How Do I Create a Windows Password Reset Disk?

Create a password reset disk in Windows 10, 8, 7, Vista, and XP

A picture of a woman using a USB device
© JGI/Jamie Grill / Blend Images / Getty Images

A Windows password reset disk is a specially created floppy disk or USB flash drive that can be used to gain access to Windows if you've forgotten your password.

If you've ever forgotten your Windows password before, you can imagine how valuable a password reset disk is.

Be proactive and create a password reset disk right now. It's completely free, aside from needing a floppy disk or USB drive, and it's very easy to do.

Important: You cannot create a password reset disk for a different user; you can only create it from your computer and before you forget your password. If you've already forgotten your password and you have not yet created a password reset disk, you'll need to find another way to get back into Windows (see Tip 4 below).

How to Create a Windows Password Reset Disk

You can create a password reset disk using the Forgotten Password Wizard in Windows. It works in every version of Windows but the specific steps necessary to create a password reset disk depends on the Windows operating system you're using. Those small differences are pointed out below.

Note: You cannot use this method to reset your Windows 10 or Windows 8 password if you've forgotten the password to your Microsoft account. The steps below are only useful for local accounts. See How to Reset Your Microsoft Account Password if that's what you need.

  1. Open Control Panel.
    1. In Windows 10 and Windows 8, the quickest way to do this is with the Power User Menu; just hit the Windows Key + X keyboard combination to find a quick-access menu that includes a Control Panel shortcut.
    2. For Windows 7 and older versions of Windows, you can quickly open Control Panel with the control command-line command or use the "normal" method through the Start menu.
    3. Tip: See What Version of Windows Do I Have? if you're not sure which of the several versions of Windows is installed on your computer.
  2. Choose User Accounts if you're using Windows 10, Windows Vista, or Windows XP.
    1. Windows 8 and Windows 7 users should instead pick the User Accounts and Family Safety link.
    2. Note: If you're viewing the Large icons or Small icons view, or the Classic View, of Control Panel, you won't see this link. Simply find and open the User Accounts icon and proceed to Step 4.
  3. Click or tap on the User Accounts link.
    1. Important: Before you proceed, make sure have some kind of portable media to create a password reset disk on. This means that you will need a flash drive or a floppy disk drive and blank floppy disk.
    2. You will not be able to create a Windows password reset disk on a CD, DVD, or external hard drive.
  1. In the task pane on the left, choose the Create a password reset disk link.
    1. Windows XP only: You won't see that link if you're using Windows XP. Instead, choose your account from the "or pick an account to change" section at the bottom of the User Accounts screen. Then, click the Prevent a forgotten password link from the left pane.
    2. Note: Did you get a "No Drive" warning message? If so, you do not have a floppy disk or USB flash drive connected. You'll need to do this before continuing.
  2. When the Forgotten Password Wizard window appears, click Next.
  3. In the I want to create a password key disk in the following drive: drop down box, choose the portable media drive to create a Windows password reset disk on.
    1. Note: You will only see a selection menu here if you have more than one compatible device attached. If you have just one, you'll be told the drive letter of that device and that the reset disk will be made on it.
    2. Click Next to continue.
  4. With the disk or other media still in the drive, enter your current account password in the text box and click Next.
    1. Note: If you've already used this floppy disk or flash drive as a different password reset tool for a different user account or computer, you'll be asked if you want to overwrite the existing disk. See Tip 5 below to learn how to use the same media for multiple password reset disks.
  1. Windows will now create the password reset disk on your chosen media.
    1. When the progress indicator shows 100% complete, click Next and then click Finish in the next window.
  2. You can now remove the flash drive or floppy disk from your computer.
    1. Label the disk or flash drive to identify what it's for, like "Windows 10 Password Reset" or "Windows 7 Reset Disk," etc, and store it in a safe place.

Tips for Creating a Windows Password Reset Disk​

  1. You only need to create a password reset disk for your Windows login password once. No matter how many times you change your password, this disk will always allow you to create a new one.
  2. While a password reset disk will certainly come in handy if you ever forget your password, keep in mind that anyone who possesses this disk will be able to access your Windows account at any time, even if you change your password.
  3. A Windows password reset disk is only valid for the user account that it was created from. This not only means that you can't create a reset disk for a different user on a different computer, but that you can't use one password reset disk on a different account even on the same computer.
    1. In other words, you must create a separate password reset disk for each user account that you want to protect.
  4. Unfortunately, if you've forgotten your Windows password and can't get into Windows, you won't be able to create a password reset disk.
    1. There are, however, several things you can do to try to get in. Windows password recovery programs are very popular solutions to this problem but you could also just have another user reset the password for you. See Ways to Find Lost Windows Passwords for a complete list of your options.
  1. You can use the same floppy disk or flash drive as the password reset disk on any number of user accounts. When Windows resets a password using the reset disk, it looks for the password backup file (userkey.psw) that's at the root of the drive, so make sure that you store other reset files in a different folder.
    1. For example, you can keep the PSW file for a user called "Amy" in a folder called "Amy Password Reset Disk," and another one for "Jon" in a separate folder. When it's time to reset the password for the "Jon" account, just use a different (working) computer to move the PSW file out of the "Jon" folder and into the root of the floppy disk or flash drive so that Windows can read from the right one.
    2. It doesn't matter how many folders you keep password backup files in or how many are on a single disk. However, because you must never change the file name (userkey) or file extension (.PSW), they have to be stored in separate folders to avoid a name collision.