If you've come here, don't be embarraassed, working in IT, this is the MOST common computer problem that almost everyone will encounter. The reason why I'm doing this post is because I've seen an increase from colleagues and admins having this problem and many times it's not even your fault. A common scenario is that someone acquires a new or used computer which they weren't given the password for. Fortunately I have a detailed list of all the options whether free or paid to get you back in and save you time and stress! Especially during COVID-19 or other stressful times, this is bound to happen whether you are a full time worker, student, parent, etc.. it happens to ALL of us at some point.
Whether you're using a laptop, server, VM, Cloud, VPS, workstation, Desktop on Windows 10, Windows 8, Windows 7, Vista, XP etc.. and any version of Windows Server such as 2019, 2016, 2012, 2008, 2003, 2000 or even NT this article still applies to you. For the majority who are using Windows 2019 server or Windows 10, please read this article before anything else so you don't waste your time on solutions that don't work due to Microsoft patching against them.
I've used these very same options on thousands of computers before whether at work or for friends. This is why I'm making this post now because they don't know there are simple and quick options rather than wasting time on Youtube or random blogs and then mess up their system or data. Then they end up spending more time and money with someone like me to undo their mistake. Rather than spending hundreds of dollars on someone like me or a computer store, just use the Windows Geeks software that I use to reset your password or I'll charge much more to use the same solution when you call me. I'd rather have people stay safe than call over someone into their office or home during COVID-19 that they don't have to. With recession looming and everyone depending more on their computer, this is no time to lose data or get locked out when there are very simple and quick solutions anyone can use.
When it comes to Windows passwords a lot has changed, even though the general way that the SAM and SECURITY files located in c:\windows\system32\config has not really changed in terms of functionality.
Be careful what sites you go to, some sites have been known to offer free downloads which are actually trojans to get access to your computer. The more common issue is that there is a lot of bad and outdated advice, especially when it comes to Windows 10 and Windows 2019 Server. I've tried some sites that had trojans after friends complained and also was shocked to see that many blogs claim they have working solutions that don't work anymore including the methods I address below from my own personal experience.
What has changed is the fact that many oldschool tricks and backdoors such as using the Recovery Mode in Windows 10/2019 has been patched (you cannot break in that way anymore, it will ask for the password of the user). Also the hack that you use to change the screensaver or magnifier to cmd.exe doesn't work anymore (Windows will detect it and copy this back).
I recommend this resource because it has a more comprehensive list of what to do. There are even free solutions that they offer and explain but what I like is that they are honest and straight forward and have proper information and what works and what doesn't even for free solutions (source/credit part of the information about the oldschool hacks being closed comes from them and my own experience).
I often send friends to the above link because it doesn't waste your time. It talks about what free methods and solutions will work. In general almost all free solutions involve some advanced or ability to learn advanced computer and administration skills. If you are not confident I don't recommend trying free solutions as you could type one wrong command that may wipe your your partition or data altogether. If your data is not backed up, time is not of the essence and the data is not important to you then by all means give the free shots a whirl.
The easiest one is if another person has admin access to the computer you can simply just have them login and reset your password.
This is where I tell even my non-tech savvy friends and family when I am too busy or unable to go and help them. The reason I like it even as an Admin is that "it is automatic". Once you boot it, it does it all for you, no commands, it just detects your Windows partition, mounts it, backs up your SAM file (which other software doesn't), just in case and then removes all passwords without typing any command, clicking, or even choosing the users. Then it lists all users and unlocks all accounts including the Administrator account. To me this is the true way of "resetting", "unlocking", and "bypassing" Windows passwords including for the Admin account. The key thing is "unlocking" because some software will "reset" or "remove" the password but won't unlock the account, the chances are that your account is probably locked from too many wrong passwords so "unlocking" is required to actually allow you to login again.
I've also been told by a friend who said he already heard of them and apparently someone at Microsoft recommended them too which I was thought was interesting because you would think they would have their own solution!
Where I've personally used solutions like Windows Geeks on the job on laptops, servers, workstations and even VMs to get the job done because it is all automated (even though I have the ability I don't want to remember steps, commands etc.. or even risk the small chance I mess something up). For $17 a license or the unlimited for $299 it's not worth my hassle or time.
The other advantage is that there is no "password reset disk" from Microsoft or original install disc required.
Windows Geeks has been around since 2006 and unlike the majority of "OTHER" sites is from Canada and not registered overseas. In fact many of the largest looking competitors like iSunshare, sPower are actually from China so there's no local support and English is often an issue and in my experience, below, that the other solutions don't support as much hardware as Windows Geek does. The few times out of thousands of uses that I found an old laptop or server that had an issue, their Windows Geeks devs resolved it quite fast.
This is also because other paid solutions I've tried have not been as successful. For example some other software won't work on KVM/Virtio because they don't have the drivers. Most other software won't work on a lot of high end workstations, some newer laptops and a lot of servers because the RAID/SCSI/SAS/SATA controller support is not very good on the majority of software.
And so I admit I recommend the Windows Geeks because their solution is Linux based and supports virtually every machine I've thrown at it. There was one case recently where an ancient PII computer wouldn't boot their software but they sent a patch (using an old patched Kernel for OLD computers). And another thing is that a lot of other software is FAR too big to boot on lowend machines or old machines. If you are an IT professional you will be surprised at how many crappy/old systems you come across that run important or mission critical.
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