I’m a bit forgetful, which is why I always use a password manager to remember all of my quirky and complex passwords for everything. Even then, I occasionally type in the wrong password to access it, even though I’ve been using it for years.
However, I eventually get my password right. The same can’t be said for when you’re prompted to enter a password for an account you don’t even know about — worse, when that account is a critical part of how you use your operating system. I’ll let Lifehacker reader Ken explain for this week’s tech Q&A:
I have a new Windows 10 desktop which I’ve mistakenly added a PIN number (which I know) that has to be entered to get in after boot up.
Been trying to get rid of it in Settings>Windows Settings>Accounts>Sign-in options>Windows Hello PIN>Remove>Remove>First, verify you’re account “password”.
Problem is I have no idea what password it wants so I can delete this “Hello PIN” number??
At first I thought it was the regular Microsoft password. I can log into the Microsoft account with no problem but that’s not the password it wants!
Looks like some sort of local, Windows 10 computer only password and I have no idea what it is!!
Tried everything. How do I get rid of all the password and PIN stuff on this Lenovo desktop computer??
Windows accounts can be a tricky beast sometimes
This is a fun one, Ken. I also use a PIN to log into my Windows 10 computer. And I got the same prompt when I tried to remove it. However, it directly asked for the password to my Microsoft account, which I would normally use to log into Windows 10.
My first thought might sound obvious, but I’m going to lob it out there: Are you sure you’re typing in your password correctly? That’s assuming your system is asking for your “MicrosoftAccount” password, which you should know. I’d make sure I was typing that one out very carefully and slowly, and try it a few times — if this is what Windows 10 wants, you already know it.
However, if it’s asking for the password to another account, this is where things get curious. I’d first click on the “Your Info” link on the sidebar and confirm that you can log into your system using your Microsoft account instead of a local one. If it’s the latter, try seeing if you can set up the former (though you’ll probably be asked for your local account’s password, which doesn’t help). If you aren’t, then possibly switching to your Microsoft account to log in will then allow you to input your Microsoft account’s credentials to remove your PIN.
Before I go any deeper, here’s another thought: Since this is a new Windows 10 desktop, as you put it, why not just nuke everything and start from scratch? I’ve gone through this process before. Basically, you’ll want to install the Windows 10 installation media on a USB key, boot onto that when your computer restarts, and format your system’s hard drive to nothingness. Then, reinstall Windows 10 on that, and you’ll be good to go with a basic version of the OS that isn’t messed up with any weird lingering account issues.
I normally don’t advocate for “the nuke” quite so early in troubleshooting, but assuming you haven’t really done anything on your system, now’s as good a time as any to quickly revert this problem and set up a clean version of Windows 10 from scratch. (Before you do so, make sure you’ve associated your existing version of Windows 10 with a Microsoft account, so you can then simply sign back into that to activate your system. It’ll save you a lot of stress.)
Otherwise, if you’d prefer to just stick with the Windows 10 you have, I think I have a solution for you. Try launching Run (Windows Key + R) and typing in
lusrmgr.msc, then hit Enter. You should see a screen that looks like this:
Screenshot: David Murphy[/caption]
Click on the “Users” folder to the left, which should then display all of the local accounts on your system within the centre column. Look for the one that matches the details of whatever account whose password you can’t remember (or never knew). Right-click on it and select “Set Password.” Ignore the scary warning and select “Proceed,” which should then allow you to reset your password for that account.
You can also do this via an administrative command prompt, if I’m correct. Type “Command Prompt” into your Start menu, right-click and select “Run as Administrator,” and enter the following:
This should give you a list of all the user accounts on your system. Again, find the one that matches the user account whose password you don’t know, and enter the following:
net user [name of that account] [new password]
Obviously, you’ll want to replace the parts in brackets with the information specific to your setup. That said, either of these tricks should work for your situation. If not, there’s an even quirkier method for resetting account passwords that you can try using a Windows 10 installation disc (or USB key). But if you’re already making one of those and fussing around in a Command Prompt from there, you might as well have saved your data and reinstalled Windows from scratch. Enjoy that fresh, new-user experience that’s free of problems, rather than having to keep troubleshooting your way through a quirky account-password one.
You can also try a third-party app like Lazesoft’s Recover My Password to see if can reset your password for you, but I tend to prefer doing things the manual way; that’s just me.
I do have one final trick for you, however. If you don’t want to mess with any of this and just want to be able to log into your computer without typing that PIN code, pull up Run (Windows Key + R) and enter
netplwiz. Make sure the account you use to log in is highlighted, and uncheck the “Users must enter a user name and password to use this computer” box. You’ll have to enter your account’s password — hopefully for your Microsoft account, not this local account you don’t recognise — but that will allow you to bypass the login screen permanently.
Now, obviously, you should not use this feature on a laptop, because that would be incredibly unsafe. I only use it on my desktop PC that never leaves my office and is never messed with by my roommates. (I’m very confident in that fact, so no need to lecture about security.) And I only do it because I was too lazy to keep typing in a four-digit PIN all the time whenever I booted my desktop. If you feel similarly secure, give it a whirl.
Otherwise, I think just reinstalling Windows 10 from scratch is your best bet. You probably won’t even need to install any Lenovo-specific apps or drivers after the fact, but I’m just mentioning that in case some component of your computer needs some TLC once Windows 10 is up and running again.
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