New/Used laptop; need to get past password protection

I got a used laptop for free (from freecycle) and the previous owner had password protection on the administrative account, which of course makes sense, but either didn’t wipe their data or really don’t remember the password and I can’t get in. THere is a “guest” account option, so I can at least use get in that way, but it doesn’t do me much good without being able to get my internet going and my programs on there, etc. I don’t particularly mind wiping it and reinstalling XP since I’m obviously not losing any of my data and don’t want any of theirs if it happens to be there.

So, if XP is already installed and is working fine, will it work for me to insert the XP installation disk and go from there? Will that wipe their stuff and allow me to establish a new administrator account? Or is there something else I can/should do?

The laptop is an HP Pavillion 4600.

I’m obviously not a computer professional but can follow directions and have reformatted a drive before. I just don’t want to do something I don’t have to or do something that will render this gift useless!!


Go into the BIOS, change the boot order so that the CD-ROM drive boots first, save changes and exit BIOS, insert Windows disc, reboot computer, and reformat & reinstall. Easy as pie!

Ok, so it’s best to just reformat. I can do that! Just did it on another computer. Hopefully it will let me change the boot order without a password.

Then curse that the hard drive takes a nonstandard driver, which you’ve now erased. Then curse that the network connection takes a nonstandard driver, which you’ve erased. Curse additionally as you realize that you can’t download the new driver without a network. For extra “lucky” points, maybe your DVD will be non-standard, and you won’t even be able to download the drivers on another computer. (I’ve seen HP laptops–even in the last five years-- that cannot be re-formatted without an attached FLOPPY disk drive, because of the stupid “if you have a driver for your hard drive, press F6” thing.

Reformatting a laptop, especially an older one, is a risky business, unless you have the ORIGINAL installation disk (assuming there even was one.) Before you do that, see if there’s a BIOS option to restore-to-factory (they sometimes put a restore disk on a separate partition), or contact HP (1-800-HP-INVENT) and see if they can send you a restore disk for that machine.

I wish the people had thought ahead to just take their stuff off and change the password to something generic they could have given me. I didn’t even think about it or I would have asked them to do that ahead of time. I emailed them for the password, but told them only if they’d taken all their stuff off of it. They said they didn’t remember it, which probably means they didn’t take their stuff off. Dang. Ok, I’ll look for a restore to factory setting.

There are many programs online to bypass the password. Google it - " missing password XP "

You should be able to reset the local administrator password with this bootable CD:

I’ve used it a few times myself, got to be better than reinstalling the OS. Works on XP, Vista, 7.

Here’s a nice page with instructions and the files you need:

The OP said “will it work for me to insert the XP installation disk and go from there?”, which tells me that he has the original disk. If he does not have the original disk, then, yes, precautions must be taken.

Sorry, but this is drastically overstated. Drivers are easily available from the HP support website.

I would actually recommend reinstalling the OS since you don’t know how the previous owners kept up the system. You could end up spending a lot of time trying to clean out junk, or just reinstall to a squeaky clean system.

Yes, I did say that - -should have been more clear. I have an XP install disk, not the original from this machine. (and I’m a she, not that it really matters, but just to be clear)

As long as it matches the product type (Home/Pro) and is an OEM (as opposed to retail or VLK) CD you can install and use the license key on the sticker on the bottom of the laptop.

Additionally, look up a program called nLite. It lets you easily “slipstream” the latest service packs and burns an updated CD for you. Saves a lot of time.

Which does you absolutely no good if you can’t get them onto the machine (on some laptops, during the install of XP, before the optical drive is initialized, you need to install drivers for the quasi-SCSI disks that are installed in them. The only device it can read at that point is a floppy drive.) I have been in this situation about two years ago, when, it must be pointed out, I was actually working for HP – our internal IT confirmed we had to send the laptops back to be re-imaged if we’d nuked the on-board re-install partition. Several models were shipped this way (they used the goofy drives because they improved performance).

Depending on the manufacturer, there may be an emergency restore partition on the laptop’s hard drive that has everything that you need to restore the machine to it’s factory defaults. I have seen & used this feature on HP/Compaq, Dell & Sony laptops. If you see a message early in the BIOS boot-up saying something like “Press F11 for Emergency Restore” then your laptop has such a partition - assuming the previous owner hasn’t messed with it!

While it is fairly easy to reset the Administrator account password (see Ximenean’s post), I agree with Cleophus that it is probably better in the long run to erase & reinstall to a clean state.

Assuming moes lotion’s advice doesn’t work and you have to nuke (reformat) and reinstall, you can go ahead and download all the appropriate drivers beforehand. You mention it’s a Pavilion 4600, and if you mean the ze4600, then one of these two pages will get you all the drivers you need.

Also mentioned in those links is to buy the recovery disks. Everything I’m reading seems to indicate that (for pre-Vista computers) they are necessary, even if you have a recovery partition. That seems stupid to me, and hopefully they are wrong. So I’d try the recovery first, if that doesn’t work, reformat and install the appropriate drivers from the links I gave, and, if that doesn’t work, pay for the real recovery disks. (I’d pay the extra money for express shipping, as there have been reports of it taking almost 2 months otherwise.)

Ok, I’m going to first see if there’s a recovery mode

Problem with getting those files is that I can’t set up the laptop to go online without administrator privileges! It has wifi, and I have a wireless network at home, but it doesn’t seem to work and it doesn’t want to let me change anything…

Wish I was more experienced with it, dang it.

Will report back and thank you all very much.

Remember that if you do get stuck, there are plenty of services out there (Best Buy’s “Geek Squad” and the like) that can do this for you, albeit at a cost. I don’t usually recommend them, since their level of technical knowledge is–charitably–rather variable. But barring something horrific like the disk driver issues I mentioned earlier, this should be pretty much a slam dunk for any reasonably technical person with access to the Internet and basic tools. And it shouldn’t take more than an hour; less if they’re just doing a basic install (i.e. not putting any software other than the OS on it for you).

Like moes lotion said, there might be a button you can press at boot to get into recovery mode. That’s your best bet to restore to factory condition.

If you can’t do that, then usually these laptops have some kind of utility to create recovery discs the first time you use it. So once you reset the password with one of the already mentioned utilities, you can create the recovery discs. Look for something under the start menu like HP recovery center or something like that. It should have an option to burn a set of DVDs. You might be able to do it from the guest account, even.

Then use those recovery discs to do the wipe & reinstall. You definitely want to start with a fresh install rather than deal with whatever crap the original owner has on there. It might be full of spyware and viruses.

ok, I"m attempting a reinstall using an XP disk that isn’t the original to this machine. If I get so far as to need the registration numbers, do I use the ones off the bottom of the notebook or the ones that came with the disk?

Never mind, figured that part out…