Lost your Windows XP password?

If you have ever forgotten your Windows XP password, you are in a mess. A few years ago, it would have been a major mess, but not any longer. There are ways to recover your administrator password with little or no money down.

Of course, you could have created a password-reset floppy disk, however, it does tend to be somewhat involved.

What’s your next option? An in-place repair of the operating system, that’s what. This post at the Tech Help Forums is a good reference guide. Load your Windows XP recovery CD, and boot the computer from that CD. Then, once you’ve accessed the Startup Menu, you have the option to repair the Windows XP installation. This effectively replaces your Windows directory and reloads your Windows files. You have the option to set Windows up again and put in a new password. It does not allow you to recover a password with ease, though.

If you use this method, you also run the risk of losing your My Documents folder, some programs may need to be reinstalled, and other Windows-related settings need to be redone (if you have made any changes). Plus you will need to run Windows Update again, as the operating system is back to the version that is on your Windows XP CD. At least, it does not format the hard drive. This is the safest way to recover your password, but – obviously – not the best one.

Recently, independent software developers and computer enthusiasts have come up with their own methods of recovering Windows XP passwords. For the most part, this began to enable them to hack into Windows XP, and for other malicious purposes. These days, however, these methods serve less harmful objectives – to help us gain access to our computers without having to reformat the hard drive and do a clean installation of the operating system.

There are several methods to recover your password, starting with software that you can purchase.

There are hacks or work-arounds, too. You may wish to try them, but, remember, nothing is as simple as it seems. These applications may end up causing you more grief in the end. You will have to know something about file copying, editing registry files, and lots of DOS-based commands.

The final alternative – saving the best for last – is a simple Windows XP password recovery CD. This CD is Linux-based, and, as such, it is free. Prior to using this CD, you have to burn the image to another CD. This means that you have to download it, extract the ISO image to your hard drive, then use your favorite CD-burning software (one that supports ISO images) and make a copy of the CD.

But what if you don’t have another computer to download and make this CD? You’re in a bit of a jam then, unless you can drop by a friend’s house and borrow their computer, or visit the local Internet cafe.

To use the password-reset CD, you simply boot the computer with the CD. You may have to access your computer BIOS and change the boot sequence to allow you to boot from CD first. Once you have booted from the CD, you will be prompted with DOS-like text with questions. Most of the questions are straightforward and have been designed to allow you to use the default answers. Ultimately, you will be asked to reset the administrator’s account.

Be warned: you do run the risk of losing some data, encrypted files in particular, and passwords in other programs linked to your administrator account.

The next time you boot the PC, your administrator password should be blanked out, and you simply hit the enter key to regain access. Don’t forget to change your password, and make a reset disk this time.