How to Change or Reset a Windows XP Password

by Reads (28,242)

There are multiple options for changing or resetting Windows XP passwords. The process is different depending on whether you’ve forgotten your password or you already know it and just want to change it.

Ask your network administrator to reset your password if your user account is part of a domain (this will likely be the case if you’re using a work-issued computer). The advice in this article applies to local Windows XP user accounts only. 

This article applies to all versions of Windows XP including Home and Professional.

Changing a Windows XP Password

Follow these steps if you know your Windows XP user account password and wish to change it. (Skip to the last section of this article, Performing an Advanced Windows XP Password Reset, if you don’t know your user account’s password.)

  1. Open the Control Panel by clicking the Start button in the lower left of your screen and then clicking the Control Panel on the right side.
  2. In the Control Panel, click the icon labeled User Accounts and then click on your account.
  3. Next, click the option Change my password.
  4. Enter your user account’s current password when prompted.
  5. Enter your desired password in the new password and confirmation boxes. Note the text you type in these boxes must be identical.
  6. Optionally type in a password hint.
  7. Finally click Change Password to complete the password change.

Next, we recommend you follow our instructions for making a Windows XP password reset disk. If you forget your Windows XP password, you can use the next section of this guide to reset it.

Resetting a Windows XP password

You’ll need to insert your Windows XP installation CD into your computer’s CD drive prior to continuing. Ensure your computer’s first boot device is set as the CD drive as well, if it isn’t already. (Your computers owner’s manual will explain how to change the boot device order.)

  • Restart your computer after inserting your Windows XP installation CD.
  • Your computer will prompt you to press any key to boot from disk when it restarts; do so by pressing a key on the keyboard
  • The first setup screen that loads after booting from your Windows XP installation DVD will ask you to select your language; select yours and click on the Repair your computer link in the lower left side.
  • Next, select the drive where your operating system is located on the following screen (typically C:\) and click the Next button to continue.
  • Click the Command Prompt option on the next screen.
  • Type the following command into the command prompt. (replace C:\ in these prompts if that is not the drive where Windows is installed):

Windows XP command prompt

copy c:\windows\system32\sethc.exe c:\

  • Press the [Enter] key to execute the command.
  • Enter this command next:

Windows XP command line

copy /y c:\windows\system32\cmd.exe c:\windows\system32\sethc.exe

  • Execute the command by pressing the [Enter]
  • Restart your computer by pressing the power button to turn it off and then again to turn it on. Be sure to disconnect your Windows XP installation media so your computer doesn’t again try to boot from it.
  • When the Windows login screen appears, quickly press the [Shift] key five times. This would ordinarily have activated the “Sticky Keys” functionality in Windows but the above set of commands we entered instead bound it instead to launching a command prompt.
  • Enter the following commands:

Windows XP password change command

net user accountname newpassword

  • Replace accountname and newpassword with your username and desired password, respectively. You have finished resetting your user account password.
  • You’ll want to re-enable Sticky Keys functionality so prevent someone else from resetting the password using the same method. Follow the steps previously illustrated in this section of the guide until you get to the point where you launch the Command Prompt after clicking Repair your computer…
  • Enter the following command in the Command Prompt:

Windows XP user account password change command

copy /y c:\sethc.exe c:\windows\system32\sethc.exe

  • Press the [Enter] key to execute the command. Restart your computer.

Your Windows XP password reset is complete.

Conclusion

We provided step-by-step instructions on the various methods to reset or change a Windows XP password in this guide. The last method detailed is more or less a last resort; we recommend creating and keeping handy a password reset disk should the need arise to reset your Windows XP password.

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