Forgot the administrator password? The Sticky Keys trick

If you forgot the administrator password you can easily reset the password on Windows 7, Windows Vista and Windows XP with the Sticky Keys tricks. It works always.

Michael PietroforteMVP By Michael Pietroforte - Thu, August 12, 2010 - 259 comments google+ icon

Michael Pietroforte is the founder and editor of 4sysops. He is a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) with more than 30 years of experience in system administration.

Articles in this series

Reset Windows password

Update: I published a new guide that explains how to reset the Windows 8 administrator password without the need of any third-party tools.

Forgot the administrator password? There are many ways to access a Windows installation if you forgot the administrator password. Today I’ll show you another procedure to reset the Windows password by replacing the Sticky Keys application. This program allows you to use the function keys SHIFT, CTRL, ALT, or the Windows key by typing one key after the other instead of pressing them simultaneously with the second key. The main advantage of this password reset method is that you don’t need third-party software; another plus is that it is easy to carry out because no Registry hack is required, as when you offline enable the built-in administrator.

Forgot Administrator Password - Sticky Keys trick

Please note that resetting the password from an account other than the corresponding user account always means that the user loses the credentials stored in the Windows Vault, stored Internet Explorer passwords, and files that you encrypted with the Encrypting File System (EFS). Of course, if you have a backup of these credentials, you can restore them; likewise, if you have exported the private EFS key, you can import it again after you have reset the password.

Like with all other solutions that allow you to reset the Windows password without having an account on the corresponding computer, you have to boot from a second operating system and access the Windows installation while it is offline.

You can do this with a bootable Windows PE USB stick or by using Windows RE. You can start Windows RE by booting the Windows Vista or Windows 7 setup DVD and then selecting “Repair” instead of “Install Windows.”

By the way, you can’t use the Windows XP boot CD for this purpose because its Recovery Console will ask for a password for the offline installation. However, you can use a Vista or Windows 7 DVD to reset a forgotten Windows administrator password on Windows XP.

This works because Windows RE, which is based on Vista or Windows 7, will let you launch a command prompt with access to an offline installation without requiring a password.

To reset a forgotten administrator password, follow these steps:

  1. Boot from Windows PE or Windows RE and access the command prompt.
  2. Find the drive letter of the partition where Windows is installed. In Vista and Windows XP, it is usually C:, in Windows 7, it is D: in most cases because the first partition contains Startup Repair. To find the drive letter, type C: (or D:, respectively) and search for the Windows folder. Note that Windows PE (RE) usually resides on X:.
  3. Type the following command (replace “c:” with the correct drive letter if Windows is not located on C:):
    copy c:\windows\system32\sethc.exe c:\
    This creates a copy of sethc.exe to restore later.
  4. Type this command to replace sethc.exe with cmd.exe:
    copy /y c:\windows\system32\cmd.exe c:\windows\system32\sethc.exe
    Reboot your computer and start the Windows installation where you forgot the administrator password.
  5. After you see the logon screen, press the SHIFT key five times.
  6. You should see a command prompt where you can enter the following command to reset the Windows password (see screenshot above):
    net user your_user_name new_password
    If you don’t know your user name, just type net user to list the available user names.
  7. You can now log on with the new password.

I recommend that you replace sethc.exe with the copy you stored in the root folder of your system drive in step 3. For this, you have to boot up again with Windows PE or RE because you can’t replace system files while the Windows installation is online. Then you have to enter this command:

copy /y c:\sethc.exe c:\windows\system32\sethc.exe

Series NavigationHow to reset a Windows 8 password - How to reset a Microsoft account password (connected account)

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259 Comments- Leave a Reply

  1. great trick, thank u !!

  2. Himanshu says:

    seems interesting. lets see if it works. nice post man

  3. Simon says:

    Why so complicated? Just use the Kon-Boot CD and login with any password :)

  4. Kon-Boot has some disadvantages. I will post a review next week.

  5. kpx says:

    So any cd/usb live-OS/dualboot would work since it’s just a matter of copying a file?

    I would suggest a third option, namely Knoppix (or almost any distro, since they all live-boot today). Unlike Trinity Rescue Kit, they have full GUIs if that floats your boat. An old live-CD in the bookshelf saved my windows-life a few times back then.

    Something most may not know is that software can be installed from the package manager while running the live environment! Nice if a tool is missing by default :-)

  6. Mohammed Arabiat says:

    Very clever trick!

  7. Gary says:

    Very Nice! Works like a charm!
    Thanks!

  8. Albert Bill says:

    Excellent tip! and extremely easy to setup. Thanks Michael.

  9. hexackaro says:

    I prefer live cd/usb tool.
    For me this is a security breach…
    Otherwise tnx for the news…

  10. medo says:

    it very nice
    but is it work in win xp?

  11. Gigi says:

    You could use %windir% and %systemdrive% for not worrying about the partition letter ;)

  12. WinXpUser says:

    Yeah this works on Windows XP.

  13. Gigi, you can’t use environment variables here because you have to use Windows PE to boot up. %winddir% does not point to the offline Windows installation.

  14. ptantiku says:

    brilliant!!!

  15. furicle says:

    ophcrack
    Because most people pick simple passwords :-)

  16. Riv says:

    Hey Michael,

    I used this method and it worked perfectly!

    I understand why you recommend to reload that other file since everytime i do 5 shift clicks it automatically opens the window.

    I’m not very good with computers though. What would be the commands to reverse the process?

    Thanks,

    Riv

  17. furicle, ophcrack might take a little longer, and you wouldn’t use it to crack your own password because you don’t use simple passwords, right? ;-)

    Riv, boot up again from DVD, access the command prompt as described in option 2 and then enter copy /y c:\sethc.exe c:\windows\system32\sethc.exe. After your rebooted everything should be back to normal.

  18. Shaun says:

    Thanks for posting this. My sister received a computer from a friend who had forgotten their admin password and was able to get her on through the steps you posted. So once again thank you.

  19. Ivan says:

    Thanks so much for the nice publication!
    It saved me from reinstalling Windows which was going to lead to the loss of my Programs. I am the only one with the administration privileges. I changed the password unknowingly while trying to explore more on the use of the command prompt. Otherwise its now okay!
    Thanks

  20. Ivan says:

    By the way how does one replace the sethc.exe after he is successful? Thank you

  21. Ivan, I have added this info now at the end of the article.

  22. ivan says:

    Yeah this is great!
    Thanks i am going to try setting it back and copy it.

  23. chinaski says:

    cheers mate, you saved my a**! :-)

  24. C.Cimino says:

    Very simple and worked perfectly.

  25. Nathan says:

    What a usefull trick. But .. A patch/hotfix exist for this vulnerabily ? Because it’s dangerous a lot. I can acces to any programs, netsh or even any other exe file. This is not very secure … I guess that is present in server too ?

    Admin backdoor ? =/

  26. turking says:

    7 a) net localgroup administrators you_user_name /add

  27. Max says:

    Even simpler method: download the orphcrack.iso
    burn a CD. boot the system and as it boots, the Lice Cd will reveal ALL Passwords on the system.

  28. RM says:

    I must be missing something, especially since everyone finds this easy. I’m a complete idiot when it comes to computers and these step-by-step instructions seemed to be working correctly, however, my password didn’t reset. When I get to the “Shift 5 times” prompt that is at the top of this article it doesn’t show “The system cannot find…..” message. Instead it looks like it’s running correctly. Any ideas? I have the CD and can access the command prompt. I found the partition drive information to make sure I’m using the correct drive letter….?!?

  29. Tereflegn says:

    Thank you Michael! Your Sticky Keys trick solved my problem.

  30. Fado says:

    Engineer Mike. Please I didnot understand the step 7. After pressing the shift key 5 times. It brought the command but I didnot know what to type there. Also I didnot understand what you mean by checking “SCREENSHOT ABOVE”. Please can you send the solution to my e-mail address I need it urgently. I will be expecting it sir. Thanks a lot. You are unique.

  31. Thomas says:

    thanks – this was a great help !

    thomas

  32. Michael says:

    Awesome!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Brilliant. Thanks so much.

  33. jade says:

    what do you mean Boot from Windows PE or Windows RE and access the command prompt.

  34. F2lt says:

    Boot with a Ubuntu Live CD, but it’s the same steps.
    Thank you !

  35. Brian says:

    Utterly impressive, it’s clean, no residual effects, no software to install. I could only wish to be good enough to have figured this out.

  36. Matt says:

    Does this still work? I just tried this today and it hung at the Windows 7 boot up screen and then did a memory dump :-(

    Was there a hot fix released from Microsoft to fix this?

  37. dsgardner says:

    worked great 4 me!!

  38. Essex Quam Videri says:

    I tried this to fix the RA Media Server account problem on a Dell but the password does not reset even though the command is successful.

  39. SilentKid says:

    Doesn’t work for me. Most likely because I’m new to this thing :(

    When I open the console and type in my username and password, it says my syntax is wrong.

    Pls help me out.

    PS: as an example, if my username is Jason Tang and the password i want is littlecat67, what should I write in the command prompt? (if it isn’t too much of a hassle, can I have the FULL command?)

  40. Tim120 says:

    This is awesome! Sounds like it works great too! I have a client that lost their password and I’m gonna use this method. couldn’t you slave the drive to another pc instead of using a PE?

  41. Donald Robak says:

    Michael,

    Thank you!
    This was my wife’s computer. We had not forgotten the password. Somehow, it had changed. One day we were not able to access the computer.
    I used this technique and it worked just as you said. I used a variation, though. I used a Ubuntu install disk.

  42. Alfred says:

    It works! Thank You!

  43. Tim120 says:

    Great advice! It worked for me by slaving the hard drive to another pc, then taking ownership (boot to safe mode, right click the file, select properties and goto security tab) of cmd.exe and sethc.exe on the locked out drive. A quick copy and paste via explorer then renamed cmd.exe to set.exe and I was in. Thank You!

  44. Tim120 says:

    oh and btw. I have ophcrack, john the ripper and Cain and Abel. It was not a simple password.

  45. nick says:

    mike, i would really like to thank you for saving me alot of time and money. this fiz is very detailed and works great, i will recomend you to everyone
    thank you

  46. Justin says:

    Can’t thank you enough.
    Every other method seemed to think there was no windows partition or no ntfs partition. (all my usual methods and some new found by searching) This was my first job on windows 7 and I was stumped. I used the thread for making a usb Windows PE and then continued onto this thread.
    Worked like a charm and is actually easier than it appears to be from the directions.
    This method was my last resort as it appeared the most complex. Really it wasn’t.
    I am thinking of leaving it and not changing back as I do not doubt I will have more issues to fix from this specific user down the road.
    Thanks a bunch.

  47. Kathy says:

    My brother tried this several times and has problems entering the command after hitting the shift 5 times. Can you please tell me EXACTLY what to enter as a command if for example my user name is katrina and my new password is cat?

  48. Kathy, it would be: net user katrina cat

  49. Candelario Dimas says:

    Hi, i had problems when i tried to change user password, because the name wasn’t listed in the net user list, then i tried typing the command “compmgmt.msc” in the command prompt, this opened the window of computer management and there i could change the user password. (Sorry for my english, but hope this could help others people). From Colombia Thanks for the help.

  50. Bebe says:

    this does not work on NTFS win xp accses denied

  51. mike says:

    Amazing. Thanks

  52. Joseph says:

    This one works!!! Good look bro! thanks…For those of you who have problems, follow his instructions step by step, every single detail.

  53. Freego says:

    Got to step 7, thanks. How do I input a double account name?

  54. mike says:

    This seems too good to be true. Are there any circumstances it does not work? Will it work with a 64 bit windows 7 system?

  55. sam127 says:

    thanks a lot.it worked on my acer aspire 6920g.also saved me a lot of money and time.thanks again.

  56. Ed says:

    I was waiting for your reply to double user names, (user names made up of two words), as this seems to ruin the syntax. The system tries to use the first word of the name as the user, and the second as the password.
    How does one get around this?
    I have the problem that I know the user password, but after entering the password the system gives the error “group policy client service failed the logon”
    Not sure what this means or needs to fix it.

    Ed

  57. ZACH says:

    Hi, I changed my password last week and i cant remember it, I lost the CD that came with my laptop. please tell me how to get in the computer!!

  58. ZACH. Sure I can tell you how to get in the computer. Read this article. :)

  59. Wasserman says:

    Excelent! I use Ubuntu LiveCd and works!
    Thanks!

  60. Eric says:

    The Sticky Key solution worked.
    I used the Ultimate Boot CD to get a GUI environment.
    Then, I found that the sethc.exe file was locked (could not rename). Step 4 did not work. So I did the following:

    5. Use http://download.cnet.com/Unlocker/3000-2248_4-10493998.html Unlocker. Download to a USB flash drive from your pc. Insert USB flash drive in target pc, and install it.
    6. Delete the sethc.exe file usning Unlocker (right click file and you will see Unlocker options). (remember that you have a copy at the root of c:) Rename cmd.exe to sethc.exe.
    7. Reboot your computer and start the Windows installation where you forgot the administrator password.
    8. After you see the logon screen, press the SHIFT key five times.
    9. You should see a command prompt where you can enter the following command to reset the Windows password (see screenshot above):
    net user you_user_name new_password
    If you don’t know your user name, just type net user to list the available user names.
    10. You can now log on with the new password.
    11. Rename c:\windows\system32\sethc.exe to cmd.exe. Move sethc.exe back from C:\ to C:\windows\system32\ .

    Thanks for the help. I hope my addition helps others, too.

  61. Marco IT says:

    Dear Friends,
    thanks a lot for your help, really great! I spent one week over night to solve this problem, I tried a lot of method without positive result. finally i find this page.
    I recover the my mother in love PC….I got 1000 positive points!
    Marco.

  62. sam says:

    I am bit lost! I have followed the instructions till where sethc.exe is backed up and restart and have rebooted the pc with windows xp cd. I have started re installation but do I need to install the OS in a different folder?

    I have get 2 options:
    1,To use the folder and delete the existing windows installation in it , press L.
    2, To use a different folder. press ESC.

    what option do I choose? the ultimate goal is to just reset password and not change any settings on the OS.

  63. Biswajit says:

    Dear Michael

    Its working…

    I am working with a Indian OEM(Hardware)where we need to give POC of our newly launched products. After every POC we used to format our Demo units as admin password is untraceable and its time consuming. But now onwards no formatting will be required as we can reset the password by your easy trick. Thanks a lot. excellent!

    Biswajit

  64. chuck says:

    as another user stated..i have a 2 name user account..how do you enter a dual name account. It worked for admin account, but its disable, but not the 2 name user account. how do u enter a 2name user account?

  65. sam, don’t boot from the CD. Remove the CD before you reboot.

    chuck, type this: net user “Name1 Name2″ password

  66. chuck says:

    well still no luck still with the 2name user name…thx anyway…i did your registry trick instead..enabling admin account..SWEET!! UDA MAN :-)

  67. ana says:

    hey there, my brother has a toshiba netbook and it doesn’t have a drive for a cd, so is there a way to do it without a disc ?

  68. Wesley says:

    Worked like a charm. Thank you very much for this tutorial!

  69. Domas S says:

    Awesome, worked like a charm… Nice trick

  70. Steve says:

    awesome!!!

  71. mcwood says:

    works on windows server workgroup or domain member or domain oontroller- at the command prompt type compmgmt.msc, dsa.msc, etc… WOW. Even works across an rdp session, yikes!

  72. Paul Robertson says:

    Worked perfectly, thank you!

  73. Awesome dude! Thanks, that worked like a charm.

  74. Davey says:

    Fantastic little trick! Saves me time when doing recovery work. Too often is a PC dropped at the flat, with no admin password relayed!

    Thank you sir, for sharing.

  75. Chris says:

    Hey! :) cool trick! except….it seems to give me access denied messages…why? Is there something I can do to fix this? Could it be that there are Parental Controls on my computer?

  76. Steven Hochman says:

    Amazing, but I can’t do it myself, I will have to find someone who knows what they are doing. I have an employee leave me on bad terms and I don’t know his passwords.
    he stole all my files through a network from his PC

  77. manofthepack says:

    You are a God among men. This works just as well with Vista 64-bit.

    Thanks for the tip.

    M.

  78. sam says:

    Nice!! got it working on Win7. Just like to hightlight,
    “step 5, Reboot your computer and start the Windows installation where you forgot the administrator password.” is bit misleading. You don’t have to start the windows installation you just need to restart the pc and when you are prompted for the credentials you need to hit “SHIFT” 5 times.

    Am I right?

  79. Ali says:

    Sorry, but something is awry with the instructions. I waited and waited for the logon screen to show up. I waited till a new operating system was installed. When I did get to the logon screen on this new OS, hitting the shift key 5 times brought up the sticky keys msg. For those whom it tryly worked, congrats.

  80. Did this exercise on windows 7 and it worked .
    5 Suppose to read, Reboot windows normally, not from CD/DVD and when the log on screen appears proceed to 6.

    Thank you .

  81. Todd says:

    Win 7 64 Ult; worked wonderfully!

    THANKS Michael!!!

  82. Jeans says:

    It’s working well with the french version of Windows 7.

  83. ketan says:

    Awesome dude! Thanks, that worked like a charm.Thank you very much.

  84. saim says:

    thanx dude it work well

  85. Yoyo says:

    Thank You Michael, You Help my Problem..
    I Used Opcrack and then the user not showing
    Then I Used Opcrack to do your step
    Then Enabled my User Administrator
    Restore File
    and Log In into Administrator and Change That User
    and many thanks… Everything goind good.

  86. Maggie says:

    Do we need a CD to reset the password? I don’t understand. But all my work is under the administrator and I forgot the password. Can someone just give me easier steps? Obviously I’m not that bright.

  87. Olaitan says:

    Thanks Michael! Works like a charm! Thanks alot!

  88. Dan says:

    Thanks very much, worked a treat with my Vista PC, saved my bacon!

  89. gemap says:

    machael thanks 4everthing.but i need the key like xp is cctrl+delete.

  90. gemap says:

    machael thanks 4everthing.but i need the key like xp is ctrl+delete.

  91. Andy says:

    Thanks. The Sticky Key worked great to restore our lost Vista password the first time through. Some instructions required some thinking but we figured it out. The screen shot helped clear up some confusion with you_user_name vs your_account. Maybe change “you_user_name” to “your_user_name” and add an instruction to replace “your_user_name” with your logon name and new_password with the new password you want to use would help.

    Andy

  92. fitsum says:

    i really went to say thank you
    you are so great
    but i want to ask you something
    from where did you get this?

  93. lostuser says:

    thanks so much… just installed 7 and a lot of software on a secondary computer a few weeks ago and already forgot the pass (and of course the hint was wrong)!

    saved me a ton of time!

  94. lonelycat says:

    Thank you so much. My son lost his Windows 7 administrator password and your advice let me change the password. It worked perfectly. My son thanks you too.

  95. Valery Marinin says:

    It works like a champ! Thanks.

  96. happy says:

    Thanks! I found it very hard to interpret the instructions though. Maybe some more screenshots are order for the less computer fluent.

    Thanks again

  97. Osama Tamimi says:

    Many thanks dude , it worked

  98. Ganesh says:

    Great stuff and easy one.. I had been struggling for all download and recovery tools download…

  99. Josh says:

    Brilliant! My dad has been getting a lot of spam and spyware on his computer. I finally set him up with a User (not Admin) account. Forgot the password after… This worked so well, I cannot thank you enough! Thanks a lot!

  100. Manijeh says:

    Many thanks,It works…

  101. Dee says:

    Not complicated at all and worked great!! Thanks a million! (:

  102. Kris says:

    Thank you dear sir!

  103. Sam says:

    Great! Your trick really works. Quite simple. Many thanks.

  104. Brent says:

    Absolutely awesome! It worked for me faultlessly! I am very thankful for your help. These steps did not only work, they were extremely easy. Thanks again!

  105. Chocks says:

    Amazing tip!.. you rocking.. saved so many ppl day by this post..

  106. Tehseen says:

    Thanks Sir, U r amazing.

  107. Sarya says:

    Thank you for this article, I have heard about this before but never tried it.
    But I have a question, is there any known file were windows store passwords? And if yes, is it possible to back it up before doing this?

    Thanks again.

  108. Dave says:

    SPLENDID!

  109. Runey says:

    worked fantastically.. i can definitely see the advantage of this, don’t have to waste a disc if you don’t have any of those boot cd’s made.. where as with this i was able to just use my already existing win 7 disc (although my install was vista, it worked fine) and worked a charm :)

  110. sdx says:

    nice trick, done in less than 30 mins…..

  111. Alex says:

    Absolutely brilliant, thank you.

    Just used this to fix my brother’s pc.

  112. Sam says:

    This was like OMG YOU SAVED MY ASS.

    And I’m a pretty heavy geek, but there’s always some trick we can learn.

    As like others guys here, I was pretty upset and was really afraid of using third-party tools to mess up with my SAM database.

    Thanks a lot Microsoft sometimes leave this stupid software holes behind.

    And you saved me a lot of trouble, thanks!

  113. Lloyd Morris says:

    You are a life saver!! ive been locked out of my vista laptop for over 2 years; i was about to sell it for parts and amazingly found this page from google! thank you so, so much finally have a laptop again!

  114. daniel says:

    But what if Sticky Keys is disabled? Why is disabled? Because if you hold SHIFT (to stop autorun on cd for example) it activates, or some KVM use double SHIFT as a special action, etc.

  115. lostpass says:

    Worked great — thanks a million +1

  116. bafutu says:

    Brilliant, worked like a charm!

  117. Woody says:

    So great! That’s really work for my trouble. Thank you so much.

  118. Kash says:

    Awsome dude. Really clean solution.
    Was confused in the beginning though, I was typing:
    net user Admin new 12345.
    I saw a few peeps confused up her too. So for all:
    User name: Admin
    New password: 12345

    Command: net user Admin 12345

    Keep up the goodwork!

  119. Ess says:

    This has been one the best tricks I ever came across!!! Thanx a mill guy, you rock!

    It works like magic with no error….

  120. Ankush says:

    Bravo i tried this method and worked successfully…
    Thanks a lot

  121. Fabri says:

    Impressive.

    Thanks for your work, it helped me a lot.

  122. olo says:

    Great! Thank you very much.

  123. Dayo says:

    Great stuff man.

  124. David says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!!! Instead of OS disk used NTFS4DOS boot disk.

  125. antoine mayrant says:

    it worked!!! thanks but i do have a problem now. my product key is invalid.

  126. Tyrmyk says:

    Brilliant!
    You saved my life, THANK YOU!!!

  127. Bren says:

    You can start Windows RE by booting the Windows Vista or Windows 7 setup DVD and then selecting “Repair” instead of “Install Windows.”*********

    As a rule, I can figure out anything but his one is tough. I put in the CD and got to repair but I can’t find a way to get to the editor.

    Will you please help me out. I am in desperate need of getting into my adm account. Thank you so much

  128. Temmy says:

    You are blessed. It worked perfectly. I appreciate. Thanks so much.

  129. William Smead says:

    ok…i tried this and it gives me a syntax suggestion. What command would it be if user is Libby Mae and password is blondie? (on log in screen)

  130. hwrd says:

    thank you, great help.

  131. Aloysius says:

    Hi I need help, basically I am using option 4 to reset the administrator password. However when I boot to Windows RE I cannot able to find the sethc.exe file in the X:\windows\system32 directory. I am not sure is it because of the access problem since I was only given access as a standard user where I just log in to domain but not give rights to install any applications..

    Thanks

  132. Yobee Ziskey says:

    Lifesaver! May the Lord of IT save us all from users…

  133. Rich Bartels says:

    Wow! after day day of struggling and false leads, I found your solution and it worked in 10 minutes! Thank you.

  134. ugh says:

    Amazing :) thanks a lot

  135. Lars M says:

    Woow! This is great thank´s
    works perfectly.

  136. matt says:

    thanks great trick, workded a treat

  137. SK says:

    Great article. Thx

  138. Richie says:

    Thanks a lot this is awesame help

    Keep up the good work!!!!

    Cheers

  139. BBS543 says:

    WORKED LIKE A CHARM. THANKS SOOOO MUCH!!!!

  140. Mary says:

    Thank-you. I haven’t had to access a command prompt in years and was scared to death! You made it easy.

  141. goldy says:

    Great! it works without any glitch .. thanks a lot

  142. Vj says:

    Thanks a lot Michael, saved me a lot of trouble!

  143. newIT says:

    Very helpful! Thanks!

  144. rlai000 says:

    Yes, it works like a charm on Windows 7 x64

    Here is some suggestion:

    1) for those who concerned about security, remember that “physical” security is the first. No matter how hard is your security, ones who physically get your computer could do whatever needs to go into the system

    2) I would suggest to “rename” the file sethc.exe (like rename it to _sethc.exe) instead of copying to other location. So, after the password reset, you could rename it back

    -rlai000

  145. David says:

    I’m working on a Win 7 Starter & the default admin account was never activated. The user has forgotten the password & this is a close as I’ve gotten to unlocking it without buying software. None of the steps works. Can’t get a command prompt, can’t get into BIOS setup to boot from a USB (password protected – forgotten). Nothing seems to work.

  146. Daryl says:

    Can you send me a video link on how you carry about this trick. Im very new to computers and I am already receiving trouble at step2. It keeps giving me syntax errors and some other errors as well.

  147. Jubayer Arefin says:

    I have lost my Vista passwords so after some “search and destroy” I landed here and see some hope. I also found that torrents for MSDaRT 5.0 and 6.0 is available so I am going to use 6.0 for my machine.

    Thanks to the author.

  148. Arun Gupta says:

    Michael,
    Yesterday I was trying to log in to my wife’s laptop’s admin account when I realized that I had forgotten the password. No matter what I tried, just could not remember it. I tried ophcrack but I had set the password so complex that it was useless. Then I came across your site and was able to reset the password in 10 minutes. Thanks for publishing this very useful method.

    Arun

  149. vanky says:

    thanks dude,it worked great.brilliant…

  150. Shimon says:

    you may use hiren boot CD version 15.0 and above..
    in there- use the offline password manager

    http://mirror.leaseweb.com/hirensbootcd/Hirens.BootCD.15.0.zip

  151. Fernando says:

    very good trick!!! Thanks for share it.

  152. massmeister says:

    awesome.
    you saved my day
    million thanks
    ;)

  153. Sergio says:

    Awesone, It works just fine and easy

    A bunch of thank

  154. Chris says:

    Great, girlfriend locked herself out of her computer, I’m now the hero.

    Thank you for this method!

  155. Phil says:

    Brilliant fix thanks – I used the vista replace file method worked a treat.

  156. Ramacher says:

    Thank you SOO MUCH! I was trying for the past day to recover my password and everything failed but this!

    Instead of using Windows PE, I took my main HDD out and placed it in another PC and followed your guide (had to change ownership of the sethc.exe file to overwrite it).

    Thanks again!

  157. Mikel says:

    Hi Michael,

    I followed your steps, but in step 6 I encountered a new problem. After hitting 5 times “Shift” I got the promt but than every key I hit produced a “?”. Thus I was unable to type in “net user etc”.
    Do you have any suggestion for that?
    Thank you!
    Mikel

  158. Mikel says:

    Hi again,

    I found the solution by chance. The Laptop I used had an inbuilt tripple letter set: german, english and russian. Apparently only the russian one worked. Probably this was the default keyboard which Vista must have been used when I was encoding the password.

    Note I had not forgot my password but it just did not work anymore.

  159. tlwhitec says:

    Thanks! Works like a charm!

  160. Kevin says:

    Thanks Michael

    I had a problem invoking the cmd editor to restore the original sethc.exe file.

    How do I do this?

    Kevin

  161. Kevin, you have to boot up again from CD. You can’t replace system files while the OS is online.

  162. Ron says:

    Hi Michael,
    Followed your instructions without any problems. After pressing shift five times, command prompt came up just fine. Typed net user and the user accounts were listed but also said “The command completed with one or more errors.” I went ahead and entered net user . The screen told me the command completed successfully. However, when I typed in the user name and password at the login screen, I got the response “your account has been disabled. Please see your administrator.”

    Any help much appreciated.

    Thanks,
    Ron

  163. Ron, you have to enable your account or the administrator account. Read this.

  164. Ron says:

    Michael,
    Thanks for the additional help. The machine now boots into windows without a password but i can access nothing. i get an error, “The server process could not be started because the configured identity is incorrect. Check the user name and password.”
    Ron

  165. Ron, seems you not only have a password problem. Perhaps it is faster to reinstall everything?

  166. Brian says:

    Michael, worked like a charm. Thanks so much for posting this!

  167. Mike Milla says:

    thank you very much. I was able to use a windows 7 home premium family 3 pack upgrade disk to boot into repair mode and reset the password on a windows vista install. The catch was that it needed to be the correct bit. I tried the 64 bit disk first and it didnt work but the 32 bit disk worked. Awesome. This helped me access the factory recovery built into the pc.

  168. Simo says:

    My account name is Mohamed Amajoutt what should I type in the command prompt of step 6. When I type “net user mohamed amajoutt new_password it gives me a syntax error. pleas help.

    thanks

  169. Mike Milla says:

    This Comment is for Simo

    It doesnt seem like anyone verified that it works, but I saw a post where someone recommended this syntax.

    net user “mohammad amajoutt” new_password

    or

    net user mohammad_amajoutt new_password

    please let me know if any of these work. I havent had a computer to try this way. But I really cant think of another way to type it.

    I believe if you type

    net help user

    it tells you to use quotes. Please verify if it works!

  170. Sarya Taha says:

    @ Simo
    usually when working with files’ and folders’ names in DOS you should remove the spaces, so try this
    net user mohammadamajoutt new_password

  171. Manvendra says:

    but we have to know the credential like user name and password of user account..

  172. stan says:

    On step 4 it says my access is denied what do i do
    Thanks

  173. Dave says:

    Michael,

    Just wanted to say thanks. My girlfriend forgot her PW, and I used this trick to change it.
    Worked like a charm. I am now a hero.

  174. Merk says:

    I don’t have an install disk because most new laptops come with a recovery partition, which of course cant be accessed without a password. lol so I removed the hard drive and added it to another computer running Vista. The permissions for sethc.exe needed to be changed in order to copy or rename it. Vista and Win7 let you do that easy. You can do this in XP but its not as simple. BAM! I’m in! Great article!

  175. Inspectorgadget says:

    This worked perfectly, but I got confused also when it was time to change the password and user name..type…

    net user doug 12345

    doug is the name of the account on my machine and 12345 is the password I chose…worked perfectly!

  176. Nikki says:

    I tried this on my daughters computer and the sticky keys message comes up after i press shift and not the command prompt what am i doing wrong

  177. nishant says:

    i m using windows 7
    when i wrote that command in command prompt it says that
    access is denied
    o files copied

  178. Shahid says:

    awesome

  179. D3las says:

    Genious, thank you very much…

  180. rhys says:

    IT WONT WORK 4 ME!!

  181. Sam says:

    Hello
    Please help! I’ve tried putting the first thing in you say in the command box but it says “the system cannot find the file specified”. I tried exchanging c with d but still no joy. Any ideas please. Sam

  182. flamento says:

    Hi Michael, i am using Win 7 Professional in a notebook that belongs to my enterprise, and i don´t have administrator´s rights to install my personal programs, so i ask you, doing the steps you posted it, should i be able to log in like and administrator? My enterprise should be able to discover what i did? tks

  183. flamento, yes the admins of your enterprise can detect that you changed the administrator password.

  184. mick says:

    Worked on Win 7 64 bit….like a charm – very easy.
    Thanks very much Michael

  185. James says:

    Nice trick and very easy to follow. Thanks o much.

    I just followed this trick to reset my forgotten admin password on Win7.

  186. cathy says:

    I can not access my computer user name administrator account,. I was able to get into an other account that i was able to remember the password. but can not access any administrator objects with out the password. is there anyway i can access it any other way or clear the password so i can use that account again .

  187. Gina says:

    Thank you so much! I am NOT computer savvy but with your instructions I was able to access my Windows 7. I agree with inspectorgadgets comment earlier…I got a little confused when it was time to change the net user password. Luckily, I was able to figure it out. Thanks again! :)

  188. Hartwig Anderlik says:

    Dear Michael
    I use my name as account name with a space between them.
    Hartwig Anxxxxx “one space” and then my new password.
    I’m not successful
    I would like same additional help.

    Thank you for your consideration.

  189. Alan says:

    I couldn’t get past the part where you press shift five times – when i do that it brings up a box which says ‘Do you want to turn on sticky keys?’ There is a Yes or No button but whichever one I press takes me back to the logon screen – I can’t get a command prompt.This is Windows 7 home and the logon screen has just the user name already written in and the singl password box underneath. I don’t have the ctrl-alt-del option.

  190. coolass says:

    nice thank you, you saved my data which i kept on my desktop thanks a lot :)

  191. Vikas garg says:

    access is denied…
    0 file(s) copied…
    such things are shown over the command prompt screen.
    what to do???

  192. Bill says:

    Bravo Michael very Nice!!! I just used this rather than the .iso method, i have used that method for years.

  193. stelioc says:

    if your username is more than one word then you type

    net user “your user name” password

  194. DC 92 says:

    Worked after typing in net user to list administrator name, which was spelled differently than the login in name. Thank you for publishing this information, saved me from installing Win 7 again!

  195. Jonathan says:

    Worked like a charm! That is a great trick. Easy and safe for the average user.

  196. kuroiyagi says:

    can anyone help me. After i finished step 4 and reboot my laptop. It just starts running windows repair again and again…but cannot see logon screen.

  197. Muhammad Ali says:

    Thank You Very Much Mr. Michael Pietroforte

    Your Post Help me very much as I was going to loose Some Special Programes Installed in My PC, which I could not afford to loose by Re-installing the Windows.

    Thanks Again

  198. Ron Ellis says:

    Very helpful…. Thank you!

  199. atif says:

    hi ,
    i tried using this command, but when i type >net user administrator newpassword : whatever password i put in it still not let me login and saying about password requirement and policy etc

    please help

  200. lazylemur says:

    Absolutely brilliant. I did the copying under Ubuntu LiveCD, it is really easy. Working well on updated Windows 7 Pro. Thank you!

  201. Mustafa says:

    Awesome. It works for me. Many many thanks.

  202. birmaram says:

    really it is nice method ……………….
    i agree your method ………………

  203. Andreas says:

    Hello,

    I tried the above but did not worked; so I just started the command prompt from the windows installation CD ( I have windows 7 Ultimate)
    and typed : net user administrator 1234
    clicked enter and the administrator account then was visible and password was 1234.
    If the above command returns an invalid or unknown user account name, then type : net user
    and the cmd will return the available user names.

    Best Regards

    Andreas from Cyprus

  204. April says:

    I tried this sticky fingers method but i now cant get to a command prompt. I turn off laptop the wrong way and it says start with safemode and command prompt but it simply reboots in safe mode and doesnt take me to the darn c prompt. I got to it once last night this way but i was using someone elses instructions and they didnt work. I suppose i am also a bit confused about the instructions anyway. I believe there is, for us pc for dummies people, a lack of steps or at least explanation of steps in the beginnin with the ctrl+alt+delete thing. Please help me! I am bed ridden and my laptop is my only livelyhood.
    Thanks

  205. Tim says:

    Worked like a charm ! Thanks alot

  206. Peter says:

    I’m another one who can’t access the command line in the reboot. Pressing ‘shift’ 5 times brings up the sticky keys prompt. What’s the fix for this?

  207. Peter says:

    Got it! I was in the wrong sector the first time. when all else fails, re-read the directions slowly.

  208. Xing says:

    Omg thank you sooooo much !

  209. Imran says:

    Thanks, it works & not so complicated.

  210. thatotherguy says:

    I guess I’m pretty dense but I don’t understand this line

    “Please note that resetting the password from an account other than the corresponding user ”

    You haven’t logged in, right? So your credentials are always lost this way?

  211. @thatotherguy. Exactly. If you follow the method described here, you will loose data that was encrypted by Windows.

  212. David says:

    Hi All,

    I used this method to get to a prompt, and then issued the “control sysdm.cpl” command in order to bring up the System Properties dialog. I was then able to take my laptop out of the Domain it belonged to. This was required to fix the “The trust relationship between this workstation and the primary domain has failed” error that came up earlier. My specific challenge was that I did not have any knowledge of the local logon’s password, and therefore couldn’t sign onto the computer either through the Domain or locally.

    Thanks so much for this method.

    Kind Regards,

    David

  213. kimberly says:

    When i try and do this on the other account (not administrator account) it says my access is denied. What should i do? I have windows vista.

  214. Ken says:

    This article saved my life. After losing the pwd on a 2003 box we were looking at reloading a dual os. Thanks to this sticky keys fix we were able to reset it and save countless hours.

  215. SR says:

    Thanks! Definitely worked for me!

  216. Jonathan says:

    When trying either step 3 or 4 I get “the device is not ready.” I have tried using all the different USB ports on my computer. Any advice?

  217. Patrick says:

    Freakin Awesome! Worked perfectly. Thanks!

  218. Ren says:

    This is great. Had pictures on the computer I had to save. worked fantastic.

  219. sudarshan says:

    gr8 work, just awesome

  220. Harry says:

    It says access is denied.

  221. Melanie says:

    Yes it says access is denied do you have a work around? We have an old laptop in the office that no one has used in many years. I would like to set it up as a spare but cannot add or update any programs as the passwords I have are for the users who had limited account access. Assistance is appreciated!

  222. If accessed was denied then you probably didn’t boot from a Windows DVD and just used the command on the Windows installation where you want to reset the password.

  223. Stevep says:

    Thank you for this – worked brilliantly.

  224. Daniel says:

    thanks Mike..tried with Win 7 Pro 64-bit and really works..!!!

  225. shaan says:

    how to see windows 7 password without clearing password

  226. ashley says:

    i need help connecting to the internet i installed my laptop at my aunts house when i first bought it but i moved back here with my mom. and i cant access to the internet here,.only when i go to my aunt house.

  227. Dilipa says:

    this is unbelivable! it workes!! i have done the same but when click install i selected upgrade…then it ask me to take the CD and start windows normally and then insert the CD. when it restart and display the admin user i did the trick with Shift key and….. WOW i actually reset my admin Password and log on to the PC using it.

    Thanks Mate!!!

  228. Chad says:

    I can’t get it to work I have tried several times with the command prompt

  229. lisa says:

    how do you find out the new password

  230. fifi says:

    I seriously am lost… ok I have an administrator account which I have forgotten the password.. I have a standard user account only and I just cant create a password user disk.. its getting on my nerves coz I am not getting any where. Please I need some help and I mean a simple explanations please. Is there any way I can reset my admin password?

  231. alisha salgaonkar says:

    it worked…
    u simply awsmmm
    If I couldn’t recover my password…den wld hd in lot f trouble
    as tmrw s my xam n all my data is in my lappy
    thnxx alottt :)

  232. Ailee says:

    telling me access is denied?

  233. Mikael says:

    I cannot even begin to tell you how greatful I am for this, you saved my Christmas.
    Works like a charm and no need for shady third-party products.

    Thanks again.

  234. Paul G says:

    Well, that saved me a whole load of work! Great post, keep up the good work.

    Thanks.

  235. jeremy says:

    if I was publishing a fix, I’d explain it in precise detail. So that a person like myself is able to understand. These are my problems, do I use a third party software??? Yes, or no? I read CD this CD that. Their is no CD drive in my Acer one. I’ve read through all the commentary. Others have addressed this issue. The solution still eludes me. I have studied computers for tlhree days now. I could never get a command prompt. :-( I just put the OS on a flash drive. And booted from there. At least I stillgot a hard drive. Thanks all of you. very interesting line of work.

  236. Chris Wylie says:

    Just wanted to thanks! This thread lives on. I actually used the “net localgroup administrators you_user_name /add” suggestion because I joined a system to the domain without adding my group to administrators. Doh!

  237. Anil says:

    Thanks mate… you are a STAR!

  238. Chris says:

    Great tip, it saved my life !

  239. Cathy says:

    Thank you! It worked like a champ. My father had messed up his account with admin privileges and luckily I had set up an admin account for myself, but had forgotten the password. I was able to reset mine and then fix his. Now I have setup another Admin account and changed his to standard user.

  240. Robert Allen says:

    I followed the instructions, and everything appeared to copy correctly into the d: partition. When I re-boot, I get to the log-in screen, and press the shift key 5 times, and I get the message “do you want to turn on sticky keys?” I say yes, here a whistle when I press the next key, and nothing happens, no command prompt. I suspect that similar to a comment above, perhaps even though it says the file is copied, maybe I am not overwriting the sethc.exe with cmd.exe? I feel like I am soooo close, but sooo far!

    H E L P !!!!!

    If I can’t get this to work, I am going to have to re-load this machine, and I would prefer not to do so in order to not lose software for which I no longer know the whereabouts of their discs. On the other hand, it is infuriating that I am locked out of basic things as simple as changing the time on my computer clock within the Windows GUI environment, let alone maintenance items and adding miscellaneous shareware programs to make my life simpler.

    (Re-posted this to click on box to get email notifications of future responses, sorry for the duplication)

  241. Robert, it appears sethc.exe was not copied correctly. What Windows version do you have? Are you sure that Windows in on drive D?

  242. Robert Allen says:

    Follow-up:

    While in the command prompt using the Windows RE environment, I confirmed that the sethc.exe file was in the D partition. In the Windows GUI, it shows up at the C drive so I wanted to make sure I had done that correctly.

    When I look in the Windows GUI as the properties of the Sethc.exe file, it shows that users cannot modify the file. When I followed your directions previously, it reported back “file copied successfully” in the command prompt environment. It still seems to me that my machine is not letting me overwrite the sethc.exe command in the System32 directory; or, perhaps when this machine was loaded something was modified to try to frustrate this method? Is there a way to copy either a clean cmd.exe and then overwrite the sethc.exe with it form the setup disk directly?

    As I understand the process you have described, even though we are using the RE disk to access the command prompt, we are still manipulating files already installed on the machine. is there a way to overwrite one of these previously installed files, taking a clean file from the RE disk and replacing the one on the machine,
    to make this method work?

    Thanks.

    Robert

  243. Robert Allen says:

    Hi, sorry, I forgot to answer your question directly:
    1. I have Windows 7 Enterprise, SP1
    2. In the command prompt, if entering from the Windows GUI, it shows up on the C drive. If in the RE command prompt, it shows up as the D drive.

  244. Robert, if you booted from the Windows setup CD, you should be able to overwrite any file on the system drive of the machine (if the partition is not encrypted with BitLocker). The way you described it, you didn’t overwrite the correct seth.exe. Perhaps there is more than one Windows installation on the computer?

    Perhaps you didn’t copy cmd.exe to the correct folder? I recommend comparing the file sizes of cmd.exe and seth.exe. They should be the same now.

  245. Robert Allen says:

    HMMM…

    I just went back to the RE command prompt to look at the directories. It has been A LONG TIME since I have used DOS commands but surprisingly, some of it is coming back to me.

    I found cmd.exe in the D drive, with a size of 345,088, but I did not see sethc.exe. I found it: I had copied it to the C drive instead of the D drive where the other windows files reside. The sethce.exe file that I copied has a size of 279,040.

    So…

    If I understand correctly, I should do the following:

    a) copy the original (279kb) sethc.exe file back into the D partition where it belongs in the system32 directory.

    b) overwrite this file by copying the (345kb) cmd.exe file to the now correctly located sethce.exe file. When complete, both the cmd.exe and the sethc.exe files will both be the 345.088kb in size.

    It should work at that point, yes?

    Thank you SOOO much for your help

    ANYWHERE. I a

  246. Sounds like a good plan. :)

  247. Robert Allen says:

    Ok, sorry, accidentally sent that before finished:

    In the D partition, I now find the following:

    sethc.exe (279kb) the original file
    setc.ex (388kb) I assume the copied cmd.exe file?
    sethc.ex (388 kb) also the copied cmd.exe file?

    What should I do, and how do I do it?

  248. It is difficult to follow where you copied what. I would try this:
    copy /y d:\windows\system32\cmd.exe d:\windows\system32\sethc.exe

  249. Robert Allen says:

    SUCCESS!!

    I must have had a few typos, or put things in the wrong directory, but in fact, WHEN I followed your directions and UNDERSTOOD what I was doing, it all worked! Thank you again for your help.

    Robert

  250. decars says:

    When I do step 3 it says that “the system cannot the path specified”, I am running windows 8 and I have 2 drives, I have tried both of them and it did not work, please help, for the love of gaben

  251. declars, after you booted from the setup CD, you have to find the system drive of the installation which you want to modify. It is probably on drive D: and the command in step 3 would then be:
    copy dc:\windows\system32\sethc.exe c:\

  252. Linley Sharp says:

    Michael, 4 years after your first post your advice is still rock solid! Salute to you.

  253. Patrick Jackman says:

    I can’t copy the files.

    “Access denied.
    0 files copied.:

  254. Linley, thanks. :)

    Patrick, did you boot from the Windows DVD?

  255. jerry says:

    Michael. The sticky keys trick worked great on a Windows laptop! I used the trick along with a Knoppix boot disk to reset the admin account of a brother-in-law who died suddenly with a will but without a list of his passwords. Your advice made a tragic situation a little more bearable for a grieving family. Thank you. Jerry S.

  256. Jeff Tan says:

    Hi Michael,

    Thanks for the guide.
    May i know is there any fix to prevent this?
    -Jeff

  257. Jeff Tan says:

    Hi Michael,
    Thanks for reply!
    Restrict physical access – not suitable, because the machines are for student to access.
    Encrypt the system drive with BitLocker – not suitable, as we aren’t trying to protect data in this case.
    Change BIOS settings – This one OK.
    Use the SysKey utility – not suitable, because the machines are for student to access.
    You may add this to one of the preventive measurement, which is disable sticky key, you can refer here: http://blog.duklabs.com/?p=96
    -Jeff

  258. I worked for a University and we had all our student PCs in cages. No big deal. The cages are cheap. BitLocker is suitable because it is the best protection against password reset hacks. I think your solution doesn’t really help because it doesn’t protect against other password reset hacks. This one or this one for example.

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