BOOT CAMP 530 (24/06/08)

User Accounts and Password Recovery part 5


At the end of last week’s episode we created the Trinity Rescue Kit (TRK) disc, which includes a cut-down version of Linux to boot your PC and – amongst many other things -- a utility to blank or reset the Administrator and User passwords on almost any computer running Windows XP or Vista.


In this final instalment I’ll show you how to use it. There are some instructions on the TRK website but they’re pretty impenetrable, especially for novices, and not the sort of thing you want to grapple with if you’ve just been locked out of your PC. I suggest you do a dry run on a redundant PC, just in case. TRK is very safe but like any procedure that involves editing the Windows Registry there is always a chance that something could go wrong.


The first job is to ensure that your computer boots from the CD-ROM drive (or USB drive – see last week’s Top Tip). Most do by default but if you are unsure you will find out by loading the disc and rebooting the computer. If Windows appears as normal you need to change the boot order – see this week’s Top Tip.


Assuming that your PC boots from the TRK disc the first thing you will see is a menu screen with various options. Ignore it and a few seconds later Trinity loads in its default configuration. When it has finished a ready command ([root@TRK]:(~)#) and a flashing prompt appears at the bottom of the screen.


The first command you enter tells Trinity to scan the drives connected to your computer and ‘mount’ or access their filing systems. At the flashing prompt type ‘mountallfs’ (without the quotes) then press the Enter key and a few second later ‘Result of Mounting’ appears and below it there will be a list of drives. Unlike Windows Linux does not arrange drives and partitions alphabetically. Instead the primary drive, which boots the PC and where Windows is located, (usually drive C: in Windows) is designated ‘hda1 or hda2’. If your PC uses SATA type drives it will be ‘sda1 or sda2’. One or the other should be at the top of the list and you are ready to enter the next command. 


At the flashing prompt type winpass –l. Winpass is the password reset utility and the –l switch tells it to list all of the Windows user and administrator accounts. Press Enter and 1:/.hda1/Windows (or sda1/Windows, sda2/Windows etc.) is displayed, followed by the request: ‘Make your choice or ‘q’ to quit [1]’. Pressing Enter confirms the choice ‘1’ and the accounts list is shown. This will be in the format ‘RID: xxxx Username: <administrator or username> * disabled or locked’; this line is repeated for every named account. The ‘xxxx’ entry is a hexadecimal code for the username.


In this example we’ll blank the password for an account with the username ‘John’. At the flashing prompt type the following ‘winpass –u John’ and hit the Enter key. (If for any reason an error message appears or it doesn’t work repeat the exercise but this time instead of entering the account name type in the hexadecimal code following the RID entry for the account name).


The list of mounted drives appears again and the ‘Make your choice…[1] line. Press Enter and a page full of information and commands scrolls by with another query line at the bottom.


On some PCs there may be a warning saying ‘Do you wish to disable SYSKEY (y/n) [n]’. If you don’t see this message skip to the next paragraph. If you do see it follow the advice given which is if you do not know what SYSKEY is you do not need to switch it off. Press Enter again (for the default ‘n’ response). Another block of text scrolls by and a message at the bottom of the screen asks: ‘Do you wish to reset count… and set the password never expires option (y/n) [n]’. You do, so enter y for yes and press Enter.


The flashing prompt is now asking you to enter new password. I strongly suggest that you use the blank password option, enter an asterisk ‘*’ at the flashing prompt and press Enter. This is the point of no return; you are now asked to confirm the action, Enter y for yes and the change is made.


That’s it, eject the TRK disc or switch off and restart your PC (don’t forget to remove the disc) and Windows should load normally. At the Welcome screen click on the account name you have reset and instead of the usual password box it will load straight into the account. If you want to set a new password for that account open User Accounts in XP or Vista’s Control Panel, click the account icon and select change or create a password.


Next Week – Tweaking the eee PC


Part 1 2 3 4






Numbering system used by computers, with a base of 16, represented by the numbers 0 to 9 and the letters A to F



Record Identifier



Password encryption utility used by Windows




If your PC won’t boot from the TRK disc you need to change the Boot Order. This option is in the BIOS Setup program and to access it you have to press a key (or keys) immediately after switch on. The key or key combination is usually displayed on the screen for a few seconds after switch on (e.g. ‘For setup press F2’). If you don’t see this message, or it disappears too quickly consult your user manual. Once the BIOS menu opens look for a Boot Order or Boot Options menu. Instructions on the page show how to change the selection. Set it so that the first ‘Boot Device’ is your CD/DVD drive (or USB drive if you want to use that to load TRK), followed by the primary hard drive.


Don't forget, there's a full archive of previous Boot Camp Top Tips at



© R. Maybury 2008, 0406


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