Recovering Windows Vista Password

I had a relative tonight forget her password to Windows Vista.  She hadn’t used her computer in three months, which is a shame because it is a relatively nice one.

Here is a walk-through of what I did.  You may want to read through the whole thing before you try it so you don’t repeat the steps that did not work.

Step 1.  I downloaded Trinity Resource Kit.  I tried to copy it to a USB key and boot from USB, but that didn’t work for some reason.  I had to burn the ISO to a physical CD.

Step 2.  At the boot menu, I tried several options before it would work.  I am guessing it had a conflict with the graphics card.  I finally got it to work by choosing the option #14, (Alternate boot 1).

Step 3.  Once it booted I got a command-line.  I typed:

winpass -u Administrator

Step 4.  Then, the command asked me to choose the Windows installation.  This computer had two Windows options.  Possibly, one of them was the recovery partition.  I didn’t know which one to choose, so I guessed the first option.  Apparently, this was a wrong guess because it just took me to a command-line registry editor.  I hit “q” to quit and it took me back to the command-line without doing anything.

Step 5.  I tried the same winpass command again.  This time, I chose the second “Windows installation”.  This time it gave me a menu.  The menu was different than my instructions, and so, I just hit q for quit.  I could have reset the administrator account, and that would have solved them problem, but I would have had to logon as the administrator and sorted out the account information.

Step 6.  I noticed in the winpass output (before the menu) that it displayed a list of usernames.  I knew which one my relative used, and I substituted the actual username for administrator:

winpass -u <username>

Step 7.  At the menu, I chose 4 to unlock the account — just in case.  I wasn’t sure that it was locked, but they had tried many guesses before I got the computer.

Step 8.  I ran the whole winpass command one more time, and at the last menu, I chose option 1 to blank out the password.

Step 9.  I typed reboot at the command-line to restart the computer.  It ejected the CD before it restarted, and I removed it to let it boot into Windows.  When it started, it bypassed the login screen and logged in automatically.

Problem solved!

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