Losing access to your Windows administrator account due to a forgotten password can be frustrating, but don’t worry; there are ways to regain access. In this guide, we will show you how to reset a forgotten password for the local administrator account using a Windows installation media (USB flash, DVD, or ISO image). This method applies to both Windows 10/11 and Windows Server 2022/2019/2016.
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Creating a Bootable Windows Installation Media
To begin the password reset process, you will need a bootable Windows 10 or 11 installation media. There are two popular methods to create one:
- Using the Media Creation Tool:
- Download the Media Creation Tool from the official Microsoft website.
- Follow the instructions to create a bootable USB flash drive with Windows installation files.
- Using Rufus:
- Download the Windows ISO image from Microsoft’s website.
- Download Rufus, a free tool to create bootable USB flash drives.
- Use Rufus to write the Windows ISO image to the USB flash drive.
Resetting the Forgotten Password
- Insert the bootable USB flash drive into your computer and start it.
- Access the BIOS/UEFI settings by pressing F1, F2, or Del (depending on your hardware vendor) during startup.
- Set your Removable USB flash drive as the primary boot device in the BIOS/UEFI settings.
- Save the changes and exit the BIOS/UEFI settings.
- When the computer starts, you will see the message ‘Press any key to boot from CD/DVD/USB.’
- Press any key to boot from the USB flash drive and launch the Windows Setup wizard.
- On the Windows Setup screen, press Shift+F10 to open the command prompt.
Finding the Drive Letter for Windows Installation
Before proceeding, you need to identify the drive letter assigned to the partition where Windows is installed. Follow these steps:
- In the command prompt, enter the command:
wmic logicaldisk get volumename,name
- Identify the drive letter where Windows is installed. In this example, Windows is on the C: drive.
If your system partition is encrypted with Bitlocker and you have the password to decrypt it, unlock the BitLocker-encrypted drive with the command:
manage-bde -unlock C: -pw. Once unlocked, you can reset the administrator password.
Backing Up and Replacing the Utilman.exe File
To reset the password, you’ll need to replace the utilman.exe file with the cmd.exe file. Here’s how:
- Create a backup of the original utilman.exe file with this command:
copy C:\windows\system32\utilman.exe C:\windows\system32\utilman.exebak
- Replace the utilman.exe file with the cmd.exe file using this command:
copy c:\windows\system32\cmd.exe c:\windows\system32\utilman.exe /y
- Eject the bootable flash drive or Windows Setup ISO and restart the computer with the command:
Resetting the Administrator Password
Once the computer boots into Windows, follow these steps to reset the administrator password:
- On the Windows sign-in screen, click on the Ease of Access (Accessibility) icon. A command prompt should appear.
- List the user accounts with administrator rights on the computer with this command:
net localgroup administrators
- Identify the user account you want to reset the password for.
- To reset the user’s password, enter this command (replace “root” with the appropriate username):
net user root *
- Set a new password and confirm it. The new password must match your local Group Policy password settings.
- Check if the user’s account is enabled. Display the account information with the command:
net user root
- If the user account is disabled, enable it with this command:
net user root /active:yes
- Restart your computer and boot it again from the removable USB flash drive or ISO image.
- Restore the original utilman.exe file with this command:
copy c:\windows\system32\utilman.exebak c:\windows\system32\utilman.exe /y
- Remove the flash drive and reboot the computer.
Troubleshooting and Additional Considerations
If you encounter the error ‘The Sign-in method you’re trying to use isn’t allowed’ when signing in to Windows, it may be due to certain group policy settings. You can disable this policy option using the local GPO editor (gpedit.msc) or from the command prompt on the Windows logon screen.
Remember that resetting a user’s password will grant you access to all files, programs, settings, and saved passwords in Windows Credential Manager associated with that user. However, you may lose access to EFS-encrypted files.
For computers connected to an Active Directory domain, additional domain Group Policies (GPOs) may affect the password reset process. If so, you must first reset the local policies, clear the GPO cache, and disconnect the computer from the network before resetting the administrator password.