Windows 10

Using a Password Reset Disk

If someone forgets his password, a password reset disk is what saves the day by enabling you to reset a password you otherwise wouldn't be able to access.

If you have a local account (not a Microsoft account) and that account has a password (any kind of password), it doesn't matter if you set the password or somebody else set it up for you. You should take a moment right now to create a password reset disk. If you have multiple local accounts on one PC (for example, a regular account and an administrator account), create a password reset disk for each account.

If you have a Microsoft account, the only way to reset the password is online. Go to, and follow the instructions.

How important a password reset disk is, particularly if there's only one administrator account on your PC, and it's a local account. I get mail practically every day from people who have forgotten their passwords and can't get in. This one simple trick, which takes all of a couple of minutes, will save you untold grief should you forget that lousy password!

Password reset disk is a misnomer. The part that saves your bacon is a simple, small file, called userkey.psw, which you can copy and move around just like any other file. If you create more than one password reset disk, which is to say, more than one userkey.psw file, make sure you keep track of which file goes with which user ID.

Here's the basic idea: You log into Windows, using any kind of password - typed, PIN, or picture. Crank up the Forgotten Password Wizard. It asks you for your typed password, which you must provide. The wizard then creates the userkey. psw file on a removable drive. You keep that file someplace handy. If the time ever comes that you forget your password (typed, PIN, or picture), put that file on a removable drive, stick the drive in your computer, say the magic words, and click your heels three times.

It doesn't matter if somebody has changed your password without your knowing. The password reset disk resets your password, no matter what the password may be. As long as you have a local account.

Creating a password reset disk

If you have a password-protected local account, follow these steps to create a password reset disk (that is, a userkey.psw file):

  1. Log in to the account.
    It doesn't matter what kind of password you use.
  2. Make sure you have a USB flash drive handy or another type of removable media, such as an SD card, or even an external hard drive.
    The wizard won't write anything to a local disk, and it won't write to a network attached location.
  3. Bring up the old-fashioned Control Panel.
    Right-click the Start icon or press Windows key + X, and then choose Control Panel.
  4. Click User Accounts, then click User Accounts again.
    You see the User Accounts dialog box.
  5. On the left, click the Create a Password Reset Disk link.
    If you don't see the link, either you don't have a local account (see the first part of this section) or your account doesn't have a password.
    This step launches the Forgotten Password Wizard. This nifty program creates a password reset disk, which you can use to unlock your password and get into your account, even if your precocious 7-year-old daughter changes it to MXYPLFTFFT.
  6. Follow the wizard - you'll have to type the current password - and at the final step, click Finish.
    Store that userkey.psw file someplace safe. If you ever forget your password, or if someone else changes it for you, follow the steps in the next section to log into your account.

Guard that file! Anybody who has that userkey.psw file can log into the system in your stead, even if he doesn't know your password.

Once again: The password reset disk is only for local accounts. It doesn't work for Microsoft accounts.

Using a password reset disk

So you followed the steps in the preceding section and created a password reset disk, which is, in fact, a little file called userkey.psw. And the time comes when you forget your password. Here's how to use the file and reset your password:

  1. Copy the file onto some sort of removable drive that your computer can read.
    It'll probably be a USB flash drive, but it could also be an SD card or even a USB-attached hard drive. Make sure it isn't sitting in a folder somewhere; the file must be in the root directory.
  2. Go through the motions to log in using a typed password. If you're accustomed to logging in with a picture password, click the Sign-in Options link, and then click the key icon and try there.
  3. When Windows comes back and tells you that the password is incorrect, smile because you have the magic Open Sesame disk (er, file), and then click OK.
    The alternative login screen appears.
  4. Click Reset Password.
    Windows brings up the Welcome to the Password Reset Wizard.
  5. Make sure your password reset disk - any disk with the userkey.psw file on it - is attached to the PC, and then tap or click Next.
  6. Follow the steps in the wizard. Type a new password and hint when prompted.
    The last step in the wizard asks you to type a new password. Remember that this is the new password for this account on this computer. It doesn't affect the password reset disk or the userkey.psw file.
  7. Tap or click Next, and then click Finish.
    Windows brings you back to the login screen, where you can log in with the new password.

As long as you have a local account, the userkey.psw file logs you in to the PC, no matter what password is in effect, no matter who changed the password, when or how.

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