Retrieving A "Lost" XP Password

Kathy writes:

How do I locate my teenager’s password on Windows XP? When we got the new computer she set herself up as the administrator (password protected) and I have recently determined she has been in sites inappropriate for a teen. However, I can’t remove her as an administrator and limit what she can do on the computer without her password and she’s not talking.

One of the significant upgrades in Windows XP over previous versions of Windows was in the area of security. Unlike older versions of Windows, such as 98, you can not simply hit the ESC key to bypass the password. You must have both an actual username and password to get into the system.

This, of course, can cause situations where lack of a password keeps a legitimate user out, which is actually a pretty common problem.

Everything from situations such as yours to simply forgetting the password and the ever common companies that let an employee go can create the need to overcome the unknown password.

As I debated whether I should write a column on “how to break into a password protected computer,” it’s pretty obvious that malicious users can already use Google to find all kinds of technical exploits for mischievous activity, so I offer these suggestions for those with a legitimate need to gain access to a password protected system.

Because your teenager has the ability to access the system, you can reset the administrator’s password by using a built-in Windows utility if you can gain access to the keyboard and mouse after your teenager has logged into the system or if there is another administrator level user on the system.

To do this, click on the Start button then on Run and type “control userpasswords2″ (without the quotation marks) which will bring up a window with the title of “User Accounts.”

This window should list all of the existing users along with an option at the bottom for resetting the Administrators password. Unlike the standard User Accounts interface in the Control Panel, this process does not require you to know the current password (as long as you are logged in on an administrator level account).

If this is not an option, the next possibility of “guessing” her password might be made easier if she created a password hint. The password hint is located on the Welcome screen beside the password prompt.

If her intent was to keep you out, neither of these options is likely to be much help, so you will likely need to get technical.

A number of folks have written programs that will allow you to reset or reveal the password, but you will need to know how to make a bootable disk. If this term is not something that you are familiar with, it is probably best to get a technical friend involved or seek professional help.

If you are comfortable with creating and using boot disks as well as working with the Windows command line, you can look up a free utility from a gentleman in Norway by the name of Petter Nordahl.

Search for “Offline NT Password” in Google and the first couple of links should direct you to the technical resources posted here for regaining access to your system.

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