Uh-oh, you've forgotten your Windows 10 password. Maybe you recently changed it and can't recall the new password. Perhaps you entered what you think is the correct password, but Windows just didn't buy it. Windows 10 offers other login methods, such as a PIN and a picture password, though even if you can sign in with your PIN or a picture, you still need to have a working password, which means you need to reset it if you forget it.
But the process differs based on whether you use a Microsoft Account or a local account. You can reset the password for a Microsoft Account from the Windows 10 login screen or from your Microsoft Account webpage—an option that Microsoft has long offered. Resetting the password for a local account initially required a password reset disk that you'd have to set up on a USB drive, but with the Windows 10 April 2018 Update, you can reset a local password by creating certain security questions and answers beforehand. Let's look at both options.
SEE: Password management policy (Tech Pro Research)
How to reset the password for your Microsoft Account
At the Windows 10 login screen, click the link for I Forgot My Password (Figure A).
At the screen to Recover Your Account, type the email address for your Microsoft Account if it doesn't already appear and then type the CAPTCHA characters you see on the screen. Click Next (Figure B).
At the screen to Verify Your Identity, choose how you want to receive a code to confirm who you are. You can opt to receive it via an email to your primary address or by a text to your mobile phone, both of which you should have set up when you created your Microsoft Account. Choose the option you wish and then click the button to Send Code (Figure C).
Check your email or mobile phone for the code. At the next screen, enter that code. Click Next. At the next screen to Reset Your Password, type a new password for your Microsoft Account. Click Next (Figure D).
The next screen tells you that your password has been changed successfully. Click Next. You're returned to the Windows 10 login screen where you can enter your new password to sign in (Figure E).
You can also reset your Microsoft Account password from Microsoft's website, which is a handy option if you don't have access to your Windows 10 device or need to sign into your account on the web. Browse to the Microsoft Account website. Click the Sign In button. At the Sign In window, type your email address. Click Next. At the password window, click the link for Forgot My Password. At the window to Recover Your Account, type the CAPTCHA characters you see. Click Next.
Now, you would choose the option to receive the code by email or text message, but we'll take a different approach. Let's say your email isn't accessible, or the digits displayed for your mobile phone number are incorrect. Instead, click the option for I Don't Have Any Of These (Figure F).
At the Recover Your Account screen, enter a different email address that you use. Click Next. Check your email for that code and enter it in the next field. Click Verify. Now, Microsoft tries to verify your identity. At the Account Recovery screen, enter the requested contact information. Click Next. At the next screen, enter any previous passwords you've used for this account and then respond to the other questions. Click Next. At the next screen, enter the email addresses of any contacts to whom you've sent messages. Click Next. Microsoft will now send a message to your alternate email address to let you know if you've provided enough information to confirm your identity. If so, that email will contain a link you can click to reset your password (Figure G).
How to reset the password for your local account
Let's say you use a local account on one of your Windows 10 computers, and you want to make sure you can reset it if you ever forget it. Sign into Windows. Open Settings. Select Accounts and click the setting for Sign-in Options. At the Sign-in Options screen, click the link to Update Your Security Questions (Figure H).
Type your password. Choose the three security questions from each field and type the answers for each one. Click Finish (Figure I).
At some point in the future, you forget your local password. At the Windows 10 login screen, type what you think is your password. If it's wrong, Windows displays a link to Reset Password. Click that link. Type the answer for each of the three security questions. Click Submit after the third answer (Figure J).
Create and then confirm a new password. Click the Submit arrow to sign in (Figure K).
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Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books—one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.