The Bottom Line
Cain & Abel, as a free Windows password recovery tool, isn't my top choice. It works similarly to other password recovery tools but the cons simply outweigh the pros.
Yes it's free (and fast) but considering that you have to install it on the computer from a working user account, I can't recommend this program over better tools like Ophcrack and Offline NT Password & Registry Editor.
You might also want to take a look at my list of premium Windows password recovery programs.
However, if you do have access to an account on the PC, by all means give Cain & Abel a try. It might be just what you're looking for.
- Password recovery tool is is completely free
- Several methods can be employed to crack passwords
- Recovery of passwords is very fast, at least with my several tests
- Separate "Rainbow Tables" must be downloaded from other sources online
- Program must be installed on the hard drive, unlike many other password recovery tools
- Must have access to another user account on the computer
- Variety of other built-in hacking tools might intimidate novice users
- Doesn't seem to support Windows Vista (I'll remove this if someone proves otherwise)
- Depending on the rainbow table used, Cain & Abel can recover up to 99.9% of passwords from any Windows account.
- Cain & Abel can hack many types of passwords in addition to Windows passwords (though outside the scope of this review).
- Several different methods for recovering passwords is available making this a very versatile password cracking tool.
Guide Review - Cain & Abel v4.9.40
Cain & Abel v4.9.40 does a great job recovering passwords - other people's passwords. If you have no way of getting in to your Windows PC, you will not be able to use Cain & Abel to recover your password.
Cain & Abel finds passwords for other accounts on your computer. It cannot find the password to a single-account Windows PC since you'll need to access Windows to install Cain & Abel. Try Ophcrack or Offline NT Password & Registry Editor (both linked above) if you're in this situation.
To get started with Cain & Abel, visit their site and download the Windows NT/2000/XP version of the program. Install the program on your computer. During installation, you'll also be prompted to install WinPcap, which is fine.
Important: Before you can use Cain & Abel, you'll need to download a rainbow table. These large databases of passwords are required so Cain & Abel can hack the password. Download one of these free XP rainbow tables then extract the files to a folder on your desktop.
Start by opening the "Cain" program and then click on the Cracker tab. On the left, click on the LM & LTLM Hashes and then click the big blue plus sign on the Cain toolbar. Make sure the Import Hashes from local system radio button is checked and click Next ->. All the user accounts will be loaded to the right.
Right-click on the username you need the password for, choose Cryptanalysis Attack -> LM Hashes -> via RainbowTables (OphCrack). In the LM Hashes cryptanalysis window, click the ... button and choose the folder you extracted the free rainbow tables to. Click OK and then Start.
That's it! Just wait for Cain & Abel to recover the password!
Having Problems Using Cain & Abel?
Also, be sure to check out my Windows Password Recovery Programs FAQ for answers to the most common questions I get about these tools.