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Dell Inspiron 530 Full System Restore.

Posted on 2009-07-12
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Last Modified: 2012-06-27
I have a small PC Repair Business. One of my clients has forgotten their password. Their PC is now over a year old, and somehow, the same password the client has used for this period of time, no longer works. Has a virus changed his password?  Who knows.

Anyhow, the client has owned the PC for over a year and has only 5 MB of data on the whole PC, and no installed software since purchased, so I decided to pull the drive and take the data off it, on to a stick, and replace the drive and do a Full (Destructive) System Restore, bringing the PC back to its original factory configuration, then restore the data from stick, perform updates and install free Avast, Malwarebytes and CCleaner and some maintenance icons, like I have dozens of times before. Sounds like a plan.

No problem getting the data. But Ctrl+F11 does not start the System Restore. Going on-line, I find they have buried it in the F8 Safe Mode List of Options, actually at the top of the list. Fine. But entering the rebuild mode then asks for an Administrative account password, of which of course we don't have.

So I removed the drive, connected it to my laptop and using XP's Disk Management, switched the Dell Recovery Partition to be the Active Partition on the drive, then reinstalled it and booted. This fails miserably, looking for BOOTMGR. So I've switched the active partition back again...

At this point, I'm stopped in my tracks unless I want to buy some Password Recovery Software and burn an ISO to CD. I've heard their are some free versions of password recovery software but have always found these free versions difficult to use, sometimes not working at all.

I have 2 possible solutions:

1) Find a way to do a Dell Full System Restore without needing to know the users password (is their a standard Administrator account and Dell factory password?)

2) Use a recommended password recovery software, and burn bootable ISO to CD and boot from this to recover the password.

Any ideas?
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Question by:HammettG
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by:LeeTutor
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Well, I've had success with the following free tool:  This site allows you to download files needed to create a bootable floppy disk or CD-ROM which contains a program that can be used to reset passwords on a Windows NT-based OS (such as WinXP and Vista):

http://home.eunet.no/~pnordahl/ntpasswd/
Offline NT Password & Registry Editor

It is a rather "geeky" tool; not a nice Windows graphical user interface.  You might want to check this page for a demonstration of its use, with screenshots provided in the article:

http://blogs.techrepublic.com.com/window-on-windows/?p=639
Reset lost Windows passwords with Offline Registry Editor

There is also a video about using this tool here:

http://blogs.techrepublic.com.com/itdojo/?p=140&tag=nl.e550
Video: Reset Windows passwords with the Offline NT Password and Registry Editor

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LeeTutor earned 500 total points
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The Offline NT Password and Registry Editor is also part of this great set of tools, which is free:

http://www.ultimatebootcd.com/

You need the Ultimate Boot CD if you want to:

Run floppy-based diagnostic tools from CDROM drives. More and more PCs are shipped without floppy drives these days, and it is such a royal pain when you need to run diagnostic tools on them.

Free yourself from the slow loading speed of the floppy drive. Even if you do have a floppy drive, it is still much much faster to run your diagnostic tools from the CDROM drive, rather than wait for the tool to load from the floppy drive.

Consolidate as many diagnostic tools as possible into one bootable CD. Wouldn't you like to avoid digging into the dusty box to look for the right floppy disk, but simply run them all from a single CD? Then the Ultimate Boot CD is for you!

When you boot up from the CD, a text-based menu will be displayed, and you will be able to select the tool you want to run. The selected tool actually boots off a virtual floppy disk created in memory.



Ultimate Boot CD has tools in the following categories:
Hard Disk Installation, Hard Disk Diagnosis, Hard Disk Device Management, Hard Disk Wiping, Hard Disk Cloning, Hard Disk Sector Editing, Partition Tools, Boot Managers, File Tools, NTFS Tools, System Burn-in Test, CPU Test, Memory Test, Peripherals Test, CPU Information, System Information, Benchmark Applications, BIOS Utilities, DOS Boot Disks, Antivirus Tools, Network Tools.
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Author Closing Comment

by:HammettG
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Hi LeeTutor:

For some reason, I've never had much luck with UBCD. I did find and try the utility you mentioned, which I've tried before. I changed the password for the user and wrote back the changes, the edit was successful, however, the new password still does not work.  I remember modifying the ownership of all files on the drive to my account  before I accessed the data, in case there were mutiple locations, so maybe this affected Windows system files, including user accounts. I didn't think it important at the moment I changed these - I would just start the restore and be done with it. Oh dear.

So I went back into the UBCD utility, carefully reading every little word, and they do recommend blanking the password for Vista. So I tried this, and it worked!!! I went into the users Windows Desktop, and from there changed the password from blank to "user". Then I could use the clients account to start the restore, and off I'm running!

Thanks, LeeTutor, you get the whole kit 'n kaboodle!
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by:HammettG
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One thing I will mention about UBCD: it remains more cryptic then it needs to be. For example, does it really make sense to place a Windows Registry Editing Tool under Filesystem Tools? I always thought of the Registry as an Operating System Component, not a File System. Just a thought for UBCD...
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