Today I decided to find out if it would be possible to bring back life in my dated Dell Latitude D820 I got back in 2006. I haven’t used it for years, and Windows XP was last reinstalled back in 2008. Originally the plan was to replace XP with Windows 7 to figure out if this old guy still has a few years left. Of cause, I couldn’t remember either the user or administrator passwords and was locked out of Windows XP… Now what to do?
Several websites describe two simple methods to rest the password of a user. Both assumes that it’s possible to get access to the system with an account having administrator rights. The most simple method is to have someone with administrator rights resting the password. The other method is a bit more complex. The essence is to reboot in “safe mode with command prompt” and log in with the ‘hidden’ administrator account. With some simple commands, it’s then possible to reset the password of a user account. It turned out that the administrator account was also password protected, and I was unable to log in at all… While preparing for the big operation to remove the hard drive and secure a backup of as much data as possible before whipping the disk, I found Ophcrack. Ophcrack is an open source password cracker that can be used to crack LM and NTLM hashes. Fortunately, this tool works well for recovering Windows XP account passwords.
One option is to download ophcrack liveCD, an image, and burn it to a CD/DVD or USB stick. This process was easy, I downloaded the ISO image, burned it to a DVD and booted the Latitude laptop (after changing the boot order in the BIOS). The application more or less starts automatically, and less than a minute later I had recovered the passwords of the user and administrator accounts.
While Windows XP is a dated operating system first released back in 2001 I was quite surprised that it was possible to recover passwords this fast. Anyway, this tool saved me a lot of time and will make it a lot easier to take a system backup before upgrading to Windows 7.