Got a call to retrieve/reset a Windows 8 password. You guessed it: admin account, single user and a local account to boot. This places it in the most difficult category for password retrieval. (I forgot to mention, no password reset disc, either.)
OK, so here’s the deal. In Windows 8, there are two types of account you can create when you first boot into your new OS: a Microsoft account, or a local account. I haven’t met a Windows 8 user yet who was aware of this distinction, and the default setup is to create an MS account. Which is fine except for all the trappings that go along with that, (too many to expound here…). Now, if you have gone down that path of an MS account, forgotten password retrieval is simple: you go online to MS, and request a new password. Easy.
Now the fun begins. If you have managed to create a local account (meaning one that’s not linked to an MS account, but limited to your computer) and you’ve forgotten your password, you’d better hope the “password hint” you chose when creating your account is going to prove helpful to you (but not to anyone else!).
Still can’t remember? Well, many password retrieval articles you read will cheerfully instruct you at this stage to use your Windows 8 “password reset disc” to boot back into your account. That’s fine, but if you hadn’t created one from within your account previously, you can’t create one now outside your account! So, onto the next method …
Another suggested method is to log into another admin user account and reset it from there. But in this case there was no other account, so still no go! …
(That’s why I always create at least a second (admin) account in Windows, so that an admin account can be accessed to create a possible entry to the system for such scenarios. I call it ‘SysAdmin’, or ‘Rescue’, or ‘Backdoor’, or something like that).
Next option on the list of password retrieval methods will cost you money. There is third party software available to purchase which will hack into the system to reset the password … maybe.
Or you can choose to attempt a hack yourself using the command line and a minimum of about an hour’s work (if all goes well! …). You’ll need to do a search to find that one, though.
By now we’re getting pretty desperate and the last option before a clean install, where you get to lose all your applications and data, is a ‘Reset Your PC’ process which you can bring up at bootup in the ‘Advanced Startup Options’, which will also remove your installed apps, and your data. But the upside is, you get to reset a new password! …
At this, the very last, desperate stage, though, there is a glimmer of hope (not for the password, though, but for your about-to-be-lost data). Using a bootable Linux live CD, downloadable for free from any of the main Linux distribution websites (have a look at http://whylinuxisgoodforyou.com/how-to-get-linux), you can access any of the data on your Windows hard drive and copy it to another device (USB external drive, DVD, etc.) before you do a reset or clean install.
Thanks for that, Linux !