How to Create and Use a Password Reset Disk in Windows - dummies

How to Create and Use a Password Reset Disk in Windows

By Dan Gookin

Windows passwords cannot be recovered. Honestly, forget it. If you lose your password, you’re screwed. Write down the password if you tend to forget it. Windows 7 and Windows Vista offer a tool where you can create a Password Reset disk on a thumb drive. Although the tool doesn’t recover your password, it lets you reset it, which lets you back into your account.

Create the Password Reset disk

Here’s the lowdown for creating the Password Reset disk:

  1. Plug the USB thumb drive into your PC console.

    It can be any USB drive, or even a media card. Attach it now.

  2. If an AutoPlay dialog box appears, dismiss it.

  3. Pop up the Start menu and click your account picture icon in the upper-right part of the menu.

    The User Accounts window appears.

  4. Choose Create a Password Reset Disk.

    It’s one of the tasks listed on the left side of the window. If you don’t see it, you’re using Windows XP. This utility is only available for Windows 7 and Windows Vista.

  5. Click the Next button to proceed through the wizard.

  6. Choose the storage device for the gizmo you inserted in Step 1.

  7. Click the Next button.

  8. Type your current password.

  9. Click Next.

  10. Click Next.

  11. Click Finish.

  12. You can safely remove the gizmo you inserted back in Step 1 if need be.

See Video 251 to view a demonstration of a Password Reset disk being created.

Windows creates a teensy file on the USB device. The file is named userkey.psw. It helps you only when you need to use the Password Reset disk.

Reset your password using the Password Reset disk

Follow these steps to reset your Windows password:

  1. Try logging in to Windows.

    The logon prompt is where you use the Password Reset disk.

  2. Choose the link Reset Password.

  3. Ensure that the Password Reset disk is attached to the computer.

  4. Click the Next button.

  5. Choose the drive containing the media used for the Password Reset disk.

  6. Type a new password.

  7. Type the new password again.

  8. Click Next.

  9. Click Finish.

  10. Log in to Windows.

  11. Don’t forget the new password.

Create a new Password Reset disk immediately, just in case.

  • The biggest problem with typing passwords occurs when you accidentally have the Caps Lock key on. Fortunately, Windows reminds you when Caps Lock is set.

  • You must create a new Password Reset disk when you change your password in Windows. After Step 9, though, you may be required to confirm that you’re overwriting the original password backup information.

  • You can use the Password Reset disk for anything in addition to holding the password.

  • You might be able to recover information from your account by using the Windows Recovery Console. You may not be able to recover all your files or restore the password, but it is one thing to try.

  • Avoid using those password-cracking utilities found on the Internet. Sure, some of them work; Windows doesn’t store passwords completely securely. But many password-recovery tools are Trojan horses that will damage your computer or, at minimum, recover a password and then share it with thousands of hackers across the globe. Caveats abundant.