Do you have an old 128MB or 256MB USB Flash Drive in the back of your desk drawer gathering dust? If so, you can put that dusty old drive to use again as a Password Reset Disk for Microsoft Windows 7.
In this edition of the Windows Desktop Report, I'll show you how to create and use a Password Reset Disk in Windows 7. As I do, I'll show you how to use a USB Flash Drive rather than a CD or floppy disk.
(Keep in mind that the same procedure can be used in Windows Vista.)
This blog post is also available in PDF format in a TechRepublic download.
The USB Flash Disk
Before I show you how to create a Password Reset Disk, let's take a moment to talk about the USB Flash Drive. Now the reason that I'm spotlighting your old, small-capacity USB Flash Drive is that it is really too small to be of much use in today's world due to that fact that portable storage needs are now in the GB range. However, since the Password Reset file weighs in at only 2KB, it is the perfect use for an old USB Flash Drive.To get started, insert your USB Flash Drive and wait for it to be initialized and assigned a drive letter. If there is any data on it, you may want to remove it. Now to make sure that the disk is in the best shape that it can be, you should format it. Right-click on the drive letter in Computer and select the Format command. When you see the Format dialog box, as shown in Figure A, just click the Start button.
You should format the USB Flash Drive before you use it as a Password Reset Disk.
Creating a Password Reset DiskCreating a Password Reset Disk is a pretty straightforward procedure. Once the drive is ready to use, click the Start button and type User Accounts in the Start Search box. Then, press [Enter] or click User Accounts in the results panel. Either way, you'll see the User Accounts window and will need to locate and click Create a Password Reset Disk in the Tasks panel, as shown in Figure B.
When the User Accounts window appears, click Create a Password Reset Disk in the Tasks panel.When you see the Forgotten Password Wizard's Welcome screen, take a look at the information and click Next. When you see the next screen, you'll be prompted to choose your USB Flash Drive's drive letter, as shown in Figure C. To continue, just click Next.
Choose the drive letter assigned to your USB Flash Drive.On the next screen, you'll be prompted to type your password, as shown in Figure D. Then, click Next.
When prompted, you'll type in your password.
As soon as you do, you'll see a progress bar that will move rapidly along to 100 percent. You'll then click Next and will see the last screen in the Forgotten Password Wizard. To complete the operation, click Finish.
You should then click the Safely Remove Hardware and Eject Media icon, choose your USB Flash Drive's drive letter, and then, when prompted to do so, remove the drive. You should label the drive and put it away in a safe place.
Now, you may be tempted to label the drive "Password Reset." However, since anyone who happens upon this drive can use it to bypass your password and break in to your computer, I suggest a more subtle label -- something that will help you recognize the drive but that isn't so obvious.
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Using a Password Reset DiskIf you ever forget and type in an incorrect password, the login screen will change and an error message will appear like the one shown in Figure E. To continue, you will have to click OK.
At this point, the only thing you can do is click OK.You'll then return to the login screen and will see a message appear below the Password box, as shown in Figure F. At this point, you'll insert your USB Flash Drive and wait for it to be initialized and assigned a drive letter. Then, to launch the Password Reset Wizard, you'll click the Reset Password message.
To launch the Password Reset Wizard, you'll click the Reset Password message.When you see the Password Reset Wizard's Welcome screen, take a look at the information and click Next. In the next screen, you'll be prompted to choose your USB Flash Drive's drive letter, as shown in Figure G. To continue, just click Next.
Choose the drive letter assigned to your USB Flash Drive.Once you select the drive, the Password Reset Wizard will open the saved file, read your saved password, and perform a few operations in the background. The wizard will then prompt you to create a new password, confirm it, as well as create a new hint, as shown in Figure H.
You'll need to create a new password, confirm it, and create a new hint.
Once you've filled in the text boxes, click Next. You'll then see the success screen and will need to click Finish to complete the operation. You can now use the new password to log on to your Windows 7 system.
As soon as you use the Password Reset Wizard to change your password, the information in the password reset file on the USB Flash Drive will be outdated. Therefore, as soon as you log back in to Windows, you should run the Forgotten Password Wizard again and create a new password reset file.
What's your take?
Have you used a password reset disk in Windows before? What was your experience? Now that you can use a USB Flash Drive, do you think that the procedure will be easier?
Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.