[How To] Reset a Windows Password Using Ubuntu

Update: Since this document was published via Microsoft Word, view the document in full here.

Hello ladies and gentlemen! I’m back with another post, albeit a rather geeky one. Today I will be talking about resetting a Windows password using an Ubuntu Live DVD.

Why am I talking about this? I’ll put it simply: A handful of students or my teacher ask me to reset Windows passwords when no one else is available.

I thought I’d give back to them by posting a how-to article. Considering I already sent a how-to guide to one of my fellow classmates, I will use that as a guide here while typing this out on my Windows 8.1 desktop.

Shall we get started?

The Basics – Getting the Material Together

In order to get started, we can’t just go around beating on computers with hammers and chisels – We will need real tools. I’m not talking about screwdrivers. I’m talking about physical media, or what most call it: DVDs.

It’s the bare bones basics of what we need in order to reset that password. I’ll be damned if you have to stay up pulling you hair doing so. I’ll be with you every step of the way.

  1. Downloading Ubuntu

Ubuntu is the most common, and easiest Linux operating to use out there today. It’s simple, secure, and the main distribution looks great. While some criticize the Unity interface for being too “laggy“, others have praised it for being “intuitive” and “modern.” It’s one of the interfaces that actually broke out into the mainstream and caught on. (Gnome also helped paved the way as well.) And it’s one of the interfaces that your standard user can, actually, well, use without too much of a learning curve.

This is why I will be recommending we download Ubuntu and not its other flavors.

First off, we would need to go to the website located here.

I’d recommend downloading Ubuntu 14.10 to stay current and up-to-date.

As soon as you download it you would need to go the location the ISO file was downloaded to.

2.Burning the ISO to the DVD

Since Canonical provides a great step by step on how to burn the Ubuntu image file to a disc, I will simply link you to this follow-up site.

It looks like this:

3. Booting the DVD from BIOS [For Advance Users ONLY.]

Now that we’ve all got that settled, we can now boot from the DVD. What’s that you say? It didn’t boot? It may be your BIOS settings. Since many computers have different BIOS firmware, you may have to follow the instructions included with your computer. Or you can Google the BIOS manufacture name and version number to find a comprehensive guide on how to change the boot order to boot from your DVD. For example: On some machines, hitting “Esc” or “F2” brings up a setup while a key like “F12” brings up a list of bootable devices you can select from.

Once you’ve found out how to boot from the DVD, come back to me.

The Advance Operations

 4. Ubuntu Live DVD – The Boot Screen

By now you’re slightly annoyed you have to go through all this to reset a Windows password. I completely understand. Seeing that you now have yet another menu to select from, I don’t blame you for quitting. I ask of you to just stay put. It only gets harder if you make it to be.

lubuntu boot screen

Lubuntu, a derivative of Ubuntu.

Once you’re on the boot screen, all you’ll need to do is select your preferred language and select “Try Ubuntu without installing.”

Grab your coffee and wait a few minutes.

No, really. You’ll want to wait this out. It takes a while for the desktop to come up.

5.The Unity Desktop

Are we in Kansas anymore? Why doesn’t this look like Windows? Upon returning with your coffee mug in hand, you’re either shocked or stunned at how beautiful/horrible/confusing/perfect this desktop is. My guess would be confused. (If you’re coming from Windows.) Either way, don’t let that get in your way. Think of it as a different way to interact with applications, files, and documents. It’s like using a Mac; except the dock is on the side.

unity

6. Now that I‘m on the desktop what should I do?

Run around and scream your head off.

All jokes aside, you need to follow these little directions.

Open Firefox. (The little fox.)

firefox

You will need to go straight to this link. That’s assuming you have a 64-bit processor. Most do. However, if you’re the unlucky few that have computers with a 32-bit processor, click here to go to the site I’m about to lead you to.

pkgs

This is what you should see.

Q: Where’s the download button?

A: Below. Literally. Scroll down until you see a floppy disk icon.


Get Ready To Scream

7. Installing “Chntpw.”

Now that you’ve downloaded “chntpw“, you need to click on the drawer icon to launch the File Manager. From there, navigate to the Downloads folder.

Double-click the “chntpw_1.0-1_amd64.deb” file.

You’ll be greeted with this:

Simply click install.

8. Using the Terminal

Assuming you have everything installed, we need to pull up the terminal. Either click the Ubuntu logo (the first icon on the dock) and type terminal or press the Windows key and type in “terminal.”

You’ll be greeted with this:

FIRST, we will need to find your drive. You can either go to File Manager or find the drive by clicking on the devices menu and copying the location by pressing CTRL-L + CTRL-A + CTRL-C or you can follow this guide on WikiHow.

Double-clicking mounts the drive. Easiest way to find Windows.

For some computers, it’s labeled as “System” or “[Amount of Space in Gigs or Terabytes here] Volume.”

Either way, the location that you need should look something like this: /media/[string of characters]/Windows/System32/Config

Assuming some of you found which partition it is and found the location, we can now use the terminal.

Don’t worry. It’s not as scary as it seems.

9. Actually Using the Terminal

Do you have the location copied? Good. We’ll need to simply enter this:

This leads us to the config folder where the magic takes place.

Since we’re here, we now can use “chntpw” – a command line utility.

Instructions are as follows:

Enter sudo chntpw SAM”
Without the quotes.

The [dated] screenshot list the output. Source: HowToGeek

This command walks you through resetting the Windows built-in administrator account password. Follow the steps until completed.

Do you also see the usernames listed while resetting the built-in admin account? Find one that you need access to? That’s awesome! Now that we (finally) have the name we need, all you have to do is enter:

sudo chntpw –u [username] SAM

Of course you’ll need to enter your username without the brackets. Once you’ve followed the steps to clear your password, you can safely reboot your computer. Or you can continue testing Ubuntu and install it as your main operating system. (One day, I hope!)

10. Conclusion

Now that we‘ve both gone through on how to reset a Windows password, we can move on with our lives and feel better about ourselves knowing we learned something new today. It may have been daunting and frustrating as hell, but it was well worth that you’re able to access your Windows machine again. You don’t even have to call your techie friend or relative anymore! You can take pride in knowing you can repair your own problems with a little bit of guidance.

Until next time, bloggers.

Sources used:

Ubuntu – Download Ubuntu 14.10

HowToGeek – How to Recover a Password in Windows with an Ubuntu Disc

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