Reformating Windows XP without Admin Password

Posted on 2004-10-14
Last Modified: 2013-12-04
One of the computers in my office has an administrators password that no one knows.  All important information is on the network, saved on another computer, so there is no need to regain the password for the sake of files on the computer.  I have the XP home disc but am not sure how to reformat if not having the Admin password.  Thankyou for your help.
Question by:GeoffreyPittman
LVL 65

Expert Comment

ID: 12307359
Hello GeoffreyPittman =)

U dont need the Admin password to format and reinstall XP, just insert the cd and start the system, press any ket to boot from it, it will start XP Setup and follow the intructions to format the hard drive and install XP :)


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Accepted Solution

Pete Long earned 500 total points
ID: 12307401
correct the XP setup recreates the the administrator account during setup and prompts you for a new password.

should you wish to gain access to the system as administrator before its flattened.
see my website

if you just want to do a clean install

Perform a clean install of Windows XP (Erase Everything!!)

Before you start

1.Make sure your data is backed up, don’t forget things like your favourites folder, my documents etc
2.Make sure you have the unlock code for Windows XP
3.Make sure you have the relevant drivers for you hardware and they are compatible with Windows XP

  a.To find out if your hardware is compatible go here
  b.To find out what hardware you have, to get the correct drivers go here

Note: At the very minimum have your Modem drivers then you can download any drivers you ‘thought you had.’


1.Set your PC’s boot order to boot from CD BEFORE your hard drive (usually IDE0)
2.Place the CD in the drive and reboot.
3.At the ‘Press any key to boot from CD…’ press a key
4.If your PC WONT boot from CD boot from a win98 floppy disk, try and enable CD support then type “cd D:\i386\setup (or winnt) If D:\is your CD drive letter it may not be, check! Your boot order MUST be set so that the floppy is checked before the hard drive for this to work, also ensure when the boot disk is loading you see RAMDRIVE start up or it will run like a two legged dog!
5.At the welcome screen press enter (you can press R here to repair an existing installation)
6.At the license agreement press F8
7.Hard Drive partitioning

  a.If it’s a shiny new drive it will find it un-partitioned if you want one big C: drive just press Enter (then go to step 8)
  b.If it finds an old partition you can delete by pressing D then you get a warning, Press ENTER, Press L to confirm. (then see a) above.
  c.If you want to create more than one partition (i.e. have hard Drive C:\ and D:\ etc). Ensure the ‘un-partitioned space is highlighted and press C. type in the amount of space you want to use (in Megabytes) for the Partition – there will always be a small amount you cant partition don’t worry! Then Press Enter to continue, you can keep doing this until all the space is used up. When finished select the partition you want to put XP on and press enter.

8.You will now be asked to format the partition, unless you have Win98 also installed or need to get to the drive from another operating system (i.e. on the same machine, NOT over a network) then select NTFS formatting if you do need to do any of the above choose FAT32 formatting.
9.Go and put the kettle on, this will take a while!
10.When its done it will copy a lot of files over to the hard drive, time to fit in more coffee!
11.The system will then reboot (after a 15 second countdown – to force it to do it now press enter)
12.Your now in the Nice looking stage of the setup, you will see the black XP loading screen.
13.For a long time the install will do its own thing check its progress on the left hand side.
14.You will be asked to enter your language and input locales, do so, and get the input locales right or all your symbols will be on the wrong keys! Press Next.
15.You will need to enter you name and Organisation info when done Press Next.
16.Aha! Pirates beware, time to enter the unlock code, if you have a typo you can go back and correct it (don’t panic) Press Next.
17.Pick a sensible name for the PC (the default one is not usually intuitive) and enter an administrator’s password (twice) DO NOT EVER FORGET THIS PASSWORD.
18.Time to tell the PC where you are, check the time zone, which annoyingly are always set to Tijuana (unless you live in Tijuana of course!) if your in the UK don’t forget to tick the daylight saving time box. Click Next
19.The next input will be Network settings you can always configure these later at your leisure so I usually click Next here, If you want to configure your IP address etc, select custom settings before clicking next and follow the onscreen prompts.
20.Phew! Time for another coffee you’ve got another wait on your hands.
21.After its finished it will reboot and USUALLY tell you its going to resize you monitor resolution just click OK and let it go, if it all goes to pot here DO NOTHING it will revert back!
22.Depending on your version it will now either

  a.Log into windows fine
  b.Present you with the administrators logon prompt
  c.Launch a welcome to windows session to configure more users and connect to Microsoft to register (you can skip the registration bit if you like)

23.After all that you will be looking at a fresh install of windows, now its time to put all the latest drivers back in and restore your data.

*****Links***** (Excellent!)

How To install Windows XP (Includes Upgrade Path);EN-US;316941

Clean installing Windows XP

A Guide to Installing Windows XP

Expert Comment

ID: 12307699
Make your life easier. You don't even need to reformat the computer.

Go here:

Download the image of the Offline Password and Registry Editor. Boot from it and overwrite the admin password. Next time you boot, put  in that password and you are golden!
Simplifying Server Workload Migrations

This use case outlines the migration challenges that organizations face and how the Acronis AnyData Engine supports physical-to-physical (P2P), physical-to-virtual (P2V), virtual to physical (V2P), and cross-virtual (V2V) migration scenarios to address these challenges.

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Expert Comment

by:Pete Long
ID: 12309772
eeeerrrm didnt I say that allready :)

Expert Comment

ID: 12315147
This was can rstarted the PC with winxp CD inserted and just install it from there.

If you want to try to access some files, does any of the accounts on the XP have admin rights?

If yes, go to admin tools under programs or control panel and go into computer management.

Under System tools, go to Local users and groups, than  USERS than just right-click the admin account and change the password "Set password".

If you cant go through that, try going into safe mode and access the admin account from there. IT might not ask you for password.

IF not, try this password retriever.:

I have used it and it scans for passwords...very usefull.


P.S: What your asking for is very simple if you dont want to access any files there. So why bother with the all the above, when in fact you can just reinstall XP?

ITs up to you now.
LVL 57

Expert Comment

by:Pete Long
ID: 12340065

Expert Comment

ID: 12367845
you could delete sam and password files from  repair folder I believe

you have to reboot into dos and cd to C:\WINDOWS\repair
then del sam
then just reboot and start :)

LVL 57

Expert Comment

by:Pete Long
ID: 32644604

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