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How to access your PC if you forgot your Windows password

A woman works from home on a Windows PC.

September 21, 2022

So you’ve lost your computer password, can’t remember it, and desperately need to gain access to all of your documents? 

Given that most PCs in the world run some form of Windows, let’s assume you’ve got a Microsoft-based computer. 

Microsoft won’t help you if you have lost your password, because it’s their security policy. But the software company recommends that you set a password recovery hint when setting up your computer and creating your password. It also recommends that you create a password reset disk as soon as you first start using the computer.

If you’ve not already done so and it’s not too late, Microsoft provides a web page that explains how to set up password hints and create a password reset disk. It’s fairly simple.

However, if you’ve already lost or forgotten your password there are options you can try to access your computer. 

But with so many Windows operating systems now in use, methods to gain access to your computer can vary. That said, listed below are a few generic methods that you can try.

Accessing the computer as ‘administrator’

On Windows, there is a hidden account named Administrator. Most of the time, this account has no password set. 

That means that you can start your computer with this account, open the Control Panel to delete or change the password of any users and fix your problem.

To do this requires a few simple steps:

  • Boot your computer and immediately press on the F8 key repeatedly until your computer displays the boot menu. 
  • With the arrow keys, choose Safe Mode and press the Enter key.
  • On the home screen click on Administrator. 
  • If you have no home screen, type Administrator and leave the password field as blank.
  • Click on the Start menu in the bottom left corner, go in the Control Panel, then in User Accounts you can change any user passwords easily.

This method may or may not work depending on which operating system you are running.

How to create a password reset disk for a local account in Windows

Microsoft explains how to create a password reset disk for a local account in Windows 11 and Windows 10

For Windows 11, you should create a password reset disk using a USB flash drive. This will enable you to reset your password if you forget it. 

You can also add security questions to your local account in case you forget your password. Here’s how: Select Start, then Settings , then Accounts, then Sign-in options, and finally Update your security questions.  

Here’s how to create a password reset disk for a local account in Windows 11, according to Microsoft instructions: 

  • Sign in with your local account. Keep in mind that this won't work with Microsoft (connected) accounts. 
  • Plug a USB flash drive into your PC. Microsoft advises that, although creating a password reset disk won't reformat your USB flash drive, you should back up any data on it before you continue.
  • In the search box on the taskbar, type Control Panel. Then choose it from the list of results. 
  • In the Control Panel search box, type create password reset.
  • Select Create a password reset disk and follow the instructions.
  • When you're finished, remove the USB flash drive. Keep it in a safe place where you'll remember it. Microsoft notes that you don't have to create a new disk when you change your password —even if you  change it several times. 

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