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Recover Lost Server 2003 web edition Administrator Password

Posted on 2009-07-01
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Last Modified: 2012-05-07
We are a small web hosting company whom use windows 2003 and plesk control panel to offer hosting services to our clients. After years of having to login to each customer's webspace via their own FTP accounts to upload websites we wanted to move to a single login we could use as administrators to access all websites rather than separate username/passwords per customer.

So, one of the juniors went about configuring an account for full FTP access (anything but straightforward on windows). So in his haste he set the administrator account with a home directory. After logging off and coming back in the next day we found the administrator account had lost all read/write permissions outside of the home directory he set.

I attempted to use command prompt to change/remove his home directory settings but it didn't really work and the profile reverted to c:\dcouments and settings\TEMP. I used command prompt since the account had lost all read/write access through windows explorer including accessing MMC panel to remove the home directory via the GUI.

Anyway I must have made a mistake somewhere in my commands because now I have logged off I cannot log back in with the account using its username/password (it throws up standard system cannot log you in error). It seems we are going backwards and have lost virtually all administrator access to our server (although it continues to run fine for our client's hosting accounts).

I was running commands such as:

net user administrator /profile path:"c:"


This is critical and seems to be a massive oversight from Microsoft if we can't reset the administrator account.
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Question by:Zeon100
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by:uucknaaa
uucknaaa earned 290 total points
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Hi

Have you tried going in through the management console?  That's where you right click on Computer and select manage.

Anyway, I'd login with another account that has administrator privileges and change passwords in there.

Let me know if you need further help or guidance in there.
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by:Alan Hardisty
Alan Hardisty earned 190 total points
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Visit http://www.lostpassword.com/windows-enterprise.htm
It will set you back $295 but has a full 100% money-back guarantee.
I have used this numerous times and all worked as expected.
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by:tmasters2876
tmasters2876 earned 20 total points
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For a free alternative you can use http://ophcrack.sourceforge.net/ to try to recover it, and reset it.  It's the closest thing to l0phtcrack which was by far the greatest password recovery and rest tool I've ever used.

You can also download and create an ultimate boot cd for windows.  UDCD4WIN.com that has a number of password tools at your disposal.
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Author Comment

by:Zeon100
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Thanks for the info guys. Unfortunately that administrator account is the only member of the administrators group so I need to recover the password. But in saying that when I get access back how should I go about restoring administrators permissions to the entire computer?
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by:Alan Hardisty
Alan Hardisty earned 190 total points
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Do you have a system state backup from before the changes were made that caused your problem?  If you do, you can perform a system state restore to put things back the way they were.
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by:uucknaaa
uucknaaa earned 290 total points
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Hi

I'm not quite following your last question.  If get the password back for the Administrator account, and the Administrator account is the only one that has administrator privileges and belongs to the administrator group .... which administrator permissions are you referring to restoring to the entire computer?
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Author Comment

by:Zeon100
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Basically the issues began revolving around the administrator not having access to anything outside of their "home directory". This was set in an effort to get FTP going for the adminstrator user to e:\folder

However as part of that process the administrator lost access to the entire c:\ drive (ie it gives permission denied when trying to explore to c: ) and this disabled the MMC from which I could remove the home directory.

So I tried to run the command:

net user administrator /profilepath:c:

However it didn't fix it and now it seems I've changed the administrator password.

Thanks
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Author Comment

by:Zeon100
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In regards to system state I'm not sure if I have that backed up as such. I do have acronis installed and have a backup from 2 weeks ago efore this began happening but I don't want to lose any data.
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by:Alan Hardisty
Alan Hardisty earned 190 total points
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Okay - if you have an acronis backup from two weeks ago, are you able to take a backup of the system currently?
  1. If you can, then backup the current system using Acronis.
  2. Restore the Acronis backup from 2 weeks ago with the server off the network.
  3. Backup the system state on the restored server using NTBackup.
  4. Copy the System State Backup file to an external HDD.
  5. Restore the server back to it's present state using the backup taken in step 1
  6. Perform a System State Recovery from the backup file on the external HDD
You should now be back to a working system with all your data
 
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uucknaaa earned 290 total points
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OK ..

I understand what you are asking now.  But to continue, if you cannot login to the Administrator account, you have no way of seeing the entire computer.  Right?

And you are wondering, if you get the password back, and the Administrator account continues to act like it did when you were last able to login, how to you restore the rights to the entire computer.

Without doing something outside the normal operating mode of the Administrator and other User accounts, you cannot restore Administrator privileges to anything.

If you are using Acronis to make backups, doesn't Acronis need administrator privileges, to complete the backup?  Can you login with the Acronis account.

Have you tried to login to any account and go into the User and Groups management from:

-  Right Click on Computer
-  Select Manage
-  On the left is the User and Groups

What user accounts and groups do you see and which account are you using to login with?
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Author Comment

by:Zeon100
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Unfortunately none of the users have access to C: or MMC windows. I think this is because they all have been assigned home drives to a position on the e: drive and the same problem that was happening with the administrator account.

Update: I have found another user admin account I had made in Plesk last year that has access to MMC! I can use it to reset the administrator password. However it gives me the warning attached (Please see attached file). Is it safe to proceed?



pic1.jpg
pic2.jpg
warning.jpg
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by:Alan Hardisty
Alan Hardisty earned 190 total points
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You will be fine to say yes - it's just one of those 'Are you sure you are sure?' questions.
Click on the Help button to read what you risk - very little basically.
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by:uucknaaa
uucknaaa earned 290 total points
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Hey ..

I believe you are going to get the password error anytime you do it in the management console.  The first thing I usually do, that is before UAC, is rename the Administrator account and set the password.  I've seen the warning a lot and have never found any problems.

I guess we are now working on the rights for the Administrator account?  Right?
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Author Comment

by:Zeon100
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All solved! I was able to successfully reset the administrator password and deleted everything in the home directory field. Administrator account now has full access again.

Thanks guys!
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LVL 14

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by:uucknaaa
uucknaaa earned 290 total points
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Far out!  It's been great working with all of you!
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