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We have lost the administrator password of a Windows Server 2003 machine which is used in our lab. Is there any way to reset or recover the password without reinstalling Windows?

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for the local machine? or the AD domain admin account? –  Nick Kavadias Nov 30 '09 at 11:51
    
I just checked this and the computer doesnt have an option for LOCAL MACHINE login , it only has a AD login . So would the rescuse disk option really work in this case ? I am planning to use Trinity Rescue Kit –  Nishant Dec 1 '09 at 6:51
    
I think we may be talking at cross purposes here. Could you extend your question? Is it a local Windows admin password you have lost? Can you login to the machine with a domain admin account? Why do you need to login as a local admin rather than a domain admin? –  David Spillett Dec 1 '09 at 10:08

6 Answers 6

There is a linux live CD that contains an utility for changing the password. I managed to reset my lost administrator password that way. Here is the link: http://pogostick.net/~pnh/ntpasswd/

Edit: if the server is a domain controller (i.e. you are not able to log in to "local machine") you can always login as "local" admin in domain recovery mode (accesible by pressing F8 during startup), there is a step-by-step guide how to reset W2k3 domain admin password here: http://www.petri.co.il/reset_domain_admin_password_in_windows_server_2003_ad.htm

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Obtain a Linux rescue cd like Trinity Rescue Kit, boot in single user mode (if using TRK) and run winpass from it. Select the blank password option and set a new administrator password within the 2003 box.

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Will TRK work the same for a machine that has DOMAIN LOGIN only ? The comp doesnt show any option for local login . –  Nishant Dec 1 '09 at 6:58

OPHcrack is a good shout depending on how complex your password was
http://ophcrack.sourceforge.net/
also you can try this can be a bit messy tho
http://www.petri.co.il/forgot%5Fadministrator%5Fpassword%5Falternate%5Flogon%5Ftrick.htm

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+1 I have use ophcrack more times than I can count, and with easy success every time. –  cop1152 Jun 29 '10 at 23:57

If the machine is on a domain, login to it with an account that is in the Domain Admin group then you should be able to reset the local admin password.

If it isn't on a domain (or there is something locking a domain admin from changing the local admin password) then one of the many boot disks that can reset NT password (see other people's replies for links) will do the trick - I've used similar tools successfully in the past.

If there is anything important on the machine then I suggest that you try back it up before messing around, just for paranoia's sake in case the password resetter fails in a way that makes things worse. If you boot from any good Linux Live CD you should be able to mount the drive nd read the files, and mount a network share to copy important ones to (or you could take a full image of the drive, but that is almost certainly overkill).

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David , the machine has only domain login and shows no option for local login . We use this as a Tier 2 ( GUI utilities mainly) machine for a telecom software –  Nishant Dec 1 '09 at 6:53
    
Security policy for the domain may be blocking local login. If that is the case then you will need to login as a member of the domain admins group, reset the/a local admin password, then drop the machine off the domain. Also, you could try login as <MachineName>\<LocalUser> - it may allow you to login as a local user that way even if the non-domain option is not displayed explicitly. –  David Spillett Dec 1 '09 at 10:06

Instead of booting to a Linux Live CD and hacking at it, you can use a commercial product like "Active Password Changer" (http://www.password-changer.com/) that costs $50 and it will make it super easy for you do view or reset any of the windows passwords on any machine. Its almost ridiculously easy to use.

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To reset local admin password for your Windows 2003 machine, you can try the free Linux CD - Offline NT Password & Registry Editor. Boot your machine from the CD and follow this video guide you can remove forgotten password in minutes.

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