If you forget your computer’s password, it can be difficult to recover from and might require special tools and skills. However, the built-in system administrator account can be a great avenue to reset a forgotten Windows password, especially for home users.

If you use a Microsoft Account of any form to login to the computer, you can use the Microsoft Account Password Reset page to prove your identity and reset your password. You’ll need access to a phone number or alternate email address already known on your account to verify your ownership.

  • This won’t help if your computer is offline. You can change the password on the website all you want, but the computer won’t “know” the new password yet, so you’ll need to use your older password to login. If you don’t know that and are still stuck, read on to see how to force-reset the password.

Before you do anything, first just make sure that the password is typed properly. To check, click and hold the “eye ball” button on the right side of the password box to make sure it shows as intended.  This way you can see if there’s anything wrong (like maybe a missing number or punctuation symbol).  Example:

The "eye ball" button will reveal your typed password so you can make sure it looks right before you press Enter.
The “eye ball” button will reveal your typed password so you can make sure it looks right before you press Enter.

If that fails, any administrator-level user can reset other user’s passwords on the computer.  If you have another admin-level user on the computer, login to the account, then go to the Control Panel to reset the forgotten account’s password.

If there are no Administrator accounts on the system, you can boot to Safe Mode to access the Built-in Administrator account. From this fail-safe account, you can force-reset your account’s password.  Previous to Windows 8, accessing Safe Mode can be done by holding F8 while you starting the computer, but Windows 8 and 10 use a different method.

  1. To reach safe mode on Windows 8 or 10, begin from the login screen. At the very bottom-right, click the Power Options icon, then hold down the Shift Key while you click the Restart option. Then, keep on holding Shift until the next screen appears.
  2. On the first screen that appears, select Troubleshoot, then select Advanced Options. Finally pick Startup Settings and click the Restart Button.
  3. On the next screen, press the Number 4 Key to choose Safe Mode.

If you are using a tablet or don’t have a keyboard, here’s another trick:

Now that you are in safe mode, you can use the built-in backup Administrator account to perform you necessary recovery. The built in Administrator account should not be used for any other purpose, or it won’t be available in situations like this when you need it.

  1. At the login screen, click the arrow icon and select the Administrator account.
  2. After Safe Mode starts, press +X (or right-click the Start button) to open Control Panel / User Accounts.
  3. Select Manage another account and select the account you wish to change to an Administrator account. You can also use the Change Password option here to reset the other account’s password.

When you’re done, restart the computer normally.

If this isn’t available to you, it means the administrator account has been deleted or disabled.  If no other admin-level users exist, there’s not going to be a way to reset the password without specialized skills and tools, and may require professional service.

If you so desire, you can also perform a full factory reset of the computer and set it up freshly, which of course means you can then pick you own password again. Many manufacturers like Dell or HP include their own reset software, and Windows 8 forward also has it built in and available here for free. Use the same steps above to access the recovery menu, choose Troubleshooting/Advanced options, and select “PC Reset” to begin.  If this isn’t available, you can also boot from your Windows install disc/USB and re-install Windows freshly.