If your PC or laptop doesn’t have a fingerprint sensor or a camera that supports Windows Hello, you’re probably still using a password or PIN to sign in.
Microsoft has forced many users to switch to using a Microsoft login instead of a local login, so it’s easier to lose track of your latest password because you can change it more often. Note though that the company now allows you to completely remove your password and use its authenticator app (as well as other methods) so you don’t have to remember anything. Of course, that won’t help you right now, but it’s something you should consider setting up when you manage to get back into your account.
Either way, all is not lost. There are a few things you can try before you consider reinstalling Windows completely.
The purpose of this guide is to help you gain access to the personal PC you’ve been locked out of. Of course, we cannot condone using these tips to gain access to other people’s devices.
First, though, just double-check that you haven’t accidentally pressed the Caps Lock key. You may be entering the correct password, but the uppercase and lowercase letters will be interchanged. Since the password is case sensitive, it will not be recognized. Similarly, on a laptop, make sure you don’t have Num Lock enabled, which means you’re entering numbers instead of letters.
Reset your Windows 10 password
If you use a Microsoft account to sign in to Windows 10, you’re in luck. Forgetting your password can be easily resolved by going to the Recover your account page and following the instructions to reset your password.
Once done, you can use the new password you just entered to sign in to Windows.
There may still be hope even if you are using a local account on your laptop or PC.
Your computer needs to be running Windows 10 version 1803 or later. It’s pretty old, so it will most likely have this version (or newer).
However, you will need to set up security questions to be asked in case you forget your password.
So if you’ve added a security question, you’ll see a Reset Password link on the Windows 10 login screen.
If you use a PIN instead of a password, you can choose to sign in with a password. If you also forgot your password, you’ll need to reset it first.
To do so, select Reset password on the login screen (when you have selected a password as the login method).
You should now see the security questions you set up when you set up your local Windows 10 account.
Answer correctly and you will be able to enter a new password.
You can now sign in to Windows and then choose a new PIN (if you forgot that) by going to Start > Settings > Accounts > Sign-in options > Windows Hello PIN > Change.
If you don’t see any security questions, you’re out of luck. You haven’t set them up yet, or your computer is running a version of Windows 10. A forgotten password can’t be reset, and the only option open to you is to completely reset Windows. This will delete your documents, photos, music, programs, apps, and settings. What Windows 10 will look like when you first bought your laptop or PC.
This is probably very bad news if you don’t have a backup of your important files, so you should try every password (and variations thereof) you’ve ever used before taking the kernel approach. this.
If you find yourself in an uninvitable position, here’s how to reset Windows 10:
Hold Change while you click the Power button in the bottom right corner of the Windows login screen and select Restart.
When you see the Choose an option screen, click Troubleshoot, then Reset This PC.
On the next screen, select ‘Erase Everything’ as other types of reset will not remove a password you can’t remember.
We have many more password related tutorials for Windows 10. Here’s how to set a temporary password,
change another user’s password or
remove it completely.
For those using an older version of Windows, the following tips may help.
Use a hidden administrator account (Windows 7 and later)
Windows 7 (and some earlier versions) has an administrator account that is not visible in normal use.
Note: this method may not work if the account has been disabled, by default in some Windows 7 installations.
- Restart (or restart) your computer and press F8 repeatedly
- From the menu that appears, select Safe Mode
- Enter “Admin” in the Username (note the capital A) and leave the password blank.
- You should be logged in to safe mode.
- Go to Control Panel, then to User Accounts
- Select the account you want to reset the password for
- Change the password
Once done, here’s how to get Windows to automatically log in and not ask for a password.
Use a Windows boot disk or USB drive
If you can find a Windows DVD or a bootable USB drive with Windows on it, you can use the command prompt to enable the disabled administrator account.
Alternatively, you can also try to force Windows to launch boot recovery by turning on your computer, and when you see the Windows loading screen, hold the power button for four seconds to turn it off.
The next time you start it, Windows will provide a boot menu with an option: Launch Startup Repair.
Select this option and let Windows look for the problem.
Once done, look for the drop-down menu called View issue details. Scroll down and click the last link.
This will open a text file. We don’t care about this, as we are using it to access File Explorer.
At the top of the window, click File > Open. Navigate to your Windows drive (the drive letter may have been changed) and then look for the WindowsSystem32 folder.
Scroll down and find the file sethc. You may need to change the ‘File Type’ to all files instead of just text files.
Right click on sethc and select Rename. Change the name by adding numbers or letters. That does not matter.
Click the file name to save your changes.
Now scroll down to cmd (command prompt) and right click on it. Select Copy, then right-click a space and select Paste.
This will make a copy, but rename it to sethc just like you did with the actual sethc file before.
Close all windows, then click Finish. Your computer will turn off.
Restart it and wait for the login prompt to appear.
Press the Shift key five times. This will launch the command prompt.
This will list all user accounts. Let’s say your user account is named Jim
net user Jim *
You can now enter a new password for that account. If you don’t want to, just press Enter to create a blank password. You will be asked to re-enter your password for verification.
Close the Command Prompt window and you can now log in to the user account with the new password.
Use the password reset utility
If all of this fails, you can download a utility that claims to break or bypass Windows passwords. Again, we cannot condone using these for anything other than saving your own files in your own computer.
You’ll find these easily if you search online for ‘Windows password reset tool’ and a tool worth trying simply called NTpasswd.
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