If you forgot the administrator password, it is no big deal to reset the password on a Windows 8 computer. This easy-to-follow, step-by-step guide shows how. The procedure described here also works for Windows 7, Windows Vista, and Windows XP, although I will use a Windows 8 boot DVD in the guide.

Michael Pietroforte

Michael Pietroforte is the founder and editor in chief of 4sysops. He has more than 35 years of experience in IT management and system administration.

There are many ways to reset a forgotten admin password. There are free and commercial tools that all essentially do the same thing. However, as a proud DevOp or cool hacker, it is against your honor to use third-party tools. The guide below describes how to reset a password on a Windows 8 machine where you have no administrator password, in an easy way that even a typical iPad user could follow.

Before I start, I have to add a warning. Resetting a password of a Windows account always means that data that has been encrypted by Windows tools, such as the Encrypting File System (EFS) or stored Internet Explorer passwords, will be lost. You can avoid this by resetting the password of an account that hasn’t been used. For instance, you could enable the built-in administrator account to be able to secure the encrypted data first. If you used BitLocker to encrypt the system drive, you first have to unlock the encrypted Windows partition. If you didn’t use any Windows-based encryption you are save to reset your password with this guide.

The ultimate Windows 8 password reset guide ^

  1. Insert your Windows 8 boot DVD or boot flash drive, turn on the computer, and wait until you see the message Press any key to boot from CD or DVD. Follow the instructions precisely and press any key. (Note: If you don’t see this message, you probably have to change the boot drive order in the BIOS and/or disable Secure Boot. This usually is nothing for post PC users. Ask someone with a solid computer education.)
    Press any key to boot from CD or DVD
  2. Well done! The most difficult part is behind us. Windows 8 Setup will greet you and encourage you to configure your language settings. Press SHIFT+F10 to open a command prompt. (Note: I could shorten this part of my original post thanks of the tip given by PCFreak. See comment below.)
  3. Here you are. The unlimited possibilities of the Windows command prompt are now at your fingertips. Type copy d:\windows\system32\sethc.exe d:\. (Note: If you get the error message The system cannot find the specified path, you probably have an unusual drive configuration. Replace “d:” in the command above with different drive letters until the error message disappears.)
  4. Now comes the real hacking. Type copy /y d:\windows\system32\cmd.exe d:\windows\system32\sethc.exe. This replaces the Sticky Keys app on your Windows 8 machine with the command prompt. More later about this.
    Reset Windows 8 password with the Sticky Keys trick
  5. Close the Language setup windows by clicking the X in the upper right corner and then confirm that you want to cancel the Windows installation. Yes, this guide can also be followed by post Windows users.
    Cancel Windows installation
  6. Wait until you see the Windows 8 Lock Screen.
    Windows 8 Lock Screen
  7. Hit the SHIFT key five times. Yes, we are doing magic here. No wand is needed, though. We replaced the Sticky Keys app that helps people who can’t press CTRL-ALT-DEL easily. You should now see the command prompt.
    Hit SHIFT five times
  8. Type net user. This will produce a list of user names on the Windows 8 computer. (Note: The Windows 8 Lock Screen will reappear while you hack along.)
    List available user accounts
  9. Choose the user name for which you want to reset the password and type net user user_name new_password, where user_name has to be replaced with your user name and new_password, ah, I think you will figure this out yourself. (Note: If your user name or password contains blanks, you have to set it in quotes: net user “Tim Cook” “I will never forget my Windows 8 password again”).
    Set new password
  10. Congrats! You just reset your Windows 8 password. Close the command prompt (I hope you remember how) and log on with the new password (I hope you didn’t forget it again).

You might want to restore the Sticky Keys app (sethc.exe). For this, you have to follow the procedure above again until step 6  step 2 and use this command in step 7 : copy /y d:\sethc.exe d:\windows\system32\sethc.exe.

You can now bookmark this page so you can come back in a few months when you have again forgotten your password, or you could create a password reset media right away. I like the first option.

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68 Comments
  1. Naufal 5 years ago

    Thank you! I love your way of writing the guide it made me happy 🙂

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  2. gerard58 5 years ago

    Problem with black screen after following all instructions to reset password of local account. I can log into windows 8 again but the screen is black. I can move the cursor around and press ctrl alt and delete to show task manager and shut down the computer, I just cant use windows. can anyone help please ?

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    • Some Helpful Person 10 months ago

      If you can open a task manager via Control Alt Delete, click File and then Run New Task.
      In the new prompt, type in "explorer.exe".
      This should help, since it sounds like a problem where since explorer isn't starting automatically. Doing this should give it an explorer session, which is needed for a taskbar, start menu and background to appear.
      However, I'm not quite familiar enough with having to deal with windows errors to give a permanent fix to automatically start that explorer.exe process. Normally I just have to dabble around with services and some core .exes to get my system working, and that's at the most extreme circumstances for me.

      Hopefully this should help, A Random User.
      PS: Incase you're feeling like this is a bad idea, explorer.exe is literally the same thing as Windows Explorer. You know, the file viewer in Windows?
      In fact, if you did this on a perfectly healthy installation, it would just open into "this PC".

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  3. mic 5 years ago

    hi, my friend and i were trying this trick for the past week but with no luck.
    Everytime we try to copy the file it just cannot find it. If i try to type "c:" from X:\sources it says "the system cannot find the drive specified". We tried all drives but all results in same error message..

    Help! I am losing hope :'(

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  4. Michael Pietroforte 5 years ago

    mic, try other drive letters. I guess your operating system is on d:

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  5. glenn 5 years ago

    Michael, you're a very funny person. Tx (not Texas, Thanks)

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  6. louie 4 years ago

    ive got the command prompt pulled up but if i try to copy the sethc.exe to c:\ (my os is on c:\) i get a "the file cannot be accessed by the system" message. same with the next command. any suggestions? this is a hybrid laptop. an hp stream pro 11 to be exact. ive tried numerous methods of restoring the passwords but most fail because of the integrated hdd

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    • Scott 4 years ago

      Same problem as louie. HPZ420 workstation. Get "the file cannot be accessed by the system" message. Doesn't matter what drive letter you use although my install is on C:

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  7. brian 4 years ago

    thanks so much for your help with resetting win 8.1 password the computer I have as a UEFI
    bios and the reset worked perfectly thanks

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  8. Michael Pietroforte 4 years ago

    louie, try another drive letter such as d:

    1+

  9. Bree 4 years ago

    I messed up real bad :/

    I have two accounts. Both of them is mine but one is an admin. The admin one I rarely use. The one I use the most has my old email and I wanted to change but unfortunately I forgot the password. I don't have much in that account so I decided to make another one and put my current email (the one I'm replying with) in it. I also wanted the new account to be the admin and my foolish mistake was putting it as admin right when I made the account. When I first made it - they didn't ask to set a password. When I tried logging into the new user I had no clue what the password was. I tried many times if it was my email password to old passwords but none worked. Then I tried logging and resetting my password in the Microsoft account. (Account.live.com) and once I successfully change the password I tried logging into the user again and it still didn't work. My confusion is growing increasingly bigger and I still have not yet know what to do. Can you help? Or do I have to go to Best Buy where I bought it to have them restart?

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  10. jen 4 years ago

    OMG!!!!!! it worked......i mean it ACTUALLY WORKED......THANK U

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  11. David 4 years ago

    I get really close, but when I enter net user and the new password, the answer is "System error 8646"

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  12. Ian 3 years ago

    Superb. Worked a treat. Thank you so much !

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  13. Edgar 3 years ago

    When I try copy the cmd.exe to sethc.exe I received the message:

    "The file cannot by accessed by de System".

    I suspect the "Windows dedupe"

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    • Author
      Michael Pietroforte 3 years ago

      This sounds as if you booted from the Windows installation where you want to reset the password. You have to boot from a Windows DVD.

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  14. Tyler K 3 years ago

    Ok just to note, it is pointless to do this on D:\ if your system is installed to the standard C:\, as pretty much every system will (and should except for special custom Windows installations) be on the C drive.  So I followed your directions, but I did not use D:\ as that is the letter of the installation CD partition.  I just did your copy command of the cmd.exe to the sethc.exe using C:\ and it worked like a charm.  So, great tip, glad you posted because I could not get a driver to get ntpass working for this.  You saved the day!

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