Couldn’t log into Windows administrator account? Your little brother changed the password of your PC and then he forgot it? Inherited a computer from a former employee, but you don’t know the login password? Need to help your friend recover their lost Windows password? The admin password in the documentation didn‘t work? There are many situations where you need to reset a forgotten or unknown Windows user password. This is where PCUnlocker can come in handy.
PCUnlocker is a very useful and handy bootable disk that can either reset forgotten local or domain user passwords, or bypass local or Microsoft account passwords without modifying the original password, unlock your Windows account in case it got disabled, locked or expired. It works with all Windows versions. This software is really helpful when you’re locked out of your own computer and unable to get past Windows login screen. It has a very user-friendly and well-designed interface that is suitable for both computer novices and technicians.
Create PCUnlocker Boot CD/USB
How does the program work? To start off you need a Windows-based computer that you can log on as an administrator. PCUnlocker comes as a .zip archive. Download and save it to a local folder (for example, your desktop) on your computer. Right-click on the zip archive and select Extract All (or use the freeware 7-Zip to unpack it).
In the output directory you’ve extracted the files to, there should be two files: ReadMe.txt, pcunlocker.iso. Depending on how your computer is set up, you might not see the file extensions. (You can change it from Explorer > Organize > Folder and Search Options > View > Hide File Extensions for Known File Types.)
In order to install the CD image file (pcunlocker.iso) onto your CD or USB drive, you need to use the small & free ISO burning program ISO2Disc, which allows you to create a bootable CD/USB directly from ISO file. Download and install ISO2Disc on your local machine. After running ISO2Disc, you’ll see a simple yet straightforward interface.
You need to click the Browse button to locate the PCUnlocker ISO file which you extracted in the previous step. Next you can choose whether an empty CD or a USB flash drive will be used to create PCUnlocker bootdisk. If your computer doesn’t have a CD/DVD burner, you can use a USB flash drive with at least 512Mb disk space. Make sure to take a backup of all the files on your USB drive before proceeding, as it will format / erase your USB drive.
If you intend to use a USB drive to reset the Windows password on computers with UEFI secure boot, make sure to select the “GPT (required for UEFI boot)” option. But remember that this option only works with PCUnlocker Enterprise as the other two editions (PCUnlocker Standard, PCUnlocker Pro) don’t support UEFI boot.
After clicking Start Burn, the program will show the burning progress. This will be done in just a minute or two.
Reset Windows Local / Domain Password
Once you’ve a PCUnlocker bootdisk prepared, it’s time to put it to use. To get your locked PC to boot from it, you might have to change the boot priority in the BIOS . After loading the PCUnlocker bootdisk, you’ll be presented with a small program window. By default, it shows all local accounts in the list. If your computer comes with multiple Windows operating systems installed, make sure you pick up the desired SAM file from the drop-down list. Each Windows installation has a separate SAM file located at %SystemRoot%/system32/config.
If you want to reset the domain administrator password on a domain controller, you need to click the “Reset Active Directory Password” option. It will show a list of domain accounts stored in the Active Directory core database (ntds.dit). By default, ntds.dit is located at C:\Windows\NTDS.
Select the account you want to reset, either the local account or the domain account, and click the Reset Password button. A popup dialog will open, which says it will remove your password, or assign the default password (Password123) to your account. Click Yes to continue. While resetting your password, it will also automatically restore your account’s properties to default (enabled, unlocked, never expired) in the background.
If you use a Microsoft account to sign into Windows 10 / 8, you can see your email address under the Description column, in the account list of the PCUnlocker program. Choose the linked local account, and click the Reset Password button. This will convert your Microsoft account to a local account, that gives you ability to log on to your computer using a local account, and regain access to the profile of your previous Microsoft account.
Bypass Windows Password without Resetting It
Need to get back into the Administrator account without resetting the password? This is another useful feature available in PCUnlocker. Just click the Options button at the bottom left of the program, and then select the Bypass Windows Password from the drop-down menu.
A confirmation dialog will open, which says it will temporarily disable the Windows authentication subsystem while booting, click OK to proceed.
Next you’ll be prompted to restart your computer. Click on OK and then remove the PCUnlocker bootdisk.
After the computer boots to the Windows login screen, click on any user account icon and you can login by typing an arbitrary password. But the next time you turn on or restart your computer, the Windows authentication subsystem will be restored, and the login screen will only accept the original password.
Note: This password bypass feature doesn’t work with Windows 10 with your Microsoft account and an Active Directory user account. If you need to unlock your Microsoft account in Windows 10, you have to use the password reset feature above, which ends up switching it to a local account.
Load RAID/SATA/SCSI/IDE Drivers
What to do if the PCUnlocker bootdisk doesn’t recognize your hard drive, when RAID controller is enabled on your server? From within the PCUnlocker program, click on the Options button and then select “Load IDE/SCSI/SATA/RAID Driver” option from the drop-down menu.
When the file open dialog appears, select the Driver Setup Information file (.inf) that you’ve downloaded from your PC manufacture’s website, and then click on Open.
Once the driver is loaded, the program should be able to locate the Windows SAM file, and list out you user accounts successfully.
PXE Network Boot
Is it possible to reset forgotten Windows password without a CD or USB flash drive? PCUnlocker Enterprise also supports PXE network boot. This requires your computer’s BIOS, to be capable of booting over the network. You need to set up a network computer (FTP server) with the PCUnlocker ISO image hosted on it, and enable the PXE network boot support in your locked PC. When the PC is turned on, it begins to download the PCUnlocker ISO image, and then load it into the memory, which acts similarly to booting from the CD/USB drive.
The demo version of PCUnlocker, can be downloaded from the official website and it allows you to view your Windows account. To actually reset a user password, you have to purchase the full version. PCUnlocker comes in three editions: PCUnlocker Standard ($19.95), PCUnlocker Pro ($29.95), PCUnlocker Enterprise ($49.95).
The PCUnlocker Standard edition allows you to reset forgotten user passwords on Windows 10/8.1/8/7/Vista/XP using a boot CD, while PCUnlocker Pro can also reset local account passwords on Windows Server, additionally it supports booting from either a CD or USB drive. To reset domain controller passwords, or reset lost passwords for computers with UEFI Secure Boot, you have to use PCUnlocker Enterprise.
All three editions of PCUnlocker can also help you to remove the logon time restriction (permitted logon hours) for a local user, and tweak the group policy settings that prevent your account from logging on to your computer, etc.
BitLocker and EFS Encryption
Resetting the Windows password will cause you to lose access to EFS (Encrypting File System) files temporarily. If you don’t want to lose access to EFS files, you can make a backup of the SAM (Security Account Manager) file before using PCUnlocker to reset your password. After getting back into your system, you can install and run various password cracking software (for example, Ophcrack, Cain and Abel) to recover the old password in the original SAM file. After recovering the password, change the current password to the old password and you’ll gain access to the EFS encrypted files again.
If your hard drive is encrypted with BitLocker, you can only see the drive letter after booting from CD/USB. To browse and view the files inside the hard drive, you need to decrypt the hard drive with your BitLocker recovery key. Without decrypting, PCUnlocker can’t read the SAM file as well.
- Windows 10, 8.1, 8, 7, Vista and XP, Windows Server 2016, 2012, 2008 and 2003, including 64-bit OS.
- Support UEFI or BIOS-based computer.
- Support physical & virtual hard drive.
With the help of this tool you can create a bootable CD or USB flash drive, and easily recover access to your Windows administrator account. Resetting a forgotten Windows password doesn‘t get much simpler than this. There is no need to waste time reinstalling Windows along with other software installed on your computer. It’s also a good practice to create a PCUnlocker bootdisk beforehand, in case of a future emergency.