If your PC or laptop doesn’t have a fingerprint sensor or camera with Windows Hello support, you’re probably still using a password or PIN to sign in.
Microsoft has forced many users to use a Microsoft login rather than a local login, so it’s easier to lose track of the last password because you’re probably changing it more often.
Anyway, all is not lost. There are a few things you can try before going nuclear and reinstalling Windows and erasing everything in the process.
Before we dive in, we just want to make it clear that the purpose of this guide is to help you gain access to a personal PC you’ve been blocked from. Of course, we cannot condone the use of these tips to gain access to someone else’s computer.
POINT: Before doing anything else, just check that you haven’t accidentally pressed the Caps Lock key. You may be typing the correct password, but upper and lower case letters will be swapped. As passwords are case sensitive, they will not be recognized. Also, on a laptop, make sure you don’t have Num Lock enabled, which may mean that you type numbers instead of letters.
Another thing: Microsoft now lets you ditch your password altogether and use its authenticator app (along with other methods) so you don’t have to remember anything. Of course, this doesn’t help you right now, but it’s something you should consider configuring when you manage to get back into Windows.
How to reset your Windows 10 password
1. Microsoft account
If you use a Microsoft account to sign in to Windows 10, you’re in luck. A forgotten password is easily resolved by going to the Recover Your Account page and following the instructions to reset your password.
Once done, you can use the new password you just entered to log into Windows.
2. Local account
There may still be hope even if you use a local account on your laptop or PC.
Your computer must be running Windows 10 version 1803 or later. It’s quite old, so there’s a good chance it has a newer version.
However, you will need to set up security questions to ask if you forget your password.
So, if you added security questions, you should see a Reset password link on the Windows 10 login screen. To find it, enter a password – anything will do – and after the “incorrect password” message, you should see a Reset Password link, as well as a hint if you typed one when you initially chose the password.
Jim Martin / Foundry
If you are using a PIN code instead of a password and only forgot the PIN code, click on the key icon and log in with a password (if you remember it) in place.
If you also forgot your password, you will need to reset it first.
To actually reset the password, click Reset Password. You should now see the security questions you set when setting up your local Windows 10 account.
Answer it correctly and you can enter a new password.
If you don’t see any security questions, you’re out of luck. Either you haven’t set them up or your computer is running an older version of Windows 10. It’s not possible to reset a forgotten password and the only option you have then is to completely reset Windows. This will erase your documents, photos, music, programs, apps, and settings. Windows 10 will return to what it was when you first purchased the laptop or PC.
This is probably very bad news if you don’t have backups of important files, so it’s worth trying all the passwords (and variations of them) you’ve ever used before taking this nuclear approach. .
If you find yourself in this unenviable position, here is how to reset windows 10.
Click Start, then Settings
Click Update & Security
Select Recovery from the left menu
Click Start under “Reset this PC”
Choose Delete All
Jim Martin / Foundry
Do not choose Keep my files, as this reset type will not remove password you don’t rememberso you still won’t be able to log in.
If you manage to reset your password with the security questions, you can then choose a new PIN code by going to Start > Settings > Accounts > Sign-in options > Windows Hello PIN > Change after login.
For those using older versions of Windows, the following tips may be helpful.
3. Use the hidden administrator account (Windows 7 and earlier)
Windows 7 (and some earlier versions) have an administrator account which is not visible in normal use.
Note: This method may not work if the account has been disabled, which is the default in some Windows 7 installations.
Start (or restart) your computer and repeatedly press F8
From the menu that appears, choose Safe Mode
Enter “Administrator” in Username (note the capital A) and leave the password blank.
You must be logged in in safe mode.
Go to Control Panel, then User Accounts
Select the account whose password you want to reset
Once that’s done, here’s how to get Windows to automatically log on and not ask for a password.
4. Use Windows Bootable Disk or USB Drive
If you can find a bootable Windows DVD or USB flash drive containing Windows, you may be able to use the Command Prompt to enable a disabled administrator account.
Alternatively, you can also try to force Windows to start startup recovery by turning on your computer and when you see the Windows loading screen, hold down the power button for four seconds to turn it off.
On the next boot, Windows should offer a boot menu with an option: Run Startup Repair.
Choose this and let Windows scan for issues.
Once done, look for a drop-down menu called Show problem details. Scroll down and click on the last link.
This opens a text file. It doesn’t interest us, because we use it to access the file explorer.
At the top of the window, click File > Open. Navigate to your Windows drive (drive letters may have been changed), then locate the WindowsSystem32 folder.
Scroll down and find the file sethc. You may need to change the “Files of type” to all files rather than just text files.
Right click on sethc and choose Rename. Edit the name by adding a number or letter. It doesn’t matter which one.
Click the file name to save your changes.
Now scroll down to cmd (the command prompt) and right click on it. Choose Copy, then right-click on white space and choose Paste.
This will create a copy, but rename it sethc as you did with the actual sethc file before.
Close all windows, then click Finish. Your computer will shut down.
Restart it and wait for the login prompt to appear.
Press the Shift key five times. This will launch the command prompt.
This will list all user accounts. Suppose your user account is called Jim
network user Jim*
You can now enter a new password for this account. If you don’t want it, just hit enter to create a blank password. You will be asked to re-enter the password to verify it.
Close the command prompt window and now you can log in to the user account with the new password.
Use a password reset utility
If all else fails, you can download a utility that claims to crack or bypass Windows password. Again, we cannot condone the use of these for anything other than backing up your own files to your own computer.
You’ll easily find them if you search online for “Windows Password Reset Tool”, and the one worth trying is simply called NTpasswd.