This post was sponsored by top-password.com, maker of PCUnlocker.
We all have that family member, friend or work colleague who comes to us in times of distress asking for help – yup, they forgot their password and can’t login to their PC. And yes, it can happen to the experts too. For example, many years ago, I configured Windows to log in automatically since I was the only one using the computer. I started carrying my laptop to work and thought, I probably will need to re-enable the password, only to realize, I couldn’t remember it off the top of my head. So, what can you do when this happens? There are numerous options, but not many that really work or are convenient to use.
So, what can you do when this happens? Let’s explore a couple options you can try when you’re unable to login to your Windows PC because you’ve forgotten your password.
Bypass Passwords Using PCUnlocker for Windows 10 and Earlier Versions
The feeling that immediately sets in when you can’t remember your password is panic. Fortunately, there are built-in recovery and troubleshooting options you can explore. For example, if you’re using a Microsoft Account, we previously covered the steps you can use to recover your password. Here are a few other things you can review which might help you log in using a local account:
- Make sure your language option on the Sign in screen is correct.
- Is it a PIN or a password? Passwords contain alphanumeric characters or symbols, while a PIN consists of four numbers. Ensure you are choosing the right option; click the Sign-in options link, then click the appropriate button.
- Caps lock might be on or it’s possibly interchanging because of an issue with your keyboard. When you are supposed to be entering capital letters, it is registering common letters. Use the password preview to check your password. Use the on-screen keyboard to log in.
- If you have multiple user accounts setup on your computer, make sure you are logging into the right one.
If none of the above work then we need to to use something advanced and guaranteed. Introducing PC Unlocker 4.5, a bootable utility that lets you easily reset the administrator password in Windows 10 and earlier versions of Windows. The professional and enterprise editions include support for Active Directory passwords.
PCUnlocker 4.5 Features
- Bypass, remove or reset Windows local administrator and user passwords.
- Reset forgotten domain administrator and user passwords for Windows 2000, 2003, 2008, 2012 and 2016 AD (Active Directory) domain controller.
- Reset passwords to DSRM (Directory Services Restore Mode) accounts.
- Unlock / enable any Windows local account or Active Directory account that is locked out, disabled or expired.
- Promote any standard or limited Windows user account to administrator.
- Ability to remove login time restrictions on Windows local account and Active Directory account.
- Support password reset for Windows 10 / 8 local accounts and Microsoft account.
- New! Bypass the password of Windows local / Microsoft account without modifying the old password.
- Reset administrator password of virtual machine runs in VMware, Parallels, VirtualBox, Microsoft Virtual PC, Hyper-V (Gen2 & Gen1 VM).
- Reset passwords for Windows 10, 8.1, 8, 7, Vista, XP, 2003, 2000, NT, Windows Server 2003 x64 Edition (64-bit), Windows 7 64-bit, Windows Server 2008 / 2012 / 2016.
- Reset Windows passwords with a bootable CD, USB drive or network over PXE.
- Support RAID/SCSI/SATA drives, and FAT16, FAT32, NTFS, NTFS5 file systems.
- Disable the “Force Smart Card Login” if your Smart Card is lost.
- Free technical support.
- New! Mount virtual hard disk (*.vhd, *.vhdx, *.iso).
- New! Support Windows 10 / 8 computers with UEFI Secure Boot, including Microsoft Surface Pro, Apple Mac, ThinkPad Tablet 2, Dell Venue 8/11 Pro, Toshiba Encore.
PCUnlocker is recommended for the following scenarios:
- You forgot or lost your Windows password (including Administrator).
- You bought a new/used computer and you never knew the password.
- Employees were fired/quit and won’t give you the Windows Password.
- You know your password but cannot log in because your account is disabled.
- Your computer/server has been hacked and the password has been changed.
- You need to regain Admin access to a Windows AD (Active Directory) domain controller.
PC Unlocker ranges in price from $19.99 for Standard to $49.95 for Enterprise. Here’s a comparison of what ya get with each version.
For this review, we looked at the Enterprise edition, version 4.5 release, which adds support for UEFI Secure Boot-based systems. PCUnlocker is distributed as a small 200 MB ISO file that you can burn to a blank CD, DVD or make a bootable USB thumb drive. You can use an application such as Unetbootin, ISO2Disc or ImgBurn to make a bootable copy on your desired media.
After creating your boot media, configure your BIOS or UEFI firmware to boot from it. PC Unlocker uses a WIM based boot environment, which boots into a simple application displaying recovery options. I was a bit shaken by the Windows XP Media Center 2005 theme, but hey, who am I to judge when I just locked myself out of my own computer.
Before users can begin resetting their password, they need to determine the type of account being used, whether it’s a Local account (this includes Microsoft Accounts too) or an account that’s used to authenticate on a Windows Domain. PCUnlocker already detects the SAM (security accounts manager) database which stores your account information.
The third option lists all the available accounts on the system, which includes the built-in local administrator account, your user account, a system account and guest account, which is no longer supported in Windows 10.
When you are ready to get back into your system, you have a couple options, you can either reset the current password or you can bypass the password from the options menu. I decided to go with the password reset option.
Select the account, click Reset Password, enter your new password then click OK. I was a bit thrown off when entering the new password because it was not hidden; so, make sure no one is looking over your shoulder while doing this.
It doesn’t get any simpler than that. Click Restart to boot into Windows and sign in with your new password.
This can be either a cause for concern or celebration, but it works as advertised. I’ll leave the concerns for what this tool could do in the wrong hands for another time. This is impressive for many reasons. Solutions like PCUnlocker you can sometimes only find in enterprise tools such as Microsoft’s – expensive and out of reach to the average user – MDOP (Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack). Yet, you can have it for only $19.95. The Enterprise version is overkill most users and is more suitable for large organizations. You are not likely to use this regularly, but for those moments you need to, it can be a lifesaver.
What about BitLocker Drive Encrypted Installations?
Nope, this is where PCUnlocker reaches its limit. When I booted into PCUnlocker on a BitLocker encrypted drive, the SAM Registry file field and user accounts were both blank. Manually locating the SAM file didn’t make a difference, resulting in the error Unable to read sam database. So, you are out of luck if you somehow forgot your BitLocker password or lost your recovery key.
We started earlier with ‘official’ methods to recover your password, but as you can clearly see, they are extremely time-consuming, and often just don’t work; resulting often in a reinstall. If you are locked out of your system for one reason or another and you just want to get back in, I can’t see a better way to do it than with PCUnlocker.
- You don’t corrupt your installation.
- Your applications remain intact.
- And it saves a lot of time in comparison password reset or a custom reinstall of Windows.
- Easy to setup and use.
So, the next time you get that dreaded call, you can smile because you have a solution that will surely fix it. Definitely one of my new favorite things. Users can download a demo trial of the PCUnlocker to see how it works. Just note, the trial is just that, it won’t let you reset any passwords until you purchase a full version.