What to do if Windows No Longer Accepts Your PIN on a Local Account

If you originally used a PIN to log into your Windows computer and you get a message saying that it’s no longer available, you have a couple options.

Image provided by my friend Sasha

Option 1: Reset Your Computer (But Keep Personal Files)

A quick Google search suggests that you reset your computer. To do this, turn on your computer and go to the login prompt. Then, while holding shift, restart your computer by clicking the power icon in the lower right of the screen.

After rebooting, you can select Reset PC/Keep personal files from the array of options on the screen.

I do not recommend this method, unless you have time to reset your computer or you do not have much technical knowledge.

The most popular community solution from Microsoft.com

Option 2: Reset Your Password the Long Way

This method requires significantly more effort, but will likely be faster if you have the tools already. To reset your password, you’re going to need a bootable Windows install USB – and if you don’t already have a bootable Windows USB: another computer, a blank 8GB+ USB drive, and an internet connection.

Step 1: Boot Into and Configure Your BIOS

All computers are different, so you may need to Google how to boot into the BIOS for your specific model of computer. In my case, I was resetting the password on a Lenovo laptop, so I had to stick a paperclip into the side of the laptop to boot to the BIOS.

On Dell laptops, you need to press F12 when your screen turns on and displays the Dell logo.

Image from forums.lenovo.com

After you boot into your BIOS your screen should look roughly like this. From there, you need to:

  1. Disable secure boot
  2. Disable fast boot
  3. Enable USB booting (if that option exists)
  4. Enable Legacy booting
  5. Save changes and exit

Step 2: Create a Windows USB

If you already have a Windows USB, skip this step. Otherwise, you need another computer and an 8GB+ USB drive to create a bootable drive.

Windows

If you’re in Windows, download the Windows 10 usb creation tool: https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/help/15088/windows-10-create-installation-media/

I’ve never used Microsoft’s usb creation tool, but it should be self-explanatory.

Mac/Linux

If you’re on Mac or Linux, download the ISO from Microsoft’s website. https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/software-download/windows10ISO

As a convenience, I suggest downloading the ISO to your Downloads folder.

The ISO download page

If you’re on Mac, open up a Terminal and run:

diskutil list

Locate your USB drive (labeled as /dev/diskX) run the following commands to create the drive. Replace Windows.ISO with the name of the ISO you downloaded and /dev/diskX with the correct number of your USB drive.

Pro tip: after typing if=, you can type the first few letters of the ISO filename (for example, Wind) and then press Tab to autocomplete the filename.

cd Downloads
sudo dd if=Windows.ISO of=/dev/diskX

If you’re on Linux, open a Terminal and run

fdisk -l

Find your USB drive (generally labeled as /dev/sdX) and run the following commands while replacing Windows ISO with your ISO’s filename and /dev/sdX with the path to your USB:

cd Downloads
sudo dd if=WindowsISO of=/dev/sdX

DD is a tool that creates a bootable USB based off of an ISO file. After running the command, DD will take a long time to copy the files over and it won’t prompt you with any information. Rest assured it’s doing its job so all you have to do is wait.

Step 3: Boot into the Windows USB

Stick the bootable Windows USB into the computer you want to reset. Let Windows boot normally to the login screen, then hold shift and restart the computer by selecting the restart option from the lower right corner.

After your computer reboots, select the USB option from the list of options.

Then select EFI USB device.

In most cases, your computer will successfully boot into your USB device. If it doesn’t, then repeat the process and instead of selecting EFI USB device, select the other USB devices until your computer boots into the drive.

Image from Microsoft.com

If you selected an option other than EFI Boot device then you’ll end up at a screen like this. Most likely you’ll want to select Windows Setup (64-bit). If that doesn’t work then go with 32-bit.

Step 4: Run Command Prompt from the Installation Media

At this point, you should be at a screen like this. Press Shift+F10 (or Shift+Fn+F10 if you’re on a laptop) to open a command prompt.

Run these commands (I suggest you use Tab to autocomplete all of the directories):

copy C:\Windows\system32\sethc.exe C:\
copy /y C:\Windows\system32\cmd.exe C:\Windows\system32\sethc.exe

Then reboot and take your USB drive out.

As an aside, these commands replace the regular login command prompt on your computer with an administrative command prompt.

Step 5: Reset Your Password

Boot into Windows. At this point you should be at your login screen. Press Shift 5 times to open a command prompt, then run this:

net user

You should get a list of the user accounts on the computer. For this example let’s assume that I’m the user and my name is Marcelo Cubillos. Run

net user "Marcelo Cubillos" password

Now you can login to windows using the password “password”.

Step 6: Reconfigure Your BIOS Settings

Now that everything should be fixed, boot back into your BIOS and

  1. Enable Fast Boot
  2. Enable Secure Boot
  3. Disable Legacy boot
  4. Save changes and exit

And you should be good to go.

Acknowledgements

This guide would not be possible without another guide: http://www.pcunlocker.com/reset-windows-10-password-with-install-disk.html

All of the actual steps regarding password reset were used from that guide. Also special thanks to my friend Sasha for asking me to do this on her computer, it was a lot of fun and now I know how to reset windows passwords.

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