As I have previously related in Windows Lost or Forgotten Password I am really impressed with the toolkit provided by PC Login Now available from SourceForge.
I have used this previously to recover a system where we had forgotten any/all passwords.
So this time I am working with my HP Mini Netbook and its happily working with my Samba domain for months when for a reason yet to be determined the domain controller cannot authenticate the machine account. Which in turn means that none of the user accounts are working either.
Over the 6 months or so since I got the netbook I’d not had any need to access the system locally, ie using the local administrator account, and naturally I discovered that I did not have any password or username that I could get to work.
Ok, so I have Windows 7 on the netbook and no password, so I reach for my bootable CD of PC Login Now, and Doh! It’s a netbook with no CD, and I cannot connect to the network for a drive share because the login is not working.
Bootable USB! That would have to be the solution. But having trawled the web and read reams of guff about how this and that will work I ended up with what should’ve been a simple solution but it took a number of tries to identify the complete sequence.
#1. Format your USB stick in a FAT 16 mode. Windows XP allows for this – select the drive and right-click then select Format, the rest of the process should be obvious. If it is not, then find your computer guru to help you.
#2. Do not attempt to use the PCLoginNow iso I mentioned previously as it will not work for a USB.
#3. I’ve summarised the info provided on the Parted Magic support site specifically for my Windows desktop environment.
#3.1 Download the file “partedmagic-usb-x.x.zip” from the Parted Magic site.
#3.2 Extract it to a local folder using Windows’ ‘Compressed (zipped) Folders’, or similiarly, ‘7-Zip‘ (another fine, Open Source project – which I thoroughly recommend!)
#3.3 Download the additional PC Login Now modules from Parted Magic. You can also read more about this process in the forum thread at Parted Magic.
#3.4 Copy the pcloginnow.txz file to the pmagic/pmodules directory on your computer. This directory exists and in my version has a file pmagic-4.8.sqfs already there. This is correct. You are now ready to setup the USB stick.
#4. In the notes for their step 4 the syslinux.exe that you need in a Windows environ is already there for you. (/boot/syslinux/syslinux.exe). Just open a command window and find the /boot/syslinux directory under the partedmagic directory you created earlier. Run the command
syslinux.exe -d bootsyslinux -ma X:
where you swap X: for the drive letter of your USB stick.
#5. Copy the /boot and /pmagic folders from your computer to the USB stick root directory and you are ready to go.
#6. Boot your USB driven computer with the resulting USB stick
#7. When doing this on a netbook, the screen settings are too small (height wise) to allow for the full screen of PC Login Now to be shown. You need to use the TAB key and make some educated guesses as to which button is selected and then use the Enter key to commit that button. If you make a mistake there are confirmation prompts which allow you to cancel. However, the main game of stepping through PC Login Now and setting a user to have a cleared password can be done.
#8. After setting the clear password option, shutdown the Parted Magic installation politely and then remove the USB stick and restart. Login with your user name and no password to get access.
#9. Set up your administrator passwords and user accounts again, this time writing down what password goes with what local account so that you dont need to do all of this again.
Hope this shortens the process for someone else.