You forgot the domain admin password? This article explains how you can reset the administrator password in a Windows Server 2008 (R2) and Windows Server 2012 (R2) domain.
Latest posts by Michael Pietroforte (see all)

First of all, you should never work with the “Administrator” account. Each admin should have his own account, for two reasons. First, it makes troubleshooting easier if an admin messes up. Second, if one admin forgets his password, another admin can reset it through Active Directory Users and Computers (ADUC). Whenever you reset a password, however, note that the corresponding account will no longer be able to access passwords stored in Internet Explorer or files that have been encrypted with EFS.

If you forgot the domain admin password, and no other administrator exists in this Windows domain, you can use the procedure below to reset the password. Note that the screenshots are for Windows Server 2012 R2 with Update. However, this guide also works for Windows Server 2012 and Windows Server 2008 R2.

With this password reset method, you have to boot from a second Windows installation. You then have to replace utilman.exe (the Utility Manager with ease-of-use functions such as the Narrator and Magnifier) on a domain controller with the command prompt (cmd.exe). Next, you’ll boot up the machine where you forgot the password, click the Utility Manager icon on the logon screen to launch a command prompt, and then reset the password. Here is the step-by-step guide:

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  1. Boot from a Windows Server 2012 R2 DVD (or ISO file in a virtual environment) and click Next when Windows Setup loads.
    Windows Setup
  2. Press SHIFT + F10 to open a command prompt.
    Open command prompt in Windows Setup
  3. At the command prompt, enter:
    move d:\windows\system32\utilman.exe d:\windows\system32\utilman.exe.bak

    Note: On Windows Server 2008 R2, you will most likely have to replace the drive letter d: with c:. If you are unsure about the drive letter, search for the drive that contains the Windows folder. The driver letter for the instance of Windows PE that started Windows Setup is x:. (Update: As mentioned by Chidi, you can run the diskpart command and then on the displart prompt, you can enter the list vol command to get an overview of the available drives. The system drive should be labeled accordingly.)
    Move utilman.exe

  4. Replace utilman.exe with cmd.exe:
    copy d:\windows\system32\cmd.exe d:\windows\system32\utilman.exe

    Copy cmd.exe

  5. Remove the boot media from the server and tell Windows PE to reboot:
    wpeutil reboot

    wpeutil reboot

  6. Once your domain controller is running again, click the Utility Manager icon.
    Utility Manager icon
  7. At the command prompt that (I hope) opened, reset the domain admin password with this command:
    net user administrator *

    Reset domain admin password

  8. You can now close the command prompt and log on with the new password. However, mainly for security reasons, I highly recommend restoring the original utilman.exe. For this, you have to again boot Windows Server setup, follow steps 1-2, and then enter:
    move /y d:\windows\system32\utilman.exe.bak d:\windows\system32\utilman.exe

    (Replace the drive letter if Windows isn’t installed on the d:)
    Restore utilman.exe

  9. After you removed the boot media, you can reboot the server again with
    wpeutil reboot

    Password reset complete

Obviously, this procedure can be used by anyone who has physical access to your servers. In my next post I will give you a few tips how you can prevent the Utilman.exe password reset trick.

  1. Avatar
    mary grace 8 years ago

    Sir I tried ur method but after typing “net user administrator * ”
    I got a reply of the user ddnt found and NET HELPMSG 2221

  2. Avatar
    Omar 8 years ago

    Thanks worked like a charm on windows 2012 server.

  3. Avatar
    Robert 8 years ago

    Does not work with Win Server 2012 R2

  4. Avatar

    Works well with Windows Server 2012 R2.

  5. Avatar
    Hossein 8 years ago

    Thanks a lot… wonderful documentary … it also works with windows server 2008 R2. just in last step instead of net user administrator * it is better to type dsa.msc

    Thanks again

  6. Avatar
    Shiyas P M 8 years ago

    Hello, I went to reset my Administrator password via repair your computer mode , in Command prompt i cant get Windows drive .so i cant reset Administrator password. how to solve to view Windows installed drive in 2008 r2.

  7. Avatar
    spc 8 years ago

    Thanks Michael….these steps worked for me….
    Thank you so much

  8. Avatar
    Dave_Fox 8 years ago

    Michael, you are a genious! This worked exactly as you said it would and has saved me an incredible amount of time! I can’t thank you enough!

  9. Avatar
    Arnaud 8 years ago

    Thanks so much for the tip 5mn top to reset the domain admin password.
    MAGIC !

  10. Avatar
    Anonymous 8 years ago


  11. Avatar
    Mads Jensen 8 years ago

    Thank you, worked for me on Windows Server 2012 R2 domain admin.

  12. Avatar
    sherah 8 years ago

    Hello.. Y is it that my command prompt appear only narrator etc..
    No other how can i change user password,i forgot the domain pw.

  13. Avatar
    ElSAO 7 years ago

    Thanks Michael

    It works with Windows 2012 AD, I change the Domain Admin password and it was replicated to all DC.

    Thanks my friend from Tijuana Mexico

  14. Avatar
    Peter Camps 7 years ago

    Worked like a charm on Server 2012R2, nice article!

  15. Avatar
    Fabio 7 years ago

    Thank you for the trick

    It saved me

  16. Avatar
    JRidge 7 years ago

    Good job. Very nice…

  17. Avatar
    Gavin 7 years ago

    Im actually amazed that this works!

    However, can confirm on a 2012R2 domain controller. Very well done, thanks.


  18. Avatar
    kamal 7 years ago

    Thanks Michael, it worked!!!

  19. Avatar
    Dark Star 7 years ago

    Thank you VERY much, Michael.  It worked once I actually let go of the automatic habit of “net use” and actually did “net user” :-)!

  20. Avatar
    cszolee 7 years ago

    2012R2 DC, works.

    Thank you, Michael.

  21. Avatar
    Don 7 years ago

    Hi, Can you help me? My case is a bit different. I gave my personal laptop to install/ put on office domain. I quit my job. Moved to another country where I was given a domain connected laptop at my new job. Now its been years… now I dont remember my old login or password. I thought I could clean the laptop and give it to my young nephew just to play games…After all it has 6gb ram and 300 gb hdd. I have the original windows 7 key but it runs on Windows XP as per my previous domain requirements…I tried to log in with whatever left of my memory…it keeps saying “the system cannot log you on now because the domain **** is not availabe.” There are 3 option in “Log on to” drop down menu 1) intranet 2) domain 3) this computer. I tried logging in locally too but had no success. It seems the internal drive is also password protected. The laptop is rightfully mine but I have no Idea what to do with it. can you suggest me some way?

    • Avatar Author

      If the internal drive is password protected, there is not much you can do. You you can try reinstalling Windows, but if you don’t don’t have the BIOS password, this might fail. There are hacking tools for various laptop models that allow you to manipulate the BIOS. However, this is only something for geeks. Another option is to bring the laptop to the manufacturer support. They probably can reset the BIOS and then you can either follow the procedure described in this post or reinstall Windows.

  22. Avatar

    You can try to unlock/force the local admin password using some tool. I suggest to take a look Hiren’s Boot CD. It is a well know tool collections that us a windows pe running on notable USB. It has also some passwords tools that can help you. For example you can use the NTPWedit and reset the local admin pwd. But as already explained by Michael, the hard disk password is more problematic and there is not an easy solution for this pwd.

  23. Avatar

    Forgotten to mention the full link : Hiren’s BootCD


  24. Avatar
    Don 7 years ago

    Hi guys, Thanks for the replies. Mike you were right. Fortunately there wasn’t any bios password…i had misunderstood it. As you suggested i bought a new Windows 8 key…something cheap from eBay and downloaded an iso and installed it. Its a squeaky clean new laptio now. Thanks mate. Appreciate it. Thank to Paolo too…

  25. Avatar

    Well this in fantastic. After the cmd try mmc.exe and add the snapin active directory and users. Gess what .????

    This is brutal.


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