an unknown Windows machine. You never know who’s worked on it before and been lazy enough not to tidy up. Therefore it’s a good idea to move the original sethc.exe back to it’s correct home.

So, pop your Installation/rescue CD/DVD back in the drive, and reboot. Repeat steps 1 and 2 above, and then at the DOS prompt type:

Putting it back straight

you can now reboot again and log in with your new password – you still remember it, right?


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