My Life In Tech: Password Hell

Gateway All-In-One Computer

Gateway AIO

I set up a brand new Gateway All-In-One the other day for a lovely older couple.  They also needed files transferred from a ClickFree backup of their old XP PC, and a new printer/scanner set up.

When I set up a new PC, I take out all the crap including Norton, put in a decent antivirus program, get the first big whack of Windows Updates going, and install Java, Adobe FlashPlayer, and so on and set up email.  The last thing I do is start the Recovery Media Creator and leave them with the requisite number of discs and instructions on how to label them.

I can usually do that in 90 minutes, so I told the customers to expect it to take about two hours.  Should be routine, except …

“It’s always something.” ~Roseanne Roseannadanna~

First big surprise: They don’t have Shaw High Speed, they have Shaw High Speed Lite.  Because? “We’re retired.”  So hey.  Those updates and installs took about half an hour longer than I thought they would.

Second big surprise: While I was waiting for most of the stuff to download from, I started setting up the printer/scanner.  If you’re thinking the surprise was “no USB cable” that’s not it.  Of course there was no USB cable, but I had one in my bag AND we had the one from the old printer.  No, the surprise was, of course, they didn’t have any fresh paper.  They were reusing ratty old sheets of paper “because we’re retired.”  These people are not short of money.  They are just retired.  As it happened, I had a ream of paper in my car because I had bought some for myself the day before.

Third big surprise: The Outlook Express store was corrupted on the ClickFree as well as on the old XP machine, so most of the 3GB+ in the In box couldn’t be transferred.

Final big surprise: I got everything installed, Office 2010 Started activated, the printer/scanner

Pretty much my reaction

working, photos, docs, music, Favorites, contacts and what was left of the email transferred in just over two hours.  And I made it look darn easy, I must say.  So I reboot to apply the 58 or so Windows Updates, and Windows 7 complains that the password I put in there is wrong.

No, the CAPS LOCK wasn’t on, either at that point or when I created the password.  It just absolutely would not let me in.  And of course the Administrator account was disabled.  And I am working very, very hard to remain calm.  Because? Of course I was not up to the part where I had made the recovery discs.  That was next.

I had in my bag of tricks a CD called the Offline Password & Registry Editor.  I had never used it before.  It is not for the faint of heart, but the onscreen comments guided me through enabling the Administrator account and clearing the password.  (I could not clear the password for the account I’d created, but I later found out how I could have done that.  I think the message was right in front of me all the time, but I didn’t grasp it.)

Once I could login as Administrator, I could reset the password for the other account.  From there it was just a matter of disabling the Administrator account again and rebooting several times to make sure everything worked.

That little detour into Password Hell took just over 45 minutes.  I still don’t know what I did to screw up the password the first time.  I expect the problem was self-inflicted somehow.  It had already been a long day.  I can’t say enough good about the Offline Password & Registry Editor and the excellent documentation that comes right along with it.  That saved me a lot of extra work and embarrassment.



Mike Smith of the Mike Tech Show podcast wrote to say:

Just an FYI, since I have many clients that fall into this category:

If password is reset on users that have EFS encrypted files, and the system is XP or newer, all encrypted files for that user will be UNREADABLE! and cannot be recovered unless you remember the old password again If you don’t know if you have encrypted files or not, you most likely don’t have them. (except maybe on corporate systems)

And he’s right of course.  In my case, I had just set up the computer so I knew there were no encrypted files.  But on any other system, it would be good to ask.

Thanks, Mike.





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1 comment

  1. WOW Cate – makes me dizzy reading this…. I’m glad i have you on speed-dial!

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