Reset Windows password with Linux in under 5 minutes


This post is not about pointing out one OS’s security deficiency over other or trying to make some fan boy points with Linux users. The simple fact is once you have physical access to a computer all bets are off. This is true for all OS (to some extend) but some are easier to crack than others. I won’t talk about how to protect yourself from this kind of no-nonsense attack on this post, I will leave that for another day but for now lets assume that you have a legitimate reason to reset yours or your friends windows computer.

Prerequisite:

You need a linux live CD, preferably Ubuntu live CD. Doesn’t have to be Ubuntu, it can be a custom linux live distro with the right packages (the ones we need) installed. And you need to have the ability to boot from CD. Which should be pretty straight forward.

Step 1:

Boot in to your live CD and install chntpw


Step 2:

Do cat /proc/mounts to get the label of your windows HD. In my case:


Or to put it more simply its: AC264F02264ECD50

cd to your media label: cd /media/AC264F02264ECD50

Now cd to to your system folder (windows 7): cd Windows/System32/config/

Step 3:

Change or reset windows admin password by running chntpw: sudo chntpw SAM


You will get a prompt and the options are self explanatory. For instance to reset password enter “1” and then “y” to confirm. To change password enter “2”, then your password, and “y” to confirm.

Done in 5 minutes (or so). This should work on all versions of windows since Windows2000.

You can also Reset Linux Root password in under 5 minutes and you don’t even need a livecd.





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  • JoshB

    See, this would work if the drive is unencrypted. And privacy nerds like me do whole disk encryption with Truecrypt.

    It may not be foolproof, but it makes it near impossible for a layman and definitely increases the time over 5 minutes.

    The minute you power off my PC the encryption is back and you are screwed.

  • WeAreGeek

    What a tedious way of resetting a Windoze password. With UBCD it’s just a few keystrokes.

  • Neto

    As Josh said, the only way to delay the loss of data is to encrypt your drives. Even if you don’t want or know how to change the win password. You can steal data from the filesystem or do whatever you want with it.

    Physical access is a killer.

  • ojrgflnbkvc

    soory, guy, not working, not possible to change boot on my laptop, protected. I reset bios baterry and it is still protected. ;(

  • Kris

    @ojrgflnbkvc: This post doesn’t have anything at all to do with a bios password.

  • PerfMonk

    Kris, The poor guy cannot boot from CD and his bios is locked…

    If he could boot from anything other that the local disk it would work.

    But if you cant, here is one way to do it:

    You can pull the sata/ide drive cable out (you need to open the machine) and since the hard disk is not there, it would boot from CD. Then reconnect the cable and your disk should be back and accessible once you mount it. Then follow instructions…

    Regards,
    BT

  • John

    “preferably Ubuntu” ???
    I really wish tech blogs would stop promoting Ubuntu.
    How about Debian proper or any other distro that hasn’t bastardized and broken so much of Debian.
    Also this won’t work if you have turned on the inbuilt windows file protection, yes your password will be reset but you won’t be able to access any of your files anymore. This fact should be included in your instructions and bolded.

    • allan

      @John,

      Maybe the author have no prejudices against Ubuntu and its the system that he tested and the availability of the utility to reset Windows’ password.
      You like Debian? Go for it, just don’t impose your standards on other people.

    • James

      John,

      It is okay to promote Debian or any other distros but please don’t make Debian users sound like the older sibling that sees his/her parents give more affection to his/her younger sibling.

      Both Debian and Ubuntu are loved by many together as well as separately for different reasons. There is no need to be jealous or envious just because one is given more spotlight.

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  • BobbyD_FL
    • Paul Greeff

      Bobby, thanks – that worked for me! Unfortunately the CHNTPW route appeared to work but then when I rebooted and tried to login, the password had not been changed.
      Thanks for your efforts anyway, potatoadmin!

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  • http://twitter.com/KevinBlancoZ Kevin Blanco Z

    Had anyone try this on Windows8 ??

  • Carlos Sepulveda

    Worked, Thanks! (fraking Windows)

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