I have a (elderly) colleague who has forgotten the password to his laptop - he generally signs in as Administrator, but can't remember the password, and has asked my help. He says the laptop contains some important data.

What are my options?

Thanks for any help.

EDIT: I have just got hold of the machine and not all is as I was told... The password is not the problem...

Before the login box appears I get an error message relating to savedump.exe: The instruction at "0x0..." referenced memory at "0x0...". The memory could not be written.

Then when I login using the proper credentials, It logs me in for a tiny second and then logs me out again and 'saves my settings'.

Any ideas on this one?

  • 3
    I suggest that you post this as a new question and close this one since the subject has changed so significantly. – Paused until further notice. Jul 1 '09 at 14:02

If you just want to get the data off, pull the hard disk drive out and plug it into another Windows machine.

If you actually want to logon and use the machine again, reset the Administrator password (which doesn't require pulling out the hard drive, and may end up being easier). As long as he wasn't using encrypting filesystem (EFS), just download the ISO image for this password reset application and reset the Administrator password: http://home.eunet.no/pnordahl/ntpasswd/bootdisk.html

I've used this particular password reset application for years and only have good things to say about it. As the web site for the application says, though, if you were using encrypting filesystem then changing the password this way will render the encrypted data lost forever. BTW, if it's Windows XP Home Edition then you need not worry about encrypted data-- EFS doesn't work on XP Home.


Have you booted in "Safe Mode" yet? If not, try that. If "Safe Mode" doesn't work, describe what you see when you try to boot in "Safe Mode".

It sounds like you might have either (a) a hardware problem, or (b) malicious software that has screwed up Windows. (It could be that USERINIT.EXE is screwed-up. That's what runs immediately after you logon, and I've heard anecdotal reports of malicious software rendering the machine into a state you describe after toying with USERINIT.EXE.)

"Safe Mode" will probably get you in. If you do get in, copy the data off to a USB memory stick, etc, and plan on leveling and re-building the machine.

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  1. Reinstall OS.

  2. Take out the hard drive and copy "some important data".

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I have used ophcrack many times and it works very well. Essentially it is a linux boot CD that will display all local usernames and passwords on the target machines.

It is a lifesaver....works with XP and Vista and sometimes takes up to 20 minutes to do its thing.

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Use this to reset the password:


It's a bootable CD that will mount the NTFS partition and set the administrator password blank.

There are many free linux based recovery disks that do this.

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Pull the disk out, and connect it to another box using an IDE-to-USB conversion cable. Copy the data from the disk and use your machine to provide the data.

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If you don't want to pull the hard drive out, you may want to download and burn a Linux LiveCD, such as Slax. This will mostly likely let you see the data on the hard drive and copy the files off to a USB drive or network share.

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  • ...or a Windows install disc, whatever is easiest to find (press F10 at setup splash/PE boot to get console access) – Oskar Duveborn Jul 21 '10 at 6:23

Well, there is several answers if you google. This one looks interesting but whether it works or not I do not know.

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