Video instructions


Are you a power-user? Scroll down to the checklist (Step 1-27) to begin the process of resetting your password right away.


If you are stuck on a step in the guide please let me know in the comment section below and i will help you out.


Howtogeek.com wrote a good article about how to reset passwords in Windows 10. I followed their guide but found some places were i got stuck. I will be referencing the steps outlined in howtogeek's original article and modify it to contain more useful information in the post below. MeerkatMeerkat is not affiliated with howtogeek in any way (but we do think they help a lot of people and you should definitely check out their guides at Howtogeek.com!).


Written guide

If you have forgotten your Windows 10 administrator password and need to access files that are still on your computer you will need about 30 minutes of work to reset your password again.

What is an administrator and what is a normal user?

In windows 10 we use the administrator account to install new software, install updates and to make changes in the advanced preferences in our computer. An administrator account differs from how a normal account in windows functions, the Admin is not restricted by anything like a normal user would be. A normal user cannot, for example, install new software on the computer without the administrator entering his/her password into the computer, likewise the normal user cannot change advanced settings. In a way, the normal user can be seen as a student playing in the sandbox at the school while the administrator is the teacher at the school.

Just like how teachers might forget the names of their students, administrators might forget their login-credentials to their computers. This guide is here to help you if you are in a position were you forgot your password to YOUR computer. This information is valuable. Please do not abuse this information. MeerkatMeerkat cannot and will not be held responsible for your actions.

Prerequisites

Prerequisites, you will need the following tools in order to reset your administrator password:

  • An empty USB drive with at-least 4GB capacity.
  • The troublesome computer.
  • Another Windows, Mac or Linux computer (I will cover the windows version of creating the installation media in this guide, if you need help with creating the installation on a mac please let me know in the comments below).

I don't have another computer to create my installation media with. What do i do?

I am assuming that you are currently using a normal user account and the normal account restricts your usage of what you can and cannot modify inside of the computer (remember, the sandbox). You will not be able to modify anything that we are about to modify because your user account does not have permission to do so, you need the administrator password. We have reached a catch-22 and because of this reason you need to find an alternative to creating the installation media.

Your alternative is to ask a friend and borrow their computer to make the installation media or by buying an USB that has been pre-installed with windows 10 from Amazon. Windows does not require a valid license to install Windows 10 so you don't need to buy a new copy of windows.

How we are going to do this

Windows uses what's known as a Command-Line Interface, also known as the CLI. The CLI is your computer, but your computer in text-format without all the icons, web-browsers and anything else graphical. What is important to note here is that the CLI can still do everything that you can do in your Graphical User interface (known as GUI for short). Just like how you can copy files in the GUI, from one folder to another, you can copy files in the CLI from one folder to anotehr. You can browse and read the web in the CLI too, but in a text format.

We need to know this because we will be using the CLI in this guide. The CLI (remember, command line interface) uses commands (what a big shock) to get stuff done. We will be using numerous of commands to get things done and i will explain what all commands do when we are using them so that you understand what's going on under the hood.

The gist of it all

The end result that we want to achieve is to change how the 'ease of access' button works on the windows login screen. Instead of loading the ease of access menu when pressing the 'ease of access menu'- button, we want to load the CLI by pressing this button. We want to do this because before we log-in to any account after we have restarted our computer; Windows sees the 'not-logged in to any account' - user as another Administrator user. This is good, because we need another administrator account to change the administrator password for the administrator account that we forgot. Is that a mouthful? I hope this makes sense.

The end result will be that we will have the permissions to change the password that we forgot. Now lets get into the general overview of how this is done.

Helicopter view of the process to reset the admin password

  • Create a bootable installation USB using Windows Media Creation Tool on another computer.
  • Change the disk priority of our operating system so that we can boot into the installation USB.
  • Boot into the installation USB and make changes to Windows so that the 'ease of access' button opens the CLI.
  • After making the changes, boot back into windows, and reset the password using the CLI.

Are you ready? Lets do this.

How to reset your administrator password in windows 10 (checklist).

a) Create a bootable installation USB using Windows Media Creation Tool on another Windows computer

The first step is the easiest (if there are no errors) and is the step that takes the longest amount of time. We need to get windows onto an USB drive, the fastest way to do this is by using Microsoft's Media creation tool, found here.

    1. Download Microsoft's media creation tool into a spare computer were you have administrator access to begin creating your installation media.
    1. Insert an USB with atleast 4GB capacity into the spare computer.
    1. Create a bootable Windows USB using the on screen instructions in the Media Creation Tool.

b) Change the disk priority of our operating system so that we can boot into the installation USB. Do this while the other computer prepares the installation media.

You do not need to wait for the USB to finish installing to do this step.

The disk priority setting in your computer's Basic Input/Output System (called the BiOS) tells the computer were it should look for an operating system. Since we have created an 'operating system on an USB-disk' we need to tell our BiOS that the USB is the drive that the computer should boot from.

    1. Turn off you the troublesome computer.
    1. Restart your troublesome computer and enter your computers BiOS by pressing the f8 or f10 key rapidly after starting up the Computer.
    1. Find where to change the disk priority setting in BiOS. This is usually under the Advanced menu > Boot options > Boot order > Change the order of the disks here. The boot order is hierarchical in nature. This means that the harddrive (or SSD) that is listed on the top of the Boot order list is the drive that the computer will attempt to load first. We need to place the USB as the drive that is on top of this list.
    1. Make the USB have the highest boot priority by putting the Floppy USB (Or equivalent) on the top of the menu.
    1. Save the changes by pressing f10 and restart your computer.

c) Boot into the installation USB and make changes to Windows so that the 'ease of access' button opens the CLI.

When the USB drive has finished copying all of the files from the Media Creation Tool (step 1 & 3) and you have updated the troublesome computers disk priority (step 4 to 8) insert the installation USB into the troublesome computer and reboot this computer. If step b) was done correctly, you should now boot into the USB drive.

    1. Insert the finished installation media into the troublesome computer and restart the computer.
    1. If your disk priority settings was configured correctly windows will boot into your installation USB upon restarting your computer.
  • 11 ) When windows has finished booting into the USB drive press shift+f10 to open the CLI in the boot media.
    1. Identify which drive the ease of access button resides in.
  • 12.1 ) The ease of access button resides in the same drive that has a user folder with your username in it.
  • 12.2) Find the username folder by typing the command Diskpart followed by list volume and then exit. This procedure lists all the disks on your drive.
  • 12.3) Use the command Dir followed by the drive letter (specified under the 'Ltr' section in Diskpart) to see which drive has the user folder in it. (example: dir e: or dir f: doing this lists the contents inside of this folder in the CLI). My user folder was found in the directory e:

c.1) Find the ease of access button

The most important thing to recognize about this step (steps c.1 to c.3) is that all we are doing is navigating inside our computer's folder structure and overwriting the function of the ease-of-access button.

    1. The ease of access button can be found under (YOURDRIVELETTERGOESHERE):Windows\system32\utilman.exe. When typing the paths, use tab to autocomplete words.

c.2) Backup the ease-of-access button so we can restore it later

    1. The copy command, followed by two paths will create a copy of the target directory. This is necessary to restore the normal functionality of the ease-of-access button once we have restored our password. Do this: copy e:Windows\system32\utilman.exe e:Windows\system32\utilman.exe.bak (make sure that the drive letter is correct, i am using the e: drive in above), this command will create a duplicate of utilman.exe named utilman.exe.bak were .bak is short for backup.

c.3) Overwrite the ease-of-access button with the CLI

    1. The copy command, followed by two paths can also overwrite files. This is necessary to replace the functionality of the ease-of-access button. Do this: copy e:Windows\system32\cmd.exe e:Windows\system32\utilman.exe (make sure that the drive letter is correct, i am using the e: drive in above), this command will replace utilman.exe with cmd.exe. Overwriting files means that they are removed permanently (that's why we created a backup called utilman.exe.bak.

d) Reboot your system

Good job. If everything was done correctly you are now ready to reboot your computer and change your password.

    1. Before rebooting the system you need to know this: your disk priority is still enforced. After entering the command that follows, remove your USB drive from the USB slot to prevent Windows from booting into the USB drive again.
    1. Enter wpeutil reboot in the terminal window. This reboots your system. Remove your usb drive when your computer screen goes black.

e) Change your password in Windows

    1. Press the ease of access button. The CLI should now open.
    1. We need to identify which user account that we will change the password on. Use the command net user to list all available users. Make a mental note of your username.
    1. Change the administrator password of the user. Use net user YOURUSERNAME * to grab the user and change the password of the user. In my case i grabbed the user kevin (example: net user kevin *) were kevin is the user and the * is the prompt to change the password of this user.
    1. Enter a new memorable administrator password.

f) Revert the ease-of-access button back to its normal functionality

    1. Put your USB stick back into your USB slot.
    1. Reboot your computer, windows will now boot into the USB installation disk.
    1. When windows has finished booting into the USB drive press shift+f10 to open the CLI in the boot media
    1. Overwrite e:Windows\system32\utilman.exe (which currently holds cmd.exe) with utilman.exe.bak. Do this with the following command: copy e:Windows\system32\utilman.exe.bak e:Windows\system32\utilman.exe
    1. Enter wpeutil reboot in the terminal window and remove the USB stick.
    1. You might also want to change back your disk priority to what it was before, this last step is optional.

Pat yourself on the back, you now have access to your windows administrator account again.

Hope this helps.