Windows password recovery tools are used to recover, or reset lost user and administrator passwords used to log on to Windows operating systems.
Password recovery tools are often called “password cracker” tools because they are sometimes used to “crack” passwords by hackers. Legally cracking or unlocking your own Windows password is certainly a legitimate practice!
Note: A Windows password recovery program is just one of several ways to find a lost Windows password.
Below you’ll find the best free Windows password recovery programs available, most of which work for Windows 10, down to Windows XP passwords:
The Ophcrack Windows password cracker is by far the best free Windows password recovery tool available. It’s fast and easy enough for a first time Windows password cracker with a basic knowledge of Windows.
With Ophcrack, you don’t need any access to Windows to be able to recover your lost passwords. From another computer, visit the site, download the free ISO image, burn it to a CD or flash drive, and then boot from it.
The Ophcrack program starts, locates the Windows user accounts, and proceeds to recover (crack) the passwords – all automatically.
In a test run on a Windows 8 PC, Ophcrack recovered the 8-character password (mixed letters and numbers) to my guest account in 3 minutes and 45 seconds.
Ophcrack supports Windows 8, Windows 7, Windows Vista, and Windows XP.
Offline NT Password & Registry Editor (ONTP&RE) works differently than most password recovery programs in that it erases your Windows password instead of recovering it. You can think of it as more of a Windows password reset tool.
Like Ophcrack, you boot form a burned disc or flash drive created with the Offline NT Password & Registry Editor ISO file. After running the program, you can log in to your Windows account without entering a password at all.
If you like this “password deleting” strategy then I highly recommend this program. It requires some seemingly difficult command line work but I have a full walkthrough available. In other words: you can do this!
I’ve tested Offline NT Password & Registry Editor on 64-bit & 32-bit versions of Windows 10, Windows 8, Windows 7, Windows Vista, and Windows XP PCs and it reset the passwords immediately without problem. It should work on Windows 2000 and Windows NT operating systems too.
Cain & Abel is a free, fast and effective Windows password recovery tool.
Unlike Ophcrack and other popular Windows password hacking programs, Cain & Abel requires access to Windows under an administrator account. Due to this fact, Cain & Abel is a valuable resource to recover passwords to accounts other than the one you’re using.
Add that to the fact that Cain & Abel is a bit more complicated to use than other password recovery apps and you have what is, in my book, a pretty advanced tool. Check it out if you think it might be useful to you.
Cain & Abel was able to recover the 10-character password to the Windows XP “Administrator” account in ten seconds. While it only officially supports Windows XP, 2000, and NT, some users have had luck getting it to work in Windows Vista and Windows 7.
I’ve tried it with Windows 10, 8, 7, and Vista, and was unsuccessful each time.
Trinity Rescue Kit needs to be booted from a disc or USB stick to work. It includes many different tools, one of which is for password recovery.
You can use Trinity Rescue Kit to clear a password entirely, making it blank, or to set a custom one.
Some of you may find this program difficult to use because there isn’t a graphical interface. However, even if you’re not used to a command line interface, most of the required keystrokes are just numbers for choosing different options for resetting a password.
Trinity Rescue Kit should work with Windows 10, 8, 7, Vista, and XP.
Note: The password resetting tool in Trinity Rescue Kit, called winpass, is actually just an automated script for the chntpw tool, which is what Offline NT Password & Registry Editor, listed above, is based on. If you tried that password tool and it didn’t work, Trinity Rescue Kit probably won’t either.
John the Ripper is a popular free password recovery tool that can be used to find Windows account passwords.
While the password recovery application itself is free, the wordlists used by John the Ripper to discover passwords do cost and are required for the software to work.
I’m told there are free wordlist alternatives that work with John the Ripper which is why this Windows password recovery tool is still listed as free. However, I have my own password collection sets I use to demonstrate how people just don’t use effective passwords anymore.
John the Ripper is operated at the command line making it a password cracking tool reserved for the very advanced user.
In theory, John the Ripper should support all popular versions of Windows like Windows 10, 8, 7, Vista, and XP. I have only used it on XP and 7, but in general theory of 7, it should work for 8 and 10.
Windows Password Recovery Tools Aren’t Necessary if You’re Proactive!
These Windows password recovery tools are great if you need them, but there’s a much easier way to access your account if you forget your password – a password reset disk!
A password reset disk is a special disk you can insert in your PC during the logon process that will allow you to change your Windows password without knowing your current password. You will need to create this disk before you lose access to your account! Now mind you, disk, can now be USB memory key. To find a super cheap 1GB USB memory key is really all you need.