Lost Password on Powerbook G4. Can't update software

Posted on 2006-05-31
Last Modified: 2008-01-16
My daughter purchased a 12" Powerbook G4 from the university she was attending. The store that sold her the unit provided all the setup and installations, and the computer was ready to go when she arrived. Now, 2 years later, she's out of the school, but does not have the password that was used to set up the computer initially. None of the automatic updates can be done without it (There's currently about 15 critical updates that it needs....). The store was unable to help her retrieve the password.

Can anyone help here? Is there any way to reset the password without knowing it to begin with? Can any updates be accomplished without it? She's worried that if she accidentally 'signs off', she'll have no access to anything....

postscript: the unit is AWFULLY quiet....I'm thinking the fan isn't on, but it's hard to tell. Is it a nightmare to open the unit to check and/or replace?

Thanks for the help!
Question by:jalvord1
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    Accepted Solution

    Some of this depends on what version of OS X (for I am assuming you are using OS X) you are on.

    Most important - back everything up!  If you have an external drive copy all of your daughter's files to it (hopefully they will all be in her "home" directory which you can get to by clicking Apple-shift-H)  The simplets is to just copy everything that's in that window.  If you don't have an external drive get one, they're great, cheap, and often come with good bundled backup software.

    The next bit is about resetting the password (you'll need your original OS X install disks for this)

    - Put the first install disk in and restart the computer holding down the C key.  This will make it boot from the CD.
    - On the very first screen (where it's asking about languages) go to the top of the screen and click on "Installer"
    - you'll get a list of users already on the machine and you just pick the one you want and change the password!
    - quit the installer and choose your hard drive as the boot disk

    You should now be able to log in using the password you have reset.

    The reason I said backing up is most important is that even though this has never failed for me, there is always a first time...

    Hope that helps.
    LVL 19

    Expert Comment

    Another possiblity to add to the excellent advice above is to create a new user giving it full administrator rights and do an archive and install using the aforementioned install disks and defintely making sure you choose the preserve all data files, users, etc. option: which is the default, I think.  Actually, you may well have to follow Strung's link's directions or Duncan's boot directions  as it will probably ask you for an administrator password first,but, either way, once you are in, do an archive and install.
    That willl solve the data backup concerns neatly and also assure you that you have a good stable base OS on which to apply all the updates. This sounds kind of like a car driven with no maintenance for two years. Maybe it has no apparent problems, but that rod is fixing to fly. Mac OS X  is very stable but has a whole routine of daily, weekly, and monthly scripts that are supposed to be prescheduled and set to run during such convient times as sleeping hours(for her,anywhere from 3:00am to 3: 00 pm would  likely  have worked). I would intuit that a Mac user who does not know her own admin password might also have overlooked this "minor" detail. Anywho,  I would much rather do that many updates on a known clean installation rather than on a potential mumble jumble of backlogged maintance errors. Particularly, as some of the recent updates themselves have been somewhat dicey even on well maintained machines.

    P.S. before you open anything, try really pushing the cpu by bench testing it with something like xbench. It could be that your delicate poking around has  just meant  that the cpu is barely doing anything and/or the drives: same same. ie. no heat no fan

    Run this and you may find that the fans spin up just fine when the computer is really pushed to demostrate its capabilities.
    naturally do all the above first:

    1. new password:strung
    2. backup data to the best of your ability to an external drive:duncan
    3. archive and install preserving users and data:pheidius
    4. run disk utilty to repair disk (hopefully it will say none neccessary):pheidius
    5. repair permissions  with disk utility :pheidius
    6. apply all updates using the built in updater: pheidius
    7. repair all permissions again:pheidius
    8. download and run xbench to see if that engages fan:pheidius
    9. buy an old clamshell g-3 on ebay for 50 bucks and give to daughter saying she is lucky to have gotten her data back:pheidius
    10. hide now good powerbook in closet until she is gone and enjoy:pheidius*

    * note: my wife disagrees with the last two suggestions calling them brutal and heartless and critcizing them for not being technical advice at all: go figure.

    Finally, also having bought a 12 inch for youngest daughter currently(blessedly) away at university i am minded to ask is she is also driving one of your cars. I did not let mine take one of my Volvos  in spite of  all the weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth(my daughter was mad too) I let her take one that that will not cause me to tear out my hair should she experiment in "fluidless driving"(not the "my gas card" variety,of course),
     or play, "see how long you can ignore the funny bright red lights of the dash," or play,"just keep turning up the music should any annoying clunking, grinding , thumping or scraping noises become bothersome."  This mac, perhaps, is just the tip of the iceberg.

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