When I boot, Windows is suddenly asking me for a password, and I've never had one before!

I just returned home after being away for about 4 weeks.
I turned on my desktop and when I click my user name, it now asks me for a password.  I try leaving it blank and clicking the arrow to enter, and I then get the error: "The system cannot log you on due to the following error:  The program issued a command but the command length is incorrect.  Please try again or consult your system administrator."  I click OK, and then it asks me if I forgot my password.
There has been no one in the house since I've been gone, so there is no way that anyone could have added a password.
I'd like some help accessing the computer, please.
Thanks!
sensfan07Asked:
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jckingjcCommented:
Hi sensfan07,

Restart you machine, keep hitting the F8 key, and select Safe Mode from the menu. In the Log on to Windows dialog, enter Administrator in the User name box. Leave the Password box empty and hit the OK button. If you're able to logon with the built-in Administrator account, go to Control Panel -> User Accounts and click on Change the way users log on or off. Check off Use the Welcome screen and Use Fast User Switching.

Also you are able to change and set user's password at this interface.

Good luck
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andrew_aj1Commented:
A great software package I use to reset passwords on XP is Offline NT Password & Registry Editor. You can get it here:
http://home.eunet.no/pnordahl/ntpasswd/
You can easily boot off the cd you create and reset your password.
Good luck.
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StyphonCommented:
One of the best ways to change a password is ERD Commander's Lock Smith. Download here http://www.keshzone.com/2007/10/winternals-erd-commander-2005-ready-for.html and burn to CD. Boot into it and select your Operating System when prompted. Then look in the programs menu and select Lock Smith. Select your account and choose a password. Reboot into windows and then reset your password to blank. I'm not sure if ERD lets you set the password to blank.
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sensfan07Author Commented:
Thanks,  I tried the single user mode, but it seems to have added a password for administrator as well.  Something's happened to corrupt things.
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sensfan07Author Commented:
OK, I tried creating the boot disk and booting from it (as per andrew's suggestion).
It seemed to go fine.  I reset the password to blank and then rebooted, but there is absolutely no change in behaviour.  Same error message.  (Note that the error message is not stating that I gave the wrong password. The error is shown in my original question.)
Please help!
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andrew_aj1Commented:
Try actually setting a password - not leaving it blank using ntpasswd. You can then remove it in windows.
Good luck.
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sensfan07Author Commented:
I tried that, but it tells me that it is unable to edit the password as it seems blank already.
When I boot normally and try to login, I don't think it's even checking the password.  It's not telling me that the password is incorrect, the screen goes black and I get the error message I quoted earlier.
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StyphonCommented:
Did you try ERD Commander?
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sensfan07Author Commented:
No, because the password was already reset with the other utility.
I don't believe it's actually a password issue.  
First, if hte password is blank, it shouldn't be asking for one.
Second, it doesn't tell me the password is incorrect, it provides a different error when I try to enter-- the screen goes black and a dialog box pops up with "The system cannot log you on due to the following error:  The program issued a command but the command length is incorrect.  Please try again or consult your system administrator."
If you thing ERD will make a difference, I'll try that, but I'd bet against it base on the symptoms (i.e. if all it's going to do is reset the passwords, that's already been done).

Other suggestions please?
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StyphonCommented:
ERD doesn't just reset passwords. It has a full set of diagnostic tools. It will allow you to run commands such as chkdsk on the hard drive. I would highly recommend you download it and run the diagnostic tools in it.
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andrew_aj1Commented:
Try using the "Last Known Good Configuration" option by hitting F8 until the boot screen shows before windows loads. From what I just researched this can be caused by a update from Microsoft. The update is KB885835. If this resolves your issue do not reinstall this update.
Good luck.
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sensfan07Author Commented:
Thanks guys,

Andrew:  I tried the last known good configuration.  Unfortunately, it must think that the configuration where I am experienceing the problem is "good" because there is no change.

Next I will try ERD and its diagnostics tools.....
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andrew_aj1Commented:
Worse case you can use ERD to backup your data to an external drive or the network and then reinstall windows.
Good luck.
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sensfan07Author Commented:
When I was finally able to download and unzip ERD, there are 3 files: .ccd .img and .sub
Do I just copy these to a CD?  How do I "boot into" these files?
Thanks
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andrew_aj1Commented:
You have to use your burring software to burn these images to a disk
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andrew_aj1Commented:
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sensfan07Author Commented:
I know how to burn -- I did it with the other utitlity that was suggested.  
Just checking that these 3 files are the only ones needed for autorun on bootup
Thanks
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sensfan07Author Commented:
Ok,  I got ERD commander working, and reset the password.
But when I reboot normally, similar symptoms are experienced:  I reset the password of two users.
When I enter the password for one of the users, it asks me right away if I forgot my password.  When I enter the password for the other user, I get the exact same symptoms as before.
I guess the next thing to do is to figure out how to use ERD to backup by data to an external drive and then reinstall windows.  Any pointers, please?
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andrew_aj1Commented:
That sounds like your last option. Just be sure to backup all your data including documents, pictures, email, favorites, etc. Also it makes it much easier if you at least get your network drivers before you reinstall so once you do you will be up and going much sooner.
Good luck.
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StyphonCommented:
Did you run the diagnostic utilities from within ERD (e.g. checkdisk) to see if it could locate the problem?

I've never used ERD for backup before. I normally use a Linux Live CD (Kubuntu normally). I don't know if it can access the data on the HDD to back it up.
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andrew_aj1Commented:
Ya, you can access the hard drive using ERD. When i have to do this i usually use a linux live cd too, but either option should work well.
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sensfan07Author Commented:
Thanks, is there an easy way to do the backup using ERD?  I didn't see any options for this, although I may have missed it.
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StyphonCommented:
No, you will have to manually move the files yourself.
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sensfan07Author Commented:
Files backed up.
Windows reinstalled, but unfortunately my Windows is so old, it needed 100 updates.  It seemed to work fine prior to the updates, but now it's got problems.  Maybe it's time for a new OS.
Thanks for your help, guys.
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sensfan07Author Commented:
Thanks for your help, but unfortunately, after reinstalling and updating, I'm still toast.  May be time for a new OS.  Unfortunately that probably means Vista now.
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