Windows XP / Beginners

Recovering a Forgotten Password

Few things in life are as frustrating as a forgotten password. To avoid this headache, Windows XP offers a couple of precautions that you can take now just in case you forget your password sometime in the future.

The first precaution is called a password hint, which is a word, phrase, or other mnemonic device that can help you remember your password. To see the hint, click the question mark (?) button that appears beside the password box in the Welcome screen (hints are not available in Classic logon mode). To set up a password hint, follow these steps:

  1. Launch Control Panel's User Accounts icon.
  2. If you have administrative-level privileges, select the user you want to work with.
  3. From here, you have two choices:
    • If the user doesn't have a password, click Create A Password, enter the password (twice) and enter the password hint in the Type A Word Or Phrase To Use As A Password Hint text box.
    • If the user already has a password, click Change My Password, enter the existing password in all three text boxes, and then enter the password hint in the Type A Word Or Phrase To Use As A Password Hint text box. Note that if Enforce Password History has been set to a non-zero value, you wil have to provide a new password in the second and third text boxes.

The second precaution you can take is the Password Reset Disk. This is a floppy disk that enables you to reset the password on your account without knowing the old password. The account's password is required to prepare the disk, so don't wait until you've forgotten the password to try and create the disk.

To create a Password Reset Disk, follow these steps:

  1. Log on as the user for whom you want to create the disk.
  2. Launch Control Panel's User Accounts icon.
  3. Click your account name, if necessary.
  4. In the Related Tasks list, click Prevent A Forgotten Password. This runs the Forgotten Password Wizard.
  5. Run through the wizard's dialog boxes. (Note that you'll need a blank, formatted disk.)

The password reset disk contains a single file named Userkey.psw, which is an encrypted backup version of your password. If you need to use this disk down the road, follow these steps:

  1. Start Windows XP normally.
  2. When you get to the logon screen, leave your password blank and press Enter. Windows XP will then ask if you want to use your password reset disk.
  3. If you're using the Welcome screen, click the Use Your Password Reset Disk link; if you're using the Classic logon, click Reset. Windows XP launches the Password Reset Wizard. Click Next.
  4. Insert the password reset disk and click Next.
  5. Enter a new password (twice), enter a password hint, and click Next.
  6. Click Finish.
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