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Occasionally a person will be unable to remember their password on a computer if they’ve not been required to type in that password for a while. This page provides some suggestions on options to access the files on the computer. These instructions are for someone with advanced tech skills.


Follow these steps to access the data.

  1. ALTERNATE ACCOUNT — If the computer has an alternate account for another user, you might try logging into that account, and from the Windows File Explorer, go to the main system hard drive, and inside of the Users folder, try to open the folder for the other account. This requires that you have an administrative account. When you attempt to open the desired user account folders, you may initially see a message indicating you are not authorized to view the folder. Hopefully the system will open the folder, although the process may take a while. A progress bar may show up indicating the process is working.
  2. REMOVE DRIVE — If the above method doesn’t work to view the files in the folder, you may need to remove the drive. Desktop computers are typically easier to open for drive access. Laptop computers can be difficult, and on some systems the drive may not be removeable.
  3. DRIVE USB CONNECT — You will want to put the drive into a dock or use an adapter that lets you read the drive as a plugged-in USB drive. These adapters come in a few different styles: Cable adapters [View Samples], docks [View Samples] and enclosures [View Samples]. All of these devices work fine for short term access to drives, but if you are leaving the drive connected for a while, it could get hot. Drives are usually in a computer and benefit from the fans and cooling systems that computers have. So, for an external drive you may want to have a small fan blowing on the drive to keep it cool. The devices described here are for common 2.5-inch or 3.5-inch drives. Other adapters and enclosures are available for NVMe M.2 drives. [View Samples]
  4. INSTALL NEW DRIVE — Since you are going to the effort of opening the computer and removing the drive, it is a good time to upgrade the computer to a larger drive and change from a mechanical hard drive to a solid-state hard drive. These are typically in the 2.5-inch size. [View Samples] The cost of these drives depends on the storage capacity, speed of data transfer, and expected usable lifespan. If your computer uses an NVMe M.2 drive, then you will need one of those. [View Samples]
  5. INSTALL WINDOWS — You can use a USB Windows installation device. If you need a Windows license, these are $140 for the license and the device. [View Example] The example here is from an unknown vendor on Amazon. You may want to search for the Pro or Home version from other vendors. With the new drive installed, startup to the USB Windows installer and perform the Windows installation.
  6. READ OLD DRIVE — Your old drive that is using the adapter can be plugged into USB and read like a typical USB hard drive.