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So I did something really stupid, forgot the admin password to my server running MS Server 2012. I so rarely shut down and have to log in because my server is running 24/7 that when I lost power and had to log back in, I couldn't remember my password. I'm trying to avoid having to reinstall the entire the OS because of a rookie mistake, mostly because of all the services running on this server. I've downloaded quite a few trial "recovery tools" but these seem to do everything except reset a password. If anyone could guarantee that a particular application works and is worth paying for, I'd be happy to pay for something to save myself the days and days of reinstalling and reconfiguring all the different services. So my question is, what is the path of least resistance to getting full access to my server again?

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Do you have physical access to the server? –  Joel E Salas Feb 6 '13 at 4:02

4 Answers 4

up vote 5 down vote accepted

I regularly use Offline NT Password & Registry Editor:


However, I cannot vouch on whether it works well for Server 2012 or not. As usual, take precautions and perform a backup before attempting this.

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You have to use a password recovery program regularly? –  EEAA Feb 6 '13 at 4:19
People in the computer repair business constantly get business in doing just that. –  Safado Feb 6 '13 at 4:23
I'll edit it if my grammar is that bad, but obviously what I meant is that I use that program more often than any others whenever I need to change a password. –  gparent Feb 6 '13 at 4:23

This worked on Windows Server 2008 R2 machines, not sure if it still works on Windows Server 2012. You will need Windows Server 2012 Installation DVD to reset password.

Reset Windows Server Password with Installation CD

  1. Insert the installation disk to your locked computer, restart. When following interface appears. Cllick“Repair your computer”.
  2. A dialog with several options pops up, click Command Prompt.
  3. When a Command Prompt black screen appears, type "copy c:\windows\system32\sethc.exe" and press Enter. Then type "copy c:\windows\system32\cmd.exe c:\windows\system32\sethc.exe" afterwards press Enter key.
  4. Restart your computer. On the login screen, tap Shift key five times and you'll see a command prompt screen in administrator mode. OK, type "net user UserName NewPassword" (replace the UserName and UserPassword with the one you need) and press Enter key. The user password will be replaced with new one. Close the window and then you can log in that user with new password.
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I miss ingenious solutions as this one :) I had a problem however that I couldn't change password in Windows 2012, but I added a new user (via net user), added it to Administrators group, set windows to automatically log in (via control userpasswords2, unchecking "Users must enter..."), and then changing the password for Administrator account through user management. –  Nikola Radosavljević May 2 '13 at 20:47

Use a third party tool to reset the administrator password. There are a variety of these, which you can find with a trivial Internet search.

I won't recommend any particular tool, and neither does Microsoft:

Some third-party companies claim to be able to circumvent passwords that have been applied to files and features that Microsoft programs use. For legal reasons, we cannot recommend or endorse any one of these companies. If you want help to break or to reset a password, you can locate and contact a third-party company for this help. You use such third-party products and services at your own risk.

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You can insert the Windows 7 DVD into your computer and boot from it, then click repair my computer, in next hop click on Command line (cmd), then type "net user 'your admin name' 'new password' " and reboot your computer and try with new password. Check out the detailed instructions at: http://www.top-password.com/knowledge/reset-forgotten-windows-7-password.html

This trick can also be used to reset your password on Windows Server 2012. Good luck!

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