I Forgot My Windows Password. Now What?

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Forgetting your Windows password is an awful feeling. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to change, reset or recover your password and restore access to your PC.

The process of restoring a forgotten Windows password is different for every version of Microsoft’s venerable operating system, and there are multiple approaches for each OS version as well. Some techniques rely on built-in features through the Control Panel, while others require access to the Windows command line.

It’s fairly easy to change a Windows password if you know it. The process is slightly more involved if you forgot a Windows password, and you may need to create a password reset disk on a USB drive or a floppy disk.

The following step-by-step instructional guides explain how to change a password or recover a forgotten password for every version of Microsoft Windows from the past decade-plus, going back to XP.

Windows 10

Users can change their Windows 10 passwords through the operating system’s Settings application. It’s also possible to reset a password by booting from the Windows 10 installation disk. Note that these methods only apply to local user account passwords, not Microsoft accounts, which can also be used to access Windows 10.

Windows 8/8.1

Windows 8 and 8.1 users have many new authentication methods at their disposal, including PINs and picture passwords. Naturally, this makes it more complicated to change or reset a Windows 8 or 8.1 password. No matter which type you use, however, it is possible to reset or recover a forgotten password.

Windows 7

The User Accounts and Family Safety settings in Windows 7 provide easy access to users who need to change their passwords. With Windows 7’s prevalence in the enterprise, it’s important to note that these password reset and recovery methods only work for local accounts. Only IT administrators have the power to reset passwords for users joined to an enterprise domain.

Windows Vista

All editions of Vista — Home Basic, Home Premium, Business and Ultimate — and both the 32- and 64-bit versions use the same password changing and resetting processes. To change a password, all it takes is that familiar keystroke combination, [CTRL] + [ALT] + [DEL]. The Vista installation disk will be necessary to reset a forgotten password.

Windows XP

The ability to change a Windows XP password is accessible through the operating system’s Control Panel, under the User Accounts section. To reset a forgotten password, users will have to do some work with the Windows Command Prompt.

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