Windows Password Recovery using a Bootable USB Drive

Recently I needed to help someone perform a windows password recovery on their computer.  When they came home from work they were unable to log into their computer using their normal password.  Either the password on their account had been changed or the account was locked out due to too many invalid logon attempts.

Regardless of what had happened I knew that the account could be reset using the offline NT password utility.  Lately I have been trying to avoid burning CD’s except when absolutely necessary so I decided to create a bootable USB drive for resetting Windows passwords.  Almost any boot CD can be converted to run from a USB drive with a little work, including dell diagnostics.

It’s actually pretty simple to make one and it will be very useful if you ever need to use it.  This method works on pretty much any version of windows from W2K to Windows 7, and also Windows Server 2003/2008.

First you’ll need to download the archive that contains the ISO image.  Under the download section of the web page grab the file labeled bootable CD image, for the current version the file is called  It’s only about a 4MB image so you’re not going to need a very big flash drive to do this.

Once you have the ISO you’ll need to mount it using Daemon Tools, the lite version is free and will do everything you need.  Be careful when installing Daemon tools because by default the installer will try to install some extra junk you don’t want, just uncheck those options during the install.  When you mount the ISO you will see several files inside, copy all of the files to the USB Drive.  It’s ok if the USB drive you use has other files on it, the password reset utility can coexist with them just fine.

One of the files you will copy over is called syslinux.exe, this will be used to make the drive bootable.  To install the bootloader open up a command prompt and run the command below, replace E: with the drive letter assigned to your USB drive.

E:\syslinux.exe -ma E:

If the command completes without any errors or messages then the boot loader was successfully installed.  Now you can boot from the USB drive and follow the on screen prompts to remove a password or enabled a locked account.  The creator of the utility includes a walkthrough of the process on his site if needed. recently posted a nice guide on how to put multiple ISOs on a bootable USB drive with a nice menu.

Sam Kear

Sam graduated from the University of Missouri - Kansas City with a bachelors degree in Information Technology. Currently he works as a network analyst for an algorithmic trading firm. Sam enjoys the challenge of troubleshooting complex problems and is constantly experimenting with new technologies.

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