Reset and change a forgotten server administrator password

Situation: Had an old server that customer data was needed from. The server has not run for a few years and the password unknown. 

  1. Boot from Windows PE or Windows RE or Bart CD and access the command prompt
  2. Find the drive letter of the partition where Windows is installed 
  3. Type the following command (replace “C:” with the correct drive letter for Windows) to create a copy of sethc.exe to restore later.Copy c:\windows\system32\sethc.exe c:\ 
  4. Type this command to replace sethc.exe with cmd.exe:copy /y c:\windows\system32\cmd.exe c:\windows\system32\sethc.exe
  5. Reboot your computer and at the logon screen, press the SHIFT key five times
  6. You should see a command prompt. Enter the following command to reset the Windows administrator password Net user administrator newpassword
  7. Now log on with the new password
  8. Afterwards replace sethc.exe with the copy you stored in the root folder of your system drive in step 3. Boot up again with a boot CD Then enter this command:
    copy /y c:\sethc.exe c:\windows\system32\sethc.exe


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