Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.
Getting into that old computer is probably not a good idea. Better to start from scratch.
I recently got a second-hand PC, which I can't access as it's asking for the previous owner's passwords. I've tried reinstalling Vista, but I can't get past the login screen. I can't get a Start menu. Thank you.
In this excerpt from Answercast #19, I look at a second-hand computer that is protected by the previous user's password and give my strong recommendation on how to proceed.
When you get a second-hand PC, you are getting whatever's on the hard drive. That could be an installation of Windows.
So, what I'm leading up to is the fact that you can't login, the fact that you don't have the previous owner's password means nothing. Even if you did, you should not login!
You are putting yourself at the mercy of whatever it is they happened to install on that machine prior to your ever having laid hands on it.
My strong, strong, strong recommendation is that you format the hard disk.
Use a utility like DBan to completely erase everything on that hard drive and reinstall from scratch.
Unfortunately, that tells me that you're probably not reinstalling correctly. When you install an operating system, there is no login screen as part of the installation process. You grab the original media, the CD or the DVD (for Vista, in this case) and you boot from it.
Once you boot from it, it then walks you through the operation of reformatting the hard disk:
You would then login using the user account that you originally set up as part of this setup process.
So the short answer is don't trust what's on that hard drive! It's just not worth it. Reformat it. Reinstall Windows and you should be fine.
That's the best to way to actually use a second-hand machine.
Next from Answercast 19 - How do I send an email that can't be traced back to me?
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