How to Create a Windows Vista Password Reset Disk - dummies

How to Create a Windows Vista Password Reset Disk

By Woody Leonhard

The best way to protect yourself and your password is to create a password reset disk in Windows Vista. A password reset disk is a defensive maneuver. It guards you against the slings and arrows of others who use your PC.

Windows Vista comes with a pretty sophisticated security system, which is great when you want to keep people out of your computer but not so great if you can’t remember your own password and it keeps you out as well.

Why is it so important to create a password reset disk for your account? Because any administrator who can get on your PC can switch your password — and you can do nothing about it!

  1. Choose Start→Control Panel, click the User Accounts and Family Safety icon, and then click the User Accounts icon.


    Sooner or later, you end up at the Make Changes to Your User Account dialog box.

  2. In the Tasks pane on the left, click the Create a Password Reset Disk link.

    Vista brings up the Forgotten Password Wizard, which steps you through creating a password reset disk.

    Don’t worry. The name’s a bit discombobulating. This is the wizard you want to run when you remember your password so that you can retrieve all your data if you forget your password.

  3. Insert your USB key drive and then click Next.


    The wizard asks where you want to “create a password key disk.”

    Once upon a time, every PC had a floppy drive, and Microsoft assumed that your password reset disk would naturally be a floppy disk. Times change. Nowadays your only real choice is a USB key drive or a camera. Yes, a camera — or almost any other kind of drive connected to a USB port, including a SmartCard reader.

  4. Choose the drive you want to hold the password reset file and then click Next.

    The wizard asks for the current password, which you must supply to create the disk.

    Vista isn’t actually creating a password disk but rather putting a small file called userkey.psw on the drive.

  5. Type the password for the account and then click Next.

    You see a green progress bar that stops at 100 percent complete.

  6. Click Next. Then click Finish.


    The wizard warns you that this is the last, best, and only valid password reset disk for this account. You can now use your password reset disk.

Store the disk — specifically, the file userkey.psw — in a safe place. Anyone who gets the file can log on to your PC without knowing your password.

Although Microsoft likes to make it sound as though something is magical about the password reset disk, in fact nothing is. The userkey.psw file holds the information that unlocks the account. You can copy userkey.psw onto any disk at all and use it to log in to this particular PC with this particular account.