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How to retrieve passwords from locked laptops

How can I retrieve passwords from locked laptops? Our networking fundamentals expert answers this question.

Customers are coming to me because they have forgotten passwords on their laptops. I have no choice but to ship the laptops to their respective manufacturers which is really costing me money. Do you know how to retrieve the passwords from a locked laptop?
Unfortunately, you are not specifying if the laptop as a hardware unit is locked or the operating system it is running.
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In any case, if we assume the operating system has been locked, you're in luck as there are plenty of quality products that will allow you to unlock any account with a forgotten password. One which I frequently use is Winternal's ERD Commander 2005. The program is able to run directly from a CD, allowing you to boot from it and reset the administrator's or any other user's password.

If on the other hand you are referring to unlocking passwords set via the system's BIOS, then you do have a problem as no vendor gives out any of the in-house tools that will allow you to perform such tasks. In this case you will be forced to continue sending the laptops back to their vendor, so you don't void their warranty!

This was first published in April 2008

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