Steve Smith, host of your TQA Weekly, explains to password fail safe a Windows machine so you never get locked out, how to make a USB key for password bypass, and how to access private files in Windows if the need be, and you can't log back in.
Episode #2-39 released on June 24, 2012
Too often we lose access to our computers and lose access to our files, and sometimes it is really just a matter of access, and not infects or hard drive failure. What is this erroneous issue that plagues us all, the Windows Password.
Passwords are important, and just as important is password protect, especially with Windows. There are so many different ways to get access to your computer, if you prevent it from being a problem right now, but there are a few catches before we start. You will have to make more than one account in your computer to ease the access process, and you will need a USB key for each account you need to protect. You can't use just one because the file is always named the same, and always placed in the same place. Keep these safe, and out of the hands of those who would use this to gain access to our account, like Kids and Spouses wanting to do something verify specific, want ever that is at the time. Let me note that this future event is what is going to lead you to change your password, and lose it at the same time.
Warning: This is a preemptive methodology of password loss protection, and you must preform these tasks prior to password loss as you may be unable to recover to your account with these files, account types, and backups. Some of these solutions will render the Microsoft version of an encryption tool to loose its encryption keys. Use this at your own risk, or better yet, use True Crypt instead a tool that is not reliant on the operating system's own encryption keys.
Let's start with the most basic form of password loss protection, go to the control panel, into the users section, and select your profile, plug in a USB Jump Drive, and click on Prevent a Forgotten Password. This creates a small file unique to your profile that will allow you to regain access to that profile, you need a new USB Jump Drive for each user. This will continue to work, regardless of how many times you change your password.
The second way of preventing lost access to your user account is multiple administrator accounts. You should not run as administrator, but having more than one is a better safe guard. I fix numerous computers and laptops that have the one administrator account, and often the issues are privilege based like infects and passwords, or corruption of password files. With an administrator account you can delete passwords from accounts you can not access, in effect, regaining access to your files. Please note, that your kids should never have access to any administrator account as this may defeat the purpose of being secure, at all times. They would, also, be able to detect and delete any Net Nanny type software.
The third requires more space, and possibly an external backup, as sometimes files do corrupt in Windows, and this leads to inaccessible accounts altogether. You should consider doing monthly image backups, and at the minimum, weekly data backups of images, documents, music, etc... In the image backup, consider adding a Hint to what the password was, and better yet, make sure you preserve the USB key for those accounts, it will still work once the image in installed onto the hard drive. For this, I seriously suggest using Acronis True Image, which is often given for free by your hard drive manufacture, just head over to your hard drive manufacture's web-site.
The last trick, which is why I have a warning to this episode, will render all encryption keys null, so it is important that you backup any encryption keys you absolutely need, and refrain from the use of operating system based and reliant methods. It is possible to use a second computer running Windows to change the privileges of an account to allow access to all the files and make backups before reinstalling from a backup, or even reset the password, but this is reliant on the type of Windows being used to change the permissions. Windows XP can change permissions for Windows 7 and lower, but is not necessarily able to remove the password altogether, and with newer versions of Windows, it is nearly impossible to remove the password from an alternate Windows installation. You can, at the very least, recover your files. Windows XP installations, however, can reset the passwords of other Windows XP installations. You may need to use an alternate password utility to remove the password from your Windows session, but use them at your own risk because many are designed to hack your data and infect them instead of removing your password to allow access.
Next week, we will talk about your iPad, iPod Touch and iPhone. What do they all have in common, your iTunes cards and credit cards, I'll explain how to prevent your kids and anyone else for that manner, from purchasing anything on your device, even in game.
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Host : Steve Smith | Music : Jonny Lee Hart | Editor : Steve Smith | Producer : Zed Axis Productions