Sunday, September 14, 2008

Recover Forgotten Windows XP password easily

Yesterday, I was presented with a computer packed with crucial pharmaceutical database and informations. I was to get the crucial data back to the new computer. This was the biggest challenge for me, because, they didn't want to mess with the configuration and I had zero idea about all those pharmaceutical softwares and so. Being counted as a trusted Tech-consultant, I had to solve that problem and I had to port the softwares/data from old system to new system intact. They don't know where all those installation CDS are and the company from where they bought their softwares, for some reason, is not helping them at all. Okay, I took the job and something floated when I okayed.

I was thinking I would simply clone the system, then no fuss at all. But the next moment, I was thinking 'darn, it's a total new system that I would be porting image of old computer loaded with previous configuration with their own set of drivers etc'.(It would've been easy to re-image the clone if it was the bare image of fresh XP install prior to driver installation)
What on earth was I thinking when I okayed. The very next moment, my mind started working pretty fast. I resolved within 10 seconds. Well, while you think... you finish doing things in minutes, don't ya?? but while you try to finish that up putting your body into work..it takes heck of a time. That's the reality.

So, I planned and quickly put forward my opinions into paper. It was like this:
-clone the old system
-load the image into new one
-repair windows installation
-reload the drivers for new system
That's it.

The Real Challenge

But as soon as, I turned on the system.. I was welcomed by GUI asking me for password to log in. I was told on phone that the system not being used for a while has also the forgotten password. Darn... now, my plan changed. I really didn't want to screw up system by resetting it's password using third-party tools like locksmith.
Last time, I screwed up the whole XP's password database using some quickie-like password resetting tools and that ended up with system completely not bootable after login screen. I didn't want to happen same thing again. There is always two ways to do a thing. Believe me, quickest way is riskier, It might work or might not work but slowest way works most of the time and risk free too.



If you are depending upon some password resetting tools, you are taking risk. They are faster and can save lots of your time if it's a success. But, I've another way, which is timetaking and works all the time.

Instead of cracking password for that XP, I thought to take clone of that old system first.. before I mess up with it. So, I took the clone of the system using Acronis cloning tool.

Took me some 20 minutes to take clone of 20 GB data,and it was 5 GB when compressed as an image file. Image was saved on my external 1 Terabyte behemoth Freeagent Seagate drive(which is filled with back ups of my customers file and movies/songs/etc).

The new system also came with preloaded operating system. I cloned it too and saved it's image to my external drive, just in case you know.

The very next moment, I was re-imaging the clone image from old computer to new computer. It took me another 20 minutes. The challenge to break down the XP password was still there. I chose the slowest way to crack the XP password.

It's Time to Crack the password

I had my own copy of Windows XP with it's own key. The re-imaged new system has got it's already applied CD-key on it. I was really messing up things here with what I was going to do. But after all, it was the same thing with different label. Since I'd to repair XP installation as per the new hardware and crack the password , I did the following things.

-Pushed my XP CD on it's DVD drive and started computer. Meaningless to say, drive was set to boot up from within BIOS.

-As soon as I saw 'Press any key to boot from cd', I pressed on one of the keys

-Windows XP setup CD was inspecting all new hardwares and was busy loading drivers.

-After it was done, I agreed their License agreement and pressed F8 key.

-On next screen, I saw an option for repairing windows installation. I selected the windows partition and clicked 'R' to begin the repair process.

-Afterwards, it felt like if it's a new setup but it's not actually. Because, it was checking my disk for hardware details and copying all necessary setup files,took some 10 minutes for all these and rebooted itself.

-When the system rebooted, I was just staring at 'Press any key to boot from CD..'(if you are doing what I'm doing, don't ever touch any key at this time)I let it start by itself.

-Now, all the normal installation procedures was taking place, copying files.. 30 minutes left. blah blah blah...

-BUT, as soon as I saw 'Installing Devices' progress bar on the lower left side of the screen, I tapped in 'SHIFT + F10' key. I don't know if it's Microsoft's Easter egg or software bug, but it's really helpful to reset your XP password(Didn't I tell you the longest way to crack your password?? This is it and this was the moment I was waiting for.)

-After you tapped in 'SHIFT + F10', you'll get a command prompt or console out of nowhere.

-Type there this command 'NUSRMGR.CPL' . (To make it memorization friendly, take it as full form of 'NET USER MANAGER. CONTROL PANEL APPLET'.) and hit the Enter Key.

-You would now get the access to USER ACCOUNTs in the CONTROL PANEL with full adminitrative rights to delete user/change passwords and stuff like that. Do whatever you like, but I had to change my password. So, I changed the password to my preference after selecting that account which was asking for my passwords.I set it to Administrator user too. Pheww....



-Job was not done yet, so as soon as I closed the console/user account windows after changing the passwords, I let it go with the installation procedures. I was looking for XP PRODUCT KEY of the CD that was in the drive tray. I knew that this cloned-XP had it's own different PRODUCT KEY. So, I was taking risk of mixing up two product keys. But who cared, it was re-imaged OS on new hardware afterall.

-I was asked for the Product key, I entered them(it was of the XP CD on the CD DRIVE TRAY) and the system restarted.

-After reboot, I saw the ugliest windows screen that I've ever seen since ages. It didn't have graphics card driver loaded. So, I quickly logged in using the new password, looked into device manage and found lots of yellow icons.

-Next moment, I was searching for my UNIVERSAL XP DRIVER CD(you can find ISO of this CD all over the net) from my CD book. I rolled it in as soon as I found it and quickly searched for the drivers. Found em all and worked like charm.

-Now, What I saw was real nagging. I saw that yellow star on taskbar bugging me that Windows Validation didn't work. It's not genuine windows and some other intimidating Windows messages. 'Resolve now' or 'Resolve later' was what I saw when I logged in next time. I clicked 'Resolve Later' then and now it was appearing as small yellow star nagging thing. I clicked down there and brought me to new internet page I've never seen before. It was Microsoft's windows validation page. Since, I was hooked up to net through my ethernet cable, it was easy for me to download the tool to verify if the product is legit or not. I was confident, I ran the tool and after few secs, I was greeted with message ' The product looks legitimate, please enter your product key'.

At Last, the 'SUCCESS'

Now, to my full consciousness, I dared not to put the product key of the XP CD that was in drive but the product key of the old system from where Image was taken. I checked the old system, on top, there was a label stuck with the product key printed on it. I took a note of that and typed it in the product key form on new machine. The very next moment was a huge Success.

I successfully ported XP image loaded with drivers of different computer to totally new PC with different hardwares and driver requirements. On top of that, I cracked the forgotten XP passwords too. It was a success.

What I usually do is I keep an XP image after the fresh install without any hardware driver installation. I've a CD/DVD of universal XP drivers consisting above 100,000 drivers for hardwares. I re-image the XP clone, install the driver and change the product key to my customer's product key using third-party softwares. So, it's no way illegal cloning XP system as some of you might be guessing. They'll will be using their own license after all. I'm just speeding things up and It usually took not more than 30 minutes. But this time, this whole thing took more than 3 hours.

Some of the default message that I've written above is purely based upon my memory from yesterday. I couldn't take snap shot of those installation procedures because, I broke my camera. Read here about my camera breaking news if you care and how I'm coping with it. But whatever, the default messages written above are more than 85% accurate and should give you enough idea on what to do next.


Thank you for reading my post.

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