Reset Passwords With Administrator Account

Password field on a computer

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There are tools available to help you track and remember your many passwords. However, you have to get into your computer, to begin with in order to use them. Windows allows you to add a password hint which you can use to trigger your memory if you forget the password, but what do you do if the hint doesn't help? Are you locked out of your computer forever?

In most cases, the answer is "No." You can reset the password by using an account with Administrator privileges. If you are the only one using your computer, you might think that you are just out of luck, but don't give up just yet.

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Use Computer Administrator Account

When Windows was originally installed, it created an Administrator account for the computer. Of course, this will only be helpful if you remember what password you assigned during the initial Windows installation (or if you left the Administrator account with a blank password, but you wouldn't do that, right?). This account does not show up on the standard Windows Welcome screen, but it is still there if you need it. You can get to this account in two ways:

  1. Ctrl + Alt + Del: While you are at the Windows Welcome screen, if you press the Ctrl, Alt and Delete keys (you press them together simultaneously, not one at a time) twice in a row you will invoke the old standard Windows login screen.
  2. Safe Mode: Follow the instructions in to reboot your computer into Safe Mode, where the Administrator account shows up as a User.
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Log in as Administrator

No matter how you get to it, you will need to do the following to log in as the Administrator so you can fix your password problem. (Windows XP only).

  • Type "Administrator" for the username
  • Enter the password for the Administrator account
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Open User Accounts

Windows XP control panel


Click on User Accounts from the Control Panel menu

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Reset Password

change user's password in Windows XP


Choose the user account that you need to reset the password for Change the Password > New password > Confirm new password > OK.

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Caveats and Warnings

Having followed these steps, you will then be able to log into the account using the new password. There are a couple of things you must be aware of when resetting the password like this. To protect private and encrypted data from being read by a malicious or unscrupulous user with Administrator privileges, the following information will no longer be available once the password is reset in this manner:

  • Any email messages that are encrypted with the user's public key.
  • Any saved or remembered Internet passwords or user credentials stored on the computer.
  • Any files that were encrypted by the user.