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You will not be able to determine the administrator password on your computer because it is encrypted. There is a possible hack to reset it.

How do I get the administrative password on Windows 7? I don't want to reset it; I just want to learn how to know the password

In this excerpt from Answercast #91 I look at the (fortunate) impossibility of determining an encrypted password, and the possibility of resetting it.

Determine administrator password

Well, the short answer is that you can't. The password is encrypted.

Trying to extract and understand what the password is currently set to requires defeating the encryption. That's why all of the responses I have to people who have actually lost their administrator password (or somehow lost the ability to login to their Windows machine) actually involves using a tool that resets the Windows password to something that you know.

If you are actually facing a problem in trying to access a machine, and you don't know the password, you have to reset it to a password that you know.

Password resetting tools

Now, there are tools, one in particular called Ophcrack. I don't recommend it but it's important that you know it exists.

What it boils down to is: if you've chosen a poor password, it may be able to determine what that password is. The way it does that is by trying pretty much all possible passwords or at least all possible somewhat-common passwords.

We're talking thousands, and thousands, and thousands of passwords- perhaps even millions of passwords that its able to try. It does take some time to do that!

Can't crack a good password

I will tell you that I tried the program some time ago just to see if it could crack my password - and my password, while it's not great... it's good. And it was unable to crack my password.

That's the tool that hackers typically will point at to say, "You know what? If you want to get into a machine, if you want to discover a password, that's the tool to use."

I use that as an example because even that tool will fail if you choose an appropriately complex and non-obvious password. So make sure you're doing that, in general, when you're setting up passwords.

If that's the kind of password that's on a machine then I know of no way to determine what the password is; only how to reset it to something specific.

(Transcript lightly edited for readability.)

Article C6284 - January 28, 2013 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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6 Comments
AG Wright
January 28, 2013 4:26 PM

I've used a Linux program that just replaces the password with a bland one. I used Ophcrack once and while it worked it took a couple of days to break the password. I'm just too impatient to wait that wrong.
I never had any problem logging into any of the systems that I hacked that way EXCEPT, and this is an important exception, when the computer had been on an active domain. In that case the Linux method does not work, at least in my experience.

Mark J
January 29, 2013 2:44 AM

I personally think that the most common reason someone would want to determine the account password without resetting it, would be to crack into someone else's account. Otherwise, resetting should be a workable solution.

OblongCircles
January 29, 2013 8:35 AM

Resetting is the way to go. If the user forgot the password the 1st time, they will probably do forget it again.

Use HBCD to reset it

steven
January 29, 2013 3:32 PM

I thought Ask Leo ignored these questions about cracking passwords. A password reset will make any encrypted file unreadable, i heard it somewhere, maybe here, years ago.

I don't think a password change will affect BitLocker encryption, but I could be wrong. I know that an account *loss* will render the encrypted data unrecoverable. That's why I strongly dislike BitLocker and Windows built-in encryption, in favor of technologies like TrueCrypt.
Leo
30-Jan-2013

James S
January 30, 2013 4:57 AM

There's also this: http://pogostick.net/~pnh/ntpasswd/. But of course It's still a reset.

Like the man says, there's no way to crack a one-way encrypted password other than brute force.

Billy Bob
February 2, 2013 9:45 AM

As Mark J mentioned, this questioner must have an underhanded motive. My guess is a teenager wanting to bypass their parents' rules and restrictions.

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