Forgetting the password to your Windows account is a common issue and "hacking" into your own PC isn't something many people often do so it's no wonder I get so many inquiries about the process.
I put together this FAQ to help answer some of the more common questions I receive about Windows password tools.
"Are the premium Windows password recovery tools better than the free ones?"
No, not necessarily. I call the premium programs "premium" simply to call out the fact that they charge some kind of fee, not that they're necessarily better than any of the free choices.
In fact, I absolutely do not recommend that you purchase any premium Windows password recovery tool unless you've tried and been unsuccessful with the four highest rated free programs - Ophcrack, Offline NT Password & Registry Editor, PC Login Now, and Kon-Boot.
"Are these Windows password recovery programs the only way to get back into Windows if I forgot my password?"
No, there are other ways, but these programs are probably the most successful at getting you back in.
Take a look at my Ways To Find Lost Windows Passwords for some more ideas.
"Will the [abc] Windows password recovery tool recovery any password?"
A true Windows password recovery tool, like the free and very popular Ophcrack password recovery program, is only successful up to a point. Very complicated and very long Windows passwords are nearly impossible to "crack" and would take a modern computer a very long time to discover.
Some Windows password recovery tools don't actually recover passwords - they remove them, allowing unrestricted access to the computer until a new password is created. These types of programs, like the free Offline NT Password & Registry Editor, PC Login Now, and Kon-Boot, don't care how complicated or how long a Windows password is since there's no discovery process involved. They're more accurately called password reset programs.
"These Windows password recovery tools are just hacker programs. You shouldn't be condoning hacking."
I disagree and I am not.
Each of the Windows password recovery tools I've highlighted or reviewed serve the very practical and ethical purpose of getting a forgetful person out of a serious problem.
With nearly all technology, from a sharpened stone to nuclear power, there are ethical uses and there are unethical uses. In my opinion, the responsibility lies with the user (that's you). That said, I of course do not condone using any of these programs to gain access to a computer that you do not own.
"How can I prevent someone from using one of these programs to gain access to my computer?"
The most important thing you can do is to prevent physical access to your PC from those who might want to inappropriately gain access to its contents.
In other words - keep those you don't trust away from your computer. Since none of these programs can be used remotely, a perpetrator must have physical access to your computer.
Keep in mind too that if someone wanted to covertly access your computer, they would have to use a true password discovery program, not a password removing program. Since true password discovery programs have a difficult time recovering long and complicated passwords, make sure yours is just that.
Specifically, to avoid your password being discovered by Ophcrack, make sure your password contains at least one special character or is longer than 14 characters.
See Creating Secure Passwords for help.
"I burned a CD with the [abc] Windows password recovery program on it but nothing happens when I restart! Help me please!"
Many Windows password recovery programs are designed to be run from bootable discs, allowing you to recover or delete a Windows password without needing access to Windows... an obvious advantage. However, many of you don't have experience burning ISO files or booting from a CD or DVD disc.
If you restart your computer with the disc you made in your CD/DVD drive but nothing happens or Windows starts up like it usually does, you likely made one of these mistake somewhere between downloading and booting to the CD.
Here are some thoughts on how you might be able to solve the problem:
- Download the ISO or other disc image format again.
- Burn the image file to CD or DVD again. Burning an image file is nothing like burning a normal file.
- Try a different blank disc. Maybe the one you burned to was incompatible with your optical drive or was scratched.
- Verify that the boot order in BIOS correctly lists the optical drive first.
- Make sure the disc you burned is in the drive before restarting your computer.
- If you have two CD/DVD drives, try booting with the disc in the other one.
"Help! Your [abc] program starts but then it [gives an error / shows something you didn't talk about / does nothing]!"
For some reason, to some people, I've given the false impression that some of the programs I've reviewed were created by me.
If you need technical support with any Windows password recovery tool you've learned about on my site, you'll need to contact the developer or company for help. That contact information should be available on the same website where you downloaded the program.
On the other hand, if you think the program is probably working fine but you're just having problems with the complexity of the process, please know that I have complete tutorials with screenshots for the four most popular Windows password recovery programs that step you through every single detail of the process:
- Complete Walkthrough for Ophcrack LiveCD
- Complete Walkthrough for Offline NT Password & Registry Editor
- Complete Walkthrough for PC Login Now
- Complete Walkthrough for Kon-Boot [coming soon]
The above tutorials are in addition to the reviews with quick how-to's you may have already seen.