One of the “fun” experiences I have run into in my IT career is the situation where domain trust is broken or the network is not configured, but you absolutely have to get into the box in question. The trouble is the password was set by someone who was in the position before you and there is no documentation. I have come across 2 ways to do this, one of which I consider to the conventional bare metal method and the Hyper-V guest method.
Method 1 (Bare Metal Method):
If you have a physical server or a virtual machine that is in another format other than VHD to VHDX use this method. Essentially what we will be doing is booting from the windows disk into a command prompt repair option, backing up and renaming utilman.exe and making a copy of cmd.exe name utilman.exe. This will allow us to reboot to login prompt, press windows + U (which ordinarily brings up utilman.exe) which will launch a command prompt, from where we can reset the administrator password using the net user commands.
The first step is to insert the windows disk, reboot and choose to boot from disk. Once you are on the the screen that present the option to install windows or repair your computer
Choose the troubleshoot option, and then select to command prompt.
Once you are booted into the command prompt you will need to type the following commands (note D is the normal drive for C: in this prompt, if you primary drive is labeled something other than C you can use diskpart to identify the proper disk)
- cd windowssystem32
- ren utilman.exe utilman.bkp
- copy cmd.exe utilman.exe
Close the command prompt, eject the disk and restart. Once you boot to the sign in screen press windows key + U then type the following:
- net user administrator Password123!
Close the command prompt and login as administrator with the password you just set. Once you have completed this successfully you will want to remove the utilman.exe application and rename utilman.bkp to utilman.exe.
Method 2 (Mounting VHD Method):
If you are utilizing Hyper-V or another virtualization platform that utilizes VHD or VHDX files you have another option, which is to mound the VHD and perform similar steps to the above. If the VM in question is running shut it down. Once the virtual machine is shut down on the Hyper-V host machine open disk management (diskmgmt.msc) and choose the “action” menu, then select “attach VHD”.
Once you select attach VHD, you’ll need to navigate to the directory where your Hyper-V VHDs are stored (by default this is C:UsersPublicDocumentsHyper-VVirtual Hard Disks). Select the VHD and mount it. Once the VHD is mounted you’ll see it show up as a drive letter, navigate to this drive letter, choose the windowssystem32 directory. You will need to right click on utilman.exe and choose properties, select the security tab, choose advanced security and change ownership to your user account.
Once you have taken ownership and applied changes you will be able to add your account on the security tab and grant full control. Once this is applied you will then have the permissions needed to change the filename to utilman.back. Once this is done locate cmd.exe in same directory, right click and copy, then paste and rename to utilman.exe. Unmount the VHD by opening disk managment (diskmgmt.msc), highlight the disk for the VHD you mounted, then choose “action>all tasks>detach VHD”
Once you have unmounted the VHD you can boot the Hyper-V virtual machine and press ctrl+U at the login prompt to reset the password via command prompt with the following command:
- net user administrator Passwor123!
Once you are successfully in the server and you need to perform the same cleanup tasks as in method 1. If you run into issues moving utilman.bak to utilman.exe you can try shutting down the VM and re-mounting the VHD to the Hyper-V host and change these options, unmount the VHD and reboot the Hyper-V system.
Thank you all for reading and I hope this article is helpful. This article is intended to assist administrators to access systems they have rights to access but lack the password. This article is in no way mean to help or endorse illicit access to systems, please use this information carefully and please act ethically and only use this to access systems you own and/or are authorized to access.