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Local account password reset not working
If you try to reset the password of a Microsoft account with the net user command as described in step 9 in my previous post, you will receive the message “The system is not authoritative for the specified account and therefore cannot complete the operation. System error 8646 has occurred .” This makes sense. If this worked, then anybody who has physical access to your computer would also be able to log on with your account in Microsoft’s cloud.
The system is not authoritative for the specified account and therefore cannot complete the operation - System error 8646 has occurred.
However, there is a workaround that allows you to log on—even if you have no other account for this Windows 8 computer—and access the data of the Microsoft account for which you lost the password. All you have to do is enable the built-in administrator account. I describe how you can do this on Windows 8 in my next post.
Just to be sure not to confuse anybody, I should explain the difference between a local Windows 8 account and a Microsoft account, so you know if the procedure described in this post is for you or if you can reset the password of a local account.
A local account is just what we always used to log on to a Windows machine (if the computer is not a member of a Windows domain). All credentials for this account are stored only on the local computer.
A Microsoft account is connected to an email address which is why they it also called “connected account”; its credentials are stored in Microsoft’s cloud and are locally cached, so you can also log on without an Internet connection. The email address can be a Hotmail account, a Live account, an Outlook.com account, or any other email address that you registered in Microsoft’s cloud. The main advantages are that you don’t have to sign in when you use one of Microsoft’s cloud apps and that Windows 8 app settings are synchronized between PCs.
You can decide during the Windows 8 setup process which account type you use to log on to Windows 8. If you don’t know if you have been using a Microsoft account or a local account, you can follow the procedure for the local account until step 9. If you get the “The system is not authoritative for the specified account…” error message, you are using a Microsoft account. You can then proceed with step 6 in the first guide in my next post.
If you still have access to the computer you can recognize connected accounts by their email address in the Manage Accounts app in the Control Panel.
Connected Microsoft account
Online password reset
Another advantage of a Microsoft account is that you can reset your password of online. (The most difficult part here is to enter the correct CAPTCHA. I usually take 4-5 tries. CAPTCHA cracking tools are probably much better at this.)
If you have configured a second email account for password restoration, Microsoft will send you a password to this email address. Another option is to reset the password by phone, provided that you configured a phone number. Microsoft is really doing this.
I once forgot the password of an Office 365 test account for which I didn’t pay anything. Because I was curious, I tried the “password reset by phone” feature. A few hours later, I really did receive a phone call from a Microsoft support engineer, from the U.S., on my German mobile number. That’s what I call support. Thus before you enable the built-in Windows 8 administrator account as described in my next post, I would try the online password reset procedure.
Just in case you are thinking you can reset the Microsoft account password by using the built-in administrator account, this doesn’t work either. The Windows 8 User app in the PC Settings doesn’t offer a password reset option for the Microsoft account, and the corresponding feature in the Computer Management application will throw the same error as on the command prompt: “The system is not authoritative for the specified account…”
You see now how the cloud changes everything. Even with an administrator account, you are no longer the master of your PC. Perhaps it is possible to hack into the cached password of the Microsoft account. However, this probably is not doable without third-party tools. If you know how to do this, share your wisdom in a comment below.
In my next post, I will explain how you can enable the built-in administrator account on a Windows 8 machine for which you have no other account.