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Microsoft

Use System Restore to overcome a lost Administrator password

Greg Shultz shows you how to use System Restore and a Windows DVD to revive a system with a lost Administrator password.

Even though I wear the tech guru pants in our household, my wife insists on maintaining her own Vista system — she's my toughest customer. Fortunately, she does take my advice when she is unsure of the necessary steps, and I was able to get her to use a Standard User account and then to provide the Administrator credentials at the UAC prompts, as a security precaution.

Because I'm always talking about security and passwords, she recently changed the Administrator password in order to keep her system safe. Unfortunately, a few weeks later when she needed to make a change to her system, she realized that she completely forgot the new password. Of course, this snafu was now my problem to fix.

Now, being a very customer-oriented tech, I calmly assured her that everything was going to be just fine. While she does have a password-reset disk for her user account, we never created one for the Administrator account.

Fortunately, I remembered seeing a Microsoft Help and Support article about being able to use System Restore to gain access to a system on which the Administrator account password was forgotten.

To my surprise, the procedure worked without a hitch, and I won the best-tech-of-the-year award. Seriously now, since this is a great technique to have in your tech support toolbox, and because it will work in both Windows Vista and Windows 7, I thought I would share it with TechRepublic readers.

In this edition of the Microsoft Windows Vista and Windows 7 Report, I'll show you how to use System Restore and a Windows DVD to revive a lost Administrator password.

This blog post is also available in PDF format in a free TechRepublic download.

Caveats

Of course, in order for this technique to work, System Restore must be enabled and there must be a recent restore point during which you were able to successfully log on to the system.

Also keep in mind that using System Restore and selecting a restore point will return the computer to a state where the logon was successful. If you have installed any programs or updates since the last restore point was created, you will have to reinstall them. You may also have to reset some personal settings. However, you will not lose any documents or e-mail messages.

Getting started

To begin, you'll insert the Windows Vista or Windows 7 DVD into your drive and restart the system. When the system boots from the DVD, follow along with the prompts as you normally would. When you get to the Install Windows screen, shown in Figure A, click the Repair Your Computer link.

Figure A

When you get to the Install Windows screen, click the Repair Your Computer link.
You'll then be prompted to select the operating system to repair, as shown in Figure B. Just select the operating system and click Next.

Figure B

You'll need to select your operating system and click Next.
You'll then see the System Recovery Options dialog box, shown in Figure C. To continue, click System Restore to load the System Restore wizard.

Figure C

Click System Restore in the System Recovery Options dialog box.
When you see the first window in the System Restore wizard, shown in Figure D, click Next.

Figure D

The first window in the System Restore wizard is introductory.
When the next window in the wizard appears, you'll be prompted to select the restore point that you want to use, as shown in Figure E. On my example system, there is only one restore point; however, chances are that you'll have more than one on your system.

Figure E

My example system has only one restore point to choose.
When you boot from the DVD, there will be a drive letter X, and System Restore will be prompt you to confirm that the correct disk is selected, as shown in Figure F.

Figure F

When you boot from the DVD, there will be an extra drive letter and you'll be prompted to confirm the selection.
Finally, you'll be prompted to begin the restore operation. When you click Finish, you'll see one more confirmation dialog box, as shown in Figure G.

Figure G

When you click Finish in the wizard, you'll see one more confirmation prompt.
To commence the system restore operation, click Yes. You'll then see a progress dialog box, shown in Figure H, that will keep you apprised of the restore operation. The restore operation may take a while to complete, so sit back and be patient.

Figure H

The restore operation may take a while to finish.
Once the restore operation is complete, you'll be prompted to restart your system, as shown in Figure I. Click the Restart button. Again, the restart operation may take a while to finish its work.

Figure I

After the restore operation is complete, click the Restart button.
When the system restarts, you can log in using a standard user account. Go into User Accounts, and then you can click Manage Accounts. When prompted by UAC, as shown in Figure J, you can enter the old Administrator password. At this point, you can then change the Administrator password.

Figure J

Once you use System Restore, you enter the old Administrator password.

What's your take?

Now do you know how to use System Restore to access an Administrator account that you were locked out of by a forgotten password? If you have any questions or comments concerning this technique, please take a moment to drop by the TechRepublic Community Forums and let us hear from you.

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About

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.

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