Unlocking Windows 10 Computer - Don't Know Password

Old 12-30-17, 06:38 PM
Thread Starter
Join Date: Dec 2013
Posts: 136
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
Unlocking Windows 10 Computer - Don't Know Password

My dad is dying from brain cancer. We forgot to get his passwords before he had become unresponsive. We need to unlock his two computers where he keeps some financial records. Any thoughts on how to get by this.. Thanks
Old 12-30-17, 06:44 PM
XSleeper's Avatar
Group Moderator
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: USA
Posts: 29,276
Received 1,534 Votes on 1,378 Posts
If you have his phone, email, start here.

Old 12-31-17, 02:29 PM
Join Date: Nov 2012
Location: USA
Posts: 2,442
Received 250 Votes on 216 Posts
You should also check about whether anybody has a power of attorney, you may need that authorization if you deal with tech service.

The other option is a 30 gig usb drive, a password cracker such as Ophcrack, and patience.
Old 01-01-18, 02:20 PM
Join Date: May 2010
Location: USA
Posts: 551
Received 48 Votes on 37 Posts
This might be a little "techie" but it will get you access to the files the quickest because all you need to make this happen is a thumb drive, a second PC and an Internet connection.

You can do this by booting the PC from a USB thumb drive with a bootable Linux image on it because Linux pays no attention to Window's security settings. However, in the unlikely event that your Dad has some sort of secure storage provision, like Window's drive encryption or BitLocker, you have a tougher nut to crack.

First you use a different PC to create this bootable thumb drive, then boot your Dad's PC off that thumb drive instead of the Windows OS. Because Windows isn't running, its security provisions aren't active. Once The operating system on the rescue thumb drive has booted, you will be able to access the documents on the hard drive that Windows ordinarily runs from and copy those files to another thumb drive.

Any Linux-based rescue disk will work. For the images below, I used Hiren's Boot CD, which is free, and you can download a copy from here. It's in a ZIP file just a bit over 600 MB. When downloaded, open the Zip file, extract the file named "Hiren's.BootCD.15.2.iso" and save it to someplace on your PC where you can come back and find it. You won't be needing the other files in the ZIP.

You also will need a utility that can copy that disk image to your thumb drive AND make it bootable. I used a 3rd-party program called Rufus, which is free, and you can download a copy from here. It's a little less than 1 MB. It's also an executable file (*.exe) so your antivirus might complain that downloading such files is potentially dangerous. In this case, ignore the warning.

Before you start Rufus you should have the thumb drive you intend to use already inserted. Note that Rufus needs the entire drive so whatever is on it will be deleted. Hiren's needs at least a 1GB thumb drive, which is pretty small by today's standards, so it shouldn't be difficult to find.

Once you've started Rufus, there are only three settings that need your attention. In the top window, select which ever drive letter you put your USB drive in. In this image, my "donor" thumb drive was named 1GB_PAGE.

Now go to the second window from the top, which can be tricky because I don't know whether your Dad's PC uses UEFI or BIOS, but you can make this work either way. I recommend you first try the top selection, the one that reads "MBR partition scheme for BIOS or UEFI." If that doesn't work, use the exact same procedure to create the bootable thumb drive again but the second time use the selection that reads "MBR partition scheme for UEFI."

The third selection that needs your attention is the window that will be reading "FreeDOS." Change it to read "ISO Image," then click the icon immediately to its right that looks like a CD. That will bring up an Explorer window. Drill down into the directory structure to wherever you left the ISO file for Hiren's rescue disk when you unzipped it. Select that file and click 'Start." Once the process is complete (which will take several minutes), click "Close."

To get your Dad's PC to boot from the thumb drive instead of its own hard drive, you'll need to use a feature that should already be available on his PC called "BIOS Boot Select" (BBS). Start with his PC turned off. When you switch it on a lot of text will scroll past. Somewhere in there there will be a message referencing "BBS" or possibly "Boot Select." This message will be telling you which key you need to press to use that function. On the PC that I'm typing this on, it reads, "Press F11 for BBS Popup."

You can't select BBS until after the motherboard has finished it's power-on self tests (POST), which is what all the beeping is about when you turn on a PC. There's no harm in pressing the BBS key before the beeps are done, it just won't have any effect until they're through. And if you wait too long, the OS already will have begun loading and you've missed your opportunity. So turn it off and try again.

In my case I press press the F11 key and instead of the OS loading, a text-only window appears with a list of all the storage devices attached. In the case of my BIOS, it categorizes the devices by type (CD, SATA or USB) and by brand. I know the one I want to select is a Sandisk USB stick so I scroll down to the selection that reads, "USB:Sandisk" and hit enter (sorry for not posting an image but I can't take a screenshot at this point). This will cause the PC to boot off the thumb drive with Hiren's Boot CD loaded on it.

Hiren's initially will bring up a menu asking which function you want to run. Select the line that reads, "Linux based rescue environment (Parted Magic)." Another text-only window will come up immediately after offering some configuration options, but just accept the defaults by hitting the <Enter> key. That will load a Linux OS called Parted Magic:

Click to embiggen

This is a typical Linux desktop, which might not look too much like Windows but it actually works pretty much the same. Follow the numbered prompts on the "zoomable" image.

#1. Double-click on the File Manager icon in the upper-left corner of the desktop. Once it's open it's not that different from Windows Explorer. In this image, mine is already open in the foreground.

#2. In File Manager's left-hand pane, look in the upper window to locate the hard drive. If there's only one hard drive installed, it should be called "sda." Linux deals with partitions rather than hard drives and Windows 10 always creates at least two partitions. You Dad's data probably will be on the second partition, which (presuming there's only one hard drive) will be labeled sda2. Select whatever looks to be the most likely partition.

#3. If you've got the correct partition, both in the lower left pane and in the right-hand pane, you should see the files and folders in the hard drive's root directory. Click on the folder labeled "Users."

#4. Look for the folder labeled with the name your father gave to his profile on the PC. In this image, mine is named "owner" (clever, huh?)

#5. Inside of that folder you'll find all the folders for documents, pictures, music and all the rest. Presuming he hasn't gotten creative with where he stored his files, everything you're looking for should be somewhere in this folder.

Copy and paste works pretty much the same in Linux File Manager as it does in Windows Explorer. You can copy the files back onto the thumb drive you booted from, presuming there's enough free space, or you can copy them to a second thumb drive. Hiren's only takes up about 630 MB so if you only used a 1 GB thumb drive there still should be 360-ish MB of space available.

To copy them back to the same thumb drive I suggest you copy them to the root directory. Most of the Linux file structure you see won't be available when you use Windows Explorer to transfer the files to another PC, but the root directory is real. Using the root directory guarantees they'll be there and be easy to find when you transfer the thumb drive to a windows PC.

To locate the root directory, open a second instance of File Manager. Look in the top left-hand pane and scroll through the list of drives available. The Hiren's thumb drive probably will show "UUI" somewhere in the name. You'll just have to click on all the drives labeled S-something-something-1 until you find it. In my case it was "sdg1." You can tell if you've hit the right spot because there will be two folders in the right-hand pane, one labeled "HBCD" (as in Hiren's Boot CD) and the other labeled "uui."

I tested this all before I wrote it but something odd happened when I copied the files from my PC to the root directory of the thumb drive. They never appeared in the File Manager window. When I tried to copy them a second time, it asked if I wanted to overwrite the existing files. So there were there but for some reason they just didn't appear. And they still were there when I rebooted into Windows an tried to access them using Windows Explorer. It just didn't look like they had transferred in File Manager but they had. So don't bum out if it looks like the files aren't transferring. If you want, try to copy them a second time, and if you get the same message I did, that's a sure sign they really are there but just aren't appearing.

Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Ask a Question
Question Title:
Your question will be posted in: