How to Hack Your Way Into Your Own Computer

Locked out of your PC or Mac? Here's how to get back in

Key made of ones and zeros

 Victor De Schwanberg / Science Photo Library

We’ve all done it. Misplaced keys to your vehicle or home, inconveniently locking yourself out of both. However, locking yourself out of your computer probably happens more often than you’d like.

So, the big question is, how do you let yourself back into your computer without breaking something? With these tips on how to hack your way back in, hopefully, the process should be as painless as possible.

These tips are for legitimate purposes only. We make no guarantees that these will or won't work. It's entirely possible that you could lose all your files by trying these techniques, so use at your own risk.

The instructions in the article are meant for restoring administrator account lockouts only, and not because your PC contracted a computer virus, has become part of a botnet or has been hacked.

Instructions in this article apply to Windows 10, 8.1, 7, Vista, XP, and macOS Catalina to Tiger.

For Windows 10, 8.1, 7, Vista, and XP

One of the best utilities is the Trinity Rescue Kit (TRK). This free (donation-ware) utility can help you recover the administrator password for your computer, recover files, evacuate a dying disk, scan for nasty rootkit malware, and perform many other disaster recovery tasks.

The Trinity Rescue Kit can be loaded onto a CD/DVD or USB drive and should run when you boot the computer prior to Windows loading.

  1. You must go into your computer's setup (bios utility) and choose Boot from USB/CD/DVD before you attempt to use this utility.

    If you don't set the Boot from USB/CD/DVD, Windows will launch as normal and TRK will not load. Be sure to check your PC's user manual for details on how to access the BIOS setup/configuration before attempting to use this software.

  2. Select Run Trinity Rescue Kit (default mode) and press Enter.

  3. At the Welcome screen, using your arrow keys, move down to Windows password resetting and press Enter.

  4. Once again, using your arrow keys ,move down to Reset password on built-in Administrator and press Enter.

  5. Under the section Windows NT/2K/XP installation(s) found in, make note of your the number next to your folder listed as Windows. At the prompt, enter that number and press Enter. (or enter q to quit.)

  6. Under the User Edit Menu, enter 1 and press Enter.

  7. TRK will blank the password and will prompt to continue. Press any key to continue.

  8. Using your arrow keys, go to Go back to main menu and press Enter.

  9. Using your arrow keys, go to Poweroff computer and press Enter. This will give you a chance to eject your CD\USB for rebooting.

If this method fails to check out this article from 4SYSOPS for several other methods of admin account recovery.

For Mac OS X Lion and Above

  1. Restart your Mac and hold down the + R keys as soon as the restart begins. Keep holding the keys until the Apple Logo appears.

  2. The reset password utility is hidden but is still accessible. After the startup sequence completed you should see the Recovery HD utility.

  3. Once in the utility, open a terminal window and type resetpassword and press Enter. Follow the instructions provided in the reset password utility to reset the administrator password.

For Mac OS X Snow Leopard, Leopard and Tiger

  1. Insert your OS X DVD that came with your computer or use the disk you purchased to upgrade your original OS X and restart your Mac.

  2. Hold down the option key during the restart until you see the Startup Manager.

  3. Double-click the Install Mac OS X icon.

  4. Once the installer has loaded, choose Utilities and then click Restart.

  5. After the installer loads, choose Utilities and select Reset Password. Follow the instructions provided in the utility to reset the admin password.