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.
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, restart your computer by clicking the power icon in the lower right of the screen and selecting restart, while holding down your Shift key.
After rebooting, you can select Reset PC/Keep personal files from the array of options on the screen.
I don’t really recommend this method because it takes a lot of time and Windows recovery can be dodgy at times – I’d only recommend this method if you are uncomfortable with the second option.
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. Also if you don’t trust Windows utilities (like me), then this option will give you more flexibility and put the responsibility of restoring your OS in your hands.
To reset your password, you’re going to need a bootable Windows install USB. If you don’t have one already, I will cover how to make one later in this guide (provided you have an 8GB+ USB drive).
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.
After you boot into your BIOS your screen should look roughly like this. From there, you need to:
- Disable secure boot
- Disable fast boot
- Enable USB booting (if that option exists)
- Enable Legacy booting
- 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.
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.
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.
If you’re on Mac, open up a Terminal and run:
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.
sudo dd if=Windows.ISO of=/dev/diskX
If you’re on Linux, open a Terminal and run
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:
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 without displaying any information in the terminal.
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.
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:
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
- Enable Fast Boot
- Enable Secure Boot
- Disable Legacy boot
- Save changes and exit
And you should be good to go.
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.