Physical security is very important when it comes to important things in our daily lives. It’s the reason we lock up our valuables, our homes, and our cars. We want to keep our stuff safe, but that doesn’t really translate to the digital world. People typically feel confident leaving their computers unattended as long as they lock it before they leave. What if I told you it was easy to reset your super strong password on your computer? Resetting passwords on any OS is a simple, 10 minute process and anyone can do it. In this article, we are going to show you how to reset a Windows password.
Windows Password Reset
Windows is really easy to break into and has been for years. It’s only recently that Microsoft has added definitions to Windows Defender to stop password resetting in real time. Because of that, this method may not work on the newest version of Windows 10. The good news is everyone is scared to update their computer since Microsoft wiped everyone’s data back in October, so your results may vary.
There are a thousand different ways to change a Windows password. Our method involves using a Windows installation media instead of a fancy password cracker or Linux distro. In our opinion, our method is less likely to draw scrutiny from an average person as having password hacking software and Windows installation media on you are two different things in their eyes.
Create a Boot-able Medium
First, we must create Windows installation media to boot off of. Simply burning a Windows ISO to a CD is the easiest solution if the target computer has a CD drive. The other alternative is to use a program like Rufus, Unetbootin, Yumi, etc. to make a boot-able Windows thumb drive. The creation of this medium will not be covered in the scope of this tutorial as it’s been covered a thousand times before.
Booting into Windows Installation Media
In our example, we are using Windows 8, but you can use any version of Windows and it is very similar. After you boot into it, you will be greeted by a Windows Setup screen. Choose your language and click next.
Repair your Computer
Instead of installing Windows, we are going to choose the “Repair your computer” option to get into the system repair tools.
Navigate to Command Prompt
Choose troubleshoot, advanced options, then choose Command Prompt to open up a command window.
Find Windows Drive
First, we need to find the drive that Windows is installed on. Most of the time, this will be the C drive. If it is not, you will have to increment the drive letter until you find it by running “dir c:\”, “dir d:\”, “dir e:\”, etc. You will do this until you find the Program Files, Users, and Windows folders. In our example, the machine we are using put Windows at the E drive, so all future commands will reflect this.
Replace On-Screen Keyboard
Next we will replace the osk.exe file with the cmd.exe file, but not before we make a backup file like such:
copy e:\Windows\System32\osk.exe e:\Windows\System32\osk.exe.bak
And to overwrite the file:
copy e:\Windows\System32\cmd.exe e:\Windows\System32\osk.exe
Type yes when prompted to overwrite the file.
Reboot to Windows
Close the command prompt and click continue to boot back into Windows, skipping any Windows Automatic Repair that may try to “fix” you computer.
Open On-Screen Keyboard
Click on the On-Screen Keyboard under the Ease of Access center and it should pop up as a Command Prompt. If it does not, you did something wrong and you need to repeat the previous steps or Windows Defender is preventing it from opening.
List All Users
Run “net user” in the Command Prompt to list all users on the computer.
Reset Windows Password
Now for the part you’ve been waiting for: resetting the password. To do so, run this command:
net user USERNAME NEWPASSWORD
Replace USERNAME with the appropriate username and NEWPASSWORD with whatever you desire.
Login with New Windows Password
That’s it! We’ve successfully changed the user password and can login with the new password.
Full disk encryption obviously! Without some sort of encryption, your Windows passwords means nothing. The simplest form of this is to use Windows Bitlocker, a built-in full disk encryption software. Unfortunately, it only comes with Windows 10 Pro, so if you are running Windows 10 Home, you need to upgrade.
If you’re not the type that likes to give Microsoft your hard earned money, you can use Veracrypt, an open source encryption platform. Results may vary on Windows 10, we’ve seen about a 90% success rate through our courses. We’ve never seen data loss, but sometimes the Windows Boot Manager likes to take over and loop through recovery for hours. If that happens, use the Veracrypt Rescue Disk that you create during the encryption process.
Whatever you do, make sure you store your password in your password manager and back up your data often. This will prevent any future mishaps and hours of frustration. Many of our instructors and students use the OnlyKey for their full disk encryption to be able to use a strong password by only remember a PIN and your keychain.
Questions, Comments, Concerns?
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