Ok Twitches, since I end up fixing this exact issue for people fairly often, I thought I’d do you all a service and outline the steps required to unbugger yourself if you’ve somehow forgotten your Windows 7 login password.
The steps below are written as simply as I think I can make them, but if you run into issues, feel free to contact me on Twitter, where I’m @BlindSarcasm, or via email at email@example.com.
Resetting a forgotten Windows 7 password:
Insert either your Windows 7 install DVD, or a Windows 7 System Repair disc, into your optical drive and restart your computer. If you have it on a flash drive, that works too.
Note: If you don’t have original Windows 7 media and never got around to making a system repair disc, don’t worry. As long as you have access to any other Windows 7 computer, you can burn a system repair disc for free.
After your computer boots from the disc or flash drive, click Next on the screen with your language and keyboard choices.
Tip: Don’t see this screen or do you see your typical Windows 7 logon screen? Chances are good that your computer booted from your hard drive (like it normally does) instead of from the disc or flash drive you inserted, which is what you want.
3. Click on the Repair your computer link.
Note: If you booted with a system repair disc instead of a Windows 7 installation disc or flash drive, you won’t see this link. Just move on to Step 4 below.
4. Wait while your Windows 7 installation is located on your computer.
5. Once your installation is found, take note of the drive letter found in the Location column. Most Windows 7 installations will show D: but yours may be different.
Note: While in Windows, the drive that Windows 7 is installed on is probably labeled as the C: drive. However, when booting from Windows 7 install or repair media, a hidden drive is available that usually isn’t. This drive is given the first available drive letter, probably C:, leaving the next available drive letter, probably D:, for the next drive – the one with Windows 7 installed on it.
6. Select Windows 7 from the Operating System list and then click the Next button.
7. From System Recovery Options, choose Command Prompt.
8. With Command Prompt open, execute the following two commands, in this order:
copy d:\windows\system32\utilman.exe d:\
copy d:\windows\system32\cmd.exe d:\windows\system32\utilman.exe
To the Overwrite question after executing the second command, answer with Yes.
Important: If the drive that Windows 7 is installed on in your computer is not D: (Step 5), be sure to change all instances of d: in the commands above with the correct drive letter.
9. Remove the disc or flash drive and then restart your computer.
You can close the Command Prompt window and click Restart but it’s also okay to restart using your computer’s restart button.
10. Once the Windows 7 logon screen appears, locate the little icon on the bottom-left of the screen that looks like a pie with a square around it and click it!
Tip: If your normal Windows 7 logon screen did not show up, check to see that you removed the disc or flash drive you inserted in Step 1. Your computer may continue to boot from this device instead of your hard drive if you don’t remove it.
11. Now that Command Prompt is open, execute the net user command as shown, replacing myusername with whatever your user name is and mypassword with whatever new password you’d like to use:
net user myusername mypassword
So, for example, I would do something like this:
net user BlindSarcasm IPuntY0urT4int!
Tip: If your username has spaces, put double quotes around it when executing net user, as in net user “Blind Sarcasm” IPuntY0urT4int!.
12. Close the Command Prompt window.
13. Login with your new password!
14. Create a Windows 7 Password Reset Disk! This is the Microsoft-approved, proactive step you should have done a long time ago. All you need is a blank flash drive or floppy disk and you’ll never need to worry about forgetting your Windows 7 password again.
15. While not required, it would probably be wise to undo the hack that makes this work. If you don’t, you won’t have access to accessibility features from the Windows 7 login screen.
To reverse the changes you’ve made, repeat Steps 1 through 7 above. When you have access to Command Prompt again, execute the following:
copy d:\utilman.exe d:\windows\system32\utilman.exe
Confirm the overwrite and then restart your computer.
Important: Undoing this hack will have no impact on your new password. Whatever password you set in Step 11 is still valid.