Cracking the Code

A month or so ago, HWTFM’s laptop developed a bizarre problem of randomly shutting down, usually during the boot process.  Since it was out of warranty, he decided it was time for a new one, so the old one sat around on the kitchen table ever since.  Now that summer has arrived, I have a little time to tend to things around the house that need fixing.

Last week, I took apart the old laptop.  I didn’t actually FIX anything, but what appears to be the ritual “laying on of hands” probably includes snugging up connections that have worked loose over time.  Also removing gobs of cat hair, attracted to the inside of anything electronic because of the electrostatic charge.  But even after I was able to get it to boot successfully several times, we were still stuck: HWTFM had forgotten the administrator password (the only account on that machine).

I tried 437 times to guess at it, then gave up.  This morning, after again fixing Delta’s laptop via the “laying on of hands” method (it was her keyboard cable), I started googling for an XP password crack.  There are several out there for $34.95-ish, but I wasn’t in the mood to spend money.  Finally, I happened upon the Ultimate Boot CD, which contains quite a few excellent tools, including a password reset.

That’s how I know I tried 437 times to guess: the password reset tool told me how many times the incorrect password had been attempted prior to my reset.  The utility also includes a variety of hard disk tools, partition tools, a registry editor, anti-virus and anti-malware tools, and a bunch of other stuff.

MOST people probably either remember their Windows password, or just don’t use one.  But occasionally one is called upon to fix a machine where the password is unknown, or even one that was changed via malware.  This tool isn’t for rookies or the faint of heart, but it’s a good one if you can follow directions and sort of know what you’re doing at the command line interface.

Next up, I’m running a full scan on the old computer, because I’m suspicious that that’s how the password got messed up in the first place.  Once that scan is done, then we’ll have one more working laptop in the house, probably destined for Gamma going into her senior year of high school.

Another nifty freebie: BurnCDCC from TeraByte Unlimited is a small, fast ISO-burner to create bootable CDs.

If only I were as proficient in auto repair.

3 Responses to “Cracking the Code”

  1. on 11 Jun 2009 at 10:49 pm Mike

    Good job NM. Thanks for the info on those tools.

  2. on 22 Jun 2009 at 11:11 pm Joel

    Get a mac.

  3. on 23 Jun 2009 at 1:29 pm Ellen Smith

    Thanks for the links, Netmom. I never hope to need them, but I’m afraid I know better than to plan on that.

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