Recover Passwords - Page 1 of 5

By TOM BOWSER


What happens if you or someone you manage a computer for forgets their password? Depending on how the computer is configured you may loose access to the computer and any files stored on it. My tutorial "Reset Passwords" shows you how to quickly and easily reset a forgotten password using a "password reset disk". The tutorial you are about to read shows you one way to recover a user password if you DO NOT have a password reset disk.


Before We Begin

I'm going to show you how to recover passwords using the Windows password "cracker" application called ophcrack. I'll show you how to use ophcrack from the "ophcrack LiveCD". Ophcrack is legal to use and free of charge. If you use Ophcrack and it saves you time, money or frustration make a donation to the developers. You don't work for free, why should they?

Ophcrack is identified as a potential "threat" by some antivirus/anti-malware applications. It WOULD pose a threat if it were installed and used on your computer without your knowledge or permission. Ophcrack has only one purpose, to discover the passwords used to access a computer.

Password Recovery Scenarios

In my experience common scenarios in which passwords are forgotten include:
  1. A computer user changes their password to a new password. Shortly after changing their password they forget the new password.
  2. A computer user attempts to log on to a computer they have not used for a while (example, after returning from a vacation). They have forgotten their computer password.

Do you manage computers for a (SOHO) small office, home office business? A possible scenario to consider is someone purposely and maliciously changing a computer's password to gain control of the computer and the files & information it holds. A disgruntled employee could change the password/s and lock you out of a computer/s as an act of revenge. A malicious individual who has gained remote electronic access to your home or small business computers could change the password/s and lock you out of your computer system/s. Why? To gain control of the systems and information on them in order to collect ransom money from you or your company.

You should create and securely store a password reset disk for the "administrator" account of each computer you maintain. A password reset disk will limit the repercussions of a forgotten or maliciously changed password.

Create The Ophcrack Bootable Disk

This tutorial was written using Windows 7. The process is basically the same for other versions of Windows including Windows 8. The ophcrack LiveCD was able to crack an 8 character password within an elapsed time of less than 10 minutes. I received similar results on a computer running Windows 8. The password I recovered consisted of both letters and numbers. The time it takes to recover a password is dependent on the speed of the computer you run the LiveCD from and the complexity of the password.

What you need to begin:

  1. CD burner/recorder
  2. 1 blank CD/DVD
  3. 1 USB thumb/flash drive.
  4. Download the ophcrack LiveCD ISO file.

Download the most recent version of the ophcrack LiveCD. At the time I wrote this tutorial you needed to download the file entitled "ophcrack Vista/7 LiveCD".

Find the file you downloaded. By default Windows saves all downloaded files to the "Downloads" folder. If you are using a keyboard press and hold down the "Windows" key then press the e key on the keyboard. You should see the Downloads folder in the upper left hand side of the window that opens (Windows Explorer). Next:

Take a deep breath, relax and take a sip of your favorite beverage. You should see a progress meter that monitors the recording/burning and verification process. Once the CD or DVD has been verified click on the "Close" button

Prepare The USB Flash/Thumb Drive

  1. Insert a USB thumb/flash drive into an available USB port.
  2. Create a folder/directory at the "root" or first level of the USB drive and name it "tables".
Next:
The file "Vista proba free" is an "archive" file that contains multiple files. It will have a 3 digit file extension of .zip. Once you download "Vista proba free.zip" you must "unpack" or "unzip" the file.
  • Find the file you downloaded ("Vista proba free.zip").
  • Right click on the file.
  • Left click on the words "Extract All..." at the top of the menu that appears.
  • Left click on the "Extract" button.
A progress meter will display while the archive unpacks/unzips. A window will open showing the files that have been unpacked. The files you see will be contained in a folder/directory called "Vista proba free". The folder/directory "Vista proba free" will be in the same location as the archive file "Vista proba free.zip".
  • Copy the folder "Vista proba free" and all the files it contains into the "tables" folder of the USB thumb/flash drive.



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