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Reset Windows passwords with Offline Password Editor on Data Recovery CD

How to reset user passwords and unlock accounts using Offline Windows Password & Registry Editor in Data Recovery CD

By . Last modified: 2012-12-20.

If you forgot your Windows password and you do not have other administrative accounts on your PC, use Offline Windows Password & Registry Editor on Data Recovery CD. You can reset Windows passwords, unlock accounts and give standard user accounts administrative rights (add to Administrators group).

Please note that this item is not yet available on USB version of Data Recovery CD!

The program works with local user account only, so do not expect it to reset Active Directory (AD) or other network passwords!

For the program to work, the hard disk or partition where Windows is installed must be unencrypted - no BitLocker, TrueCrypt or other encryption is supported here. In case of TrueCrypt, you should use Rescue Disk for decrypting system drive first.

Please be aware: in case you have encrypted your files or folders with Windows EFS or BitLocker, you will lose all access to these after resetting your password. This happens because the encryption certificate will be automatically removed from the account with password reset. You must have a valid backup of the encryption certificate to recover these files later.

To set your computer to start from CD, read the Computer boot order article.

After your computer starts from www.winhelp.us Data Recovery CD, press Enter or Space on keyboard within 5 seconds to open Data Recovery CD menu.
www.winhelp.us Data Recovery CD, Press any key to boot from CD. Press Enter or Space key on keyboard.

Use arrow keys to select Offline Windows Password & Registry Editor in the menu. Press Enter to run the program.
www.winhelp.us Data Recovery CD, menu. Select Offline NT Password & Registry Editor to reset passwords and unlock accounts.

The program loads with US keyboard layout. If you have some other layout, check for correct keys on the picture below:
Standard PC keyboard layout for United States

In Step One, Linux loads disk controller drivers and searches for Windows installations on hard disk(s).
In the example below, there are two disks installed and Offline Windows Password & Registry Editor correctly detects that Windows is installed on disk number 1 (the line "Candidate Windows partitions found"). Nevermind the "Test WP failed" messages.

Press the correct number key (1 in this example) on keyboard and press Enter.
Offline Windows Password & Registry Editor, Step one. Press the number key of the disk where Windows is installed. Then press Enter.

In Step Two, the program verifies that it can read from and write to the selected disk. Then it looks for folders named "windows", "winnt" and "winnt35" and tries to locate Security Account Manager (SAM) database - the file where user accounts and their properties are stored.
If Windows is installed in one of these folders, just press Enter to continue.
In the example below, Windows is installed in a folder named "winxp", so the automatic lookup fails. I have to type winxp/system32/config to point to the correct folder and press Enter to load SAM database.

In case you see some read-only filesystem error here instead, you must boot into Windows Safe Mode at least twice. This will repair file system errors.
Then boot into www.winhelp.us Data Recovery CD menu again and re-launch Offline Windows Password & Registry Editor.

Offline Windows Password & Registry Editor, Step two. Usually the path to SAM database is detected automatically. Press Enter to continue.

After the path has been verified, press Enter again. This will activate the default choice, Password reset.
Note that in this program, the default choice is between square brackets, for example [1] or [q].
Offline Windows Password & Registry Editor, Select which part of registry to load. Press Enter to use the default choice, Password reset.

In Step Three, the chntpw Main Interactive Menu, press Enter again to accept the default and start editing user data and passwords.
Offline Windows Password & Registry Editor, chntpw Main Interactive Menu. Press Enter to edit user data and passwords.

Chntpw Edit User Info & Passwords menu lists all local user accounts. The Admin? column tells who have administrative rights, the Lock? column displays whether an account in disabled or locked out (too many failed logon attempts due to wrong password).
By default, a user with name Administrator is selected. If you want to change another user account, type its user name exactly as displayed - Linux is case-sensitive and "Mirjam" does not equal "mirjam" or "MIRJAM".
Press Enter after specifying the account to change.
Offline Windows Password & Registry Editor, chntpw Edit User Info & Passwords. Press Enter to change account named Administrator; or type another user name and press Enter.

Chnptw then lists user account properties and opens User Edit Menu.

  • To clear the user's password, press 1. The user can log on without entering a password after this.
  • To give the user administrative rights, press 3. The user will be added to Administrators group (promoted) and is able to fully manage Windows after this.
  • To unlock the account, press 4. The user can log on again after this. Do not unlock accounts named HelpAssistant or SUPPORT_388945a0, these are meant for troubleshooting only!

Do not use the second option here, as specifying a new password often causes trouble due to different keyboard layout or some other error. Use the first option and then change the user's password after logging in to Windows XP, Vista/7 or 8.
Offline Windows Password & Registry Editor, chntpw User Info. Press 1 to clear the user's password. Press 3 to promote the user to administrator. Press 4 to unlock the account. Press Enter to confirm the selection.

After making changes, press ! and Enter to leave the chntpw user list.
Offline Windows Password & Registry Editor, chntpw, Password cleared. Press ! key and Enter key to exit chntpw user list.

Press q and Enter to exit chntpw.
Offline Windows Password & Registry Editor, chntpw Main Interactive Menu. Press q and Enter to exit chntpw.

Step Four asks if you want to apply the changes (write changes to files). Press y and then press Enter to confirm.
Offline Windows Password & Registry Editor, Writing back changes. Press y and Enter to apply all changes.

Now the user account editing part is complete. Press Enter to exit the program.
Offline Windows Password & Registry Editor, Edit Complete. Press Enter to close the program.

Back in Linux shell, use keyboard shortcut Ctrl+Alt+Delete to reboot your computer and see if you are able to log in to Windows.
Offline Windows Password & Registry Editor, End of scripts. Press Ctrl+Alt+Delete to restart your computer.


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