What can I do if I forgot my password in Windows XP?
This question was answered on March 11, 2002. Much of the information contained herein may have changed since posting.
The purpose of the password in Windows is to provide a blanket of security, which is very important for corporate network users, but ends up being a nuisance for most home users.
The level of security that is provided in the various versions of Windows ranges from pathetic (Windows 95, 98 simply press escape to bypass the password) to corporate grade (Windows 2000, XP requires a successful login to access anything).
Before you get too carried away, make sure that you try your normal passwords in all lower case, all upper case or a combination of cases since both the username and password can be case sensitive.
If that doesn't work, your path to recovery may be a little more complicated depending upon which 'account' you forgot the password on.
Windows XP requires you to create an account for each user, with the primary account being the 'administrator' account If you forgot the password for a user account other than the administrator, you can simply log in as the administrator to change or remove the password for any user on the system The administrator account was created during the initial installation and can be manually accessed by pressing Ctrl-Alt-Del twice at the login or 'Welcome' screen.
If you forgot the password for the administrator account, your complication level just went higher Unless you created another user that had administrator rights or created a 'password reset disk' (more on this later) for the administrator account, your choices are to wipe the drive clean and reinstall everything (ouch!) or purchase a third party program that resets the administrator password.
There are several programs you can purchase via the Internet that can reset the administrator account that range in price from $70 to $400 dollars They can be found at sites such as www.sunbelt-software.com, www.accessdata.com and
Creating a Password Hint and Reset Disk
If you have Windows XP and want to prevent putting yourself in James' situation, there are a couple of features that you can use The first is to use the 'password hint' option and the second is to create a password reset disk.
Both can be accessed via the User Accounts option in the Control Panel Select the account that you want to work with and then look in the 'Related Tasks' box in the left column for these features.
Don't make the password hint too obvious because it can be seen by all users at the 'Welcome' screen In addition, each user should create a separate reset disk for their own account and store it in a secure place since it is effectively an electronic 'skeleton key' for the account You may also want to disguise the contents of the disk by labeling it 'recipes' or something benign just in case an unauthorized user ever came across the disk.
About the author
Ken Colburn of Data Doctors on March 11, 2002