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When passwords go wrong, they cause huge problems. Making stupid mistakes with your passwords 7 Password Mistakes That Will Likely Get You Hacked 7 Password Mistakes That Will Likely Get You Hacked The worst passwords of 2015 have been released, and they're quite worrying. But they show that it's absolutely critical to strengthen your weak passwords, with just a few simple tweaks. Read More can leave them vulnerable to hacking, and everyone forgets sometimes, even if you’re set up a memorable password 6 Tips For Creating An Unbreakable Password That You Can Remember 6 Tips For Creating An Unbreakable Password That You Can Remember If your passwords are not unique and unbreakable, you might as well open the front door and invite the robbers in for lunch. Read More .

There’s perhaps no scarier password you can lose than the one that gets you into your PC. Whether you’ve lost your password How to Reset Your Lost Windows 10 Password How to Reset Your Lost Windows 10 Password You forgot your Windows 10 login password? Don't despair! We'll show you how to reset your password and recover your account. Read More , find that Windows suddenly won’t accept it, or it gets screwed up during an update, here’s how to get back into your account on Windows 10.

If You Use a Microsoft Account to Sign In

There are benefits and drawbacks to using a Microsoft account with Windows 10. In our case, one huge benefit is that you can reset your password by going through Microsoft’s tools without much hassle.

First, make sure that you actually can’t access your account (perhaps your keyboard has a stuck key or something similar). Go to Live.com on your phone or another computer and try to sign in with the Microsoft account you use on your PC. Make sure you don’t mistype your email here. If you still can’t get in, then proceed with resetting your Microsoft password. Head to the Microsoft password reset page to get started.

You’re presented with three options:

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  • You forgot your password
  • You know your password, but it doesn’t work
  • You think someone has hacked your account

We’ve already ruled out the second option, so go ahead and pick the first. You’ll then have to provide your account email address and complete a quick CAPTCHA. From here, the site will help you recover your information based on the security info you’ve provided earlier.

recover-microsoft-account

It’s worth noting here: If you have a Microsoft account, you should take a few minutes to update your security info 5 Security Tips To Consider When Using a Microsoft Account 5 Security Tips To Consider When Using a Microsoft Account You can't use much of the new Windows 8 user interface without a Microsoft account. The account you for logging into into your computer is now an online account. This raises security concerns. Read More on your account page. Adding a phone number and secondary email address will give you options to reset your password should you ever have problems with it.

If You Sign in with a Local Account

The above scenario is the best case, but plenty of people don’t use a Microsoft account with Windows 10 How to Delete Your Microsoft Account & Create a Local Windows 10 Login How to Delete Your Microsoft Account & Create a Local Windows 10 Login When you access Windows 10 with a Microsoft Account, you can store data in the cloud and sync it across devices. Does this sound concerning? We show you how to switch to a local account. Read More . We’ll have to dig deeper to get back into a local account, but it’s still possible.

For resetting a password on a local account, we need to enable the hidden Administrator account. Because this account automatically runs all programs with admin rights and has no password protection, it’s super insecure. Thus, Windows ships with this disabled. We’ve shown how to enable the admin account before, but that way won’t work if you’re locked out of your PC!

Note that if you have another administrator account on the computer aside from the locked one, you don’t need to go through all these steps. Jump down to the Resetting the Password section below and follow those steps to reset the password using the other account.

Setting up the Workaround

First, you’ll need to create a bootable Windows 10 disk on a flash drive. Once you’ve done that, insert the drive into your PC so you can boot from the new installation. On most machines, you need to press F12 or a similar key as soon as you power on your computer to choose a device to boot from. Select your flash drive, let Windows load, and when you see the initial Windows 10 setup screen, press Shift + F10 to open a Command Prompt.

Next, you may need to do a bit of fumbling around to find out which partition the Windows installation is on. Usually, this will be the C: drive or the D: drive. To check, type the following command, which will change the active directory of the command prompt to the root of the C: drive (or whichever letter you insert). If the command returns The system cannot find the drive specified, then that letter isn’t right.

cd C:\

Once you find the right drive, we want to change the directory again (that’s the cd command). Type this line to access the System32 folder:

cd Windows\System32

windows-rename-utility-manager

Here’s where we pull a little trick. Windows provides a shortcut to the Ease of Access menu on the sign-in page for users who need visual or other help. We can use a few commands to replace this shortcut with a command prompt instead, giving access to the system. Type these two commands, one at a time. The first backs up the Ease of Access shortcut so we can restore it later; the second replaces it with a command prompt shortcut.

ren utilman.exe utilman.exe.bak

ren cmd.exe utilman.exe

We’re all done here, so type this command to reboot the computer and head back to the normal sign-in screen:

wpeutil reboot

Resetting the Password

Back on the sign-in screen, click the Ease of Access shortcut in the bottom-right of the screen to launch a command prompt. It looks like clock hands surrounded by a dotted line, and you’ll find it between the power and network connection icons.

windows-10-login-ease-of-access-shortcut

Now that we’re into a command prompt, use the following line to enable the default Admin account:

net user Administrator /active:yes

After this, you need to reboot again, which you can do quickly with this command:

shutdown -t 0 -r

One more time on the sign-in screen, and this time you should click the Administrator account in the bottom-left corner. There isn’t a password on this account, so it should sign you right in. Now, you can reset your own password.

If you’re running Windows 10 Pro, you can right-click on the Start button and choose Computer Management, then click Local Users and Groups on the left sidebar to open the user manager. Right-click on your account and choose Set password to choose a new password. Then, sign out of the admin account and make sure you can log back into your own account!

If you use Windows 10 Home, you’ll have to perform the same action through a Command Prompt. Right-click on the Start button and choose Command Prompt (Admin) to open a new command prompt window, then type this command to see all user accounts:

net user

Locate the name of your account, then type this command with your name inserted and the system will prompt you to set a password:

net user USERNAME *

After this, enter a new password, log off, and you’re all set to log back in to your account!

Need a New Account?

If your account is really screwed up and you can’t reset the password, your best bet is making a new account and setting it as an administrator. To do this, open an administrator command prompt, and type these commands:

net user USERNAME PASSWORD /add

net localgroup Adminstrators USERNAME /add

Once done, reboot and sign into your new account with the new password. To recover your files, browse to your old user directory in the File Explorer and copy everything you need to your new account:

C:\Users\OLDUSERNAME

Putting Everything Back

Once you’ve logged into your own account, we’re almost done! We just need to fix the shortcuts we changed and call it a day. Go ahead and reboot again using the Windows 10 installation disk you created earlier. Once the initial welcome screen loads, press Shift + F10 and navigate to C:\Windows\System32 as you did before.

Use these two commands to put the Ease of Access shortcut back as it was:

ren utilman.exe cmd.exe

ren utilman.exe.bak utilman.exe

Because the Admin account is a security risk, you should disable it here until you need it again. Type this to disable it:

net user Administrator /active:no

One more reboot, and you can get back to your normal computer usage!

wpeutil reboot

How to Prevent this in the Future

Depending on why you couldn’t log in to begin with, you can take a few precautions to make sure this doesn’t happen again.

If you just forgot your password, consider using a password manager to keep them all straight. While the convenience of password managers lies in their auto-filling functions for websites, you can manually add your Windows login so that it’s accessible yet safe in emergencies. Since you can access your password vault via your phone or another computer’s browser, you’ll always have it handy.

If you don’t use a Microsoft account to sign in, consider switching to one. Aside from the far easier method of resetting your password, you can also use a PIN instead of a password PIN or Password? What to Use in Windows 10 PIN or Password? What to Use in Windows 10 Windows 10 allows you to sign into your PC using several methods. The two most popular are passwords and PINs. Let's examine the differences between them and decide which is best for you. Read More to sign into Windows. A PIN is local to your machine so it won’t work elsewhere if stolen, and is much easier to type than a long password.

Finally, you can create a password reset disk How To Unlock Your Computer After Forgetting Your Windows Login How To Unlock Your Computer After Forgetting Your Windows Login Most passwords aren’t that difficult to reset, particularly those online. There is one that can give you trouble, however – your Windows login password. If you forget this you will be locked out of your... Read More that will let you easily reset your password should this happen again. It’s a great use for a spare USB drive 5 Uses for a USB Stick You Didn't Know About 5 Uses for a USB Stick You Didn't Know About We’ve all used USB sticks to transport files between computers and back up our files, but there are other cool things you can do with a USB stick. Read More and just requires a bit of foresight.

Back in Business

Resetting your Windows password is a bit more work than resetting one for a website, but it’s far from impossible. No matter what happened that locked you out of your account, you’ve found your way back in. With a bit of preparation, you can make sure that this doesn’t happen again.

Once you’re back in control, make sure your system is running the best security software What Security Software Should You Be Using in Windows 10? What Security Software Should You Be Using in Windows 10? Despite being bundled with its own security tool, Windows 10 needs additional software to keep your data secure and make your online experiences safe. But which security software should you choose for WIndows 10? Read More so you can stay safe.

Have you ever had a scary password reset experience? Let us know if these methods helped you get back into your locked Windows account!

Originally written by Joe Keeley on 23 June, 2016.

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