How to Change or Reset Administrator Password on Windows Server

July 7, 2019

Introduction

There may come a time when you need to change the admin password on your Windows Server. Your recovery options depend on whether you remember the old password or not.

If you are routinely changing a known administrator password, you can use the Windows user interface. However, when changing an unknown administrator password, you need to use the command prompt.

How to change the administrator password on a Windows server.

Changing Server Administrator Password Windows Server

If you already know the current administrator password, log into your Windows Server, and simply change the password. The steps on how to do so differ depending on the version of Windows you are running.

How to Change the Password on Windows Server 2008 R2/2012

The steps outlined below apply to Windows server versions 2008 R2 and 2012. The only difference between them are steps 2 and 3.

  1. Log into the server either directly or by using Remote Desktop.
  2. Windows server 2008 R2: Right-click Computer and then select Manage.
    Windows server 2012: Press the Windows key, type Administrative Tools and open the app.
  3. Windows server 2008 R2: Select Configuration.
    Windows server 2012: Navigate to Computer Management.
  4. Click Local Users and Groups > Users.
  5. Find and right-click the Administrator user.
  6. Click Set Password > Proceed.
  7. Type in and confirm the new password.

How to Change the Password on Windows Server 2016 or 2019

If you are running Windows server 2016 or 2019, change the admin password by following the steps below:

  1. Log into the server either directly or by using Remote Desktop.
  2. Press the Windows key + i to open Windows Settings.
  3. Navigate to Accounts and open the Sign-in Options.
  4. Scroll to the Password section and click Change.
  5. Provide the current password and click Next.
  6. Type in and confirm the new password.

How to Reset Password on Windows Server

What happens when you need to change the admin password because you have lost the old password?

If you don’t have the old password, you can’t access the server to change it. Instead, use the command prompt to reset your administrator password. The following steps can be used on Windows version 2008 R2, 2012, 2016, and 2019.

  1. Insert a DVD or USB with the installation and boot the system.
  2. On the Language and other preferences screen, click Next.
  3. Select the Repair your computer link.
The Repair your computer option on Windows Server installer that takes you to resetting the admin password.
  1. The next steps differs according to your Windows version.
    Windows server 2008: Select your OS installation and click Next.
    Windows server 2012/2016/2019: Select Troubleshoot.
The Troubleshoot option on Windows Server installer.
  1. Click Command Prompt.
  2. Type in the following:
MOVE C:WindowsSystem32Utilman.exe C:WindowsSystem32Utilman2.exe

The command above makes a backup of the utility manager.

COPY C:WindowsSystem32cmd.exe C:WindowsSystem32Utilman.exe

This command replaces Utilman with the Command Prompt. That is necessary to reset the password.

The commands mentioned above may vary based on the path of your Windows install. In our example, it is on the C drive. In case your install is located on another disk partition, modify the command accordingly.

  1. Reboot the system.
  2. Select the Ease of Access icon.
  3. Type in the following:
net user administrator *
  1. Type in and confirm your desired password.

Once completed, you will be able to log in as admin. However, don’t forget to revert your changes to Utilman. To do so,

  1. Reboot the computer again from the installation disk.
  2. Open the Command Prompt.
  3. Run the following:
MOVE C:WindowsSystem32Utilman2.exe C:WindowsSystem32Utilman.exe

Restart your server once again and you’re done.

How to Recover Windows Server Password With Password Recovery Disk

If you have created a password recovery disk for your server, insert the USB stick into the server and then reboot the system.

  1. When prompted to log in, click the Reset Password link.
  2. In the Forgotten Password wizard, click Next until you are prompted for the location of the password disk.
  3. Select the password reset disk and then follow the instructions to set a new password.
  4. Reboot your computer and log in with the new password.

Conclusion

This how-to article covered three distinct use cases:

  1. Changing an admin password you know. If you already know your administrator password, changing it is as simple as navigating to the Users area on your server and selecting to change the admin password.
  2. Resetting an admin password you don’t know. If you don’t remember your administrator password, you can use the Command Prompt window to reset it. Resetting works for both Windows Server 2008 R2 and Windows Server 2012.
  3. Using a Password Recovery Disk. If you don’t remember your administrator password, but you previously created a password recovery disk, you can use that disk to reset a forgotten password.

Whatever your use case may be, by following this guide, you will be able to reset a Windows Server admin password.

Dejan Tucakov
Dejan is the Head of Content at phoenixNAP with over 7 years of experience in Web publishing and technical writing. Prior to joining PNAP, he was Chief Editor of several websites striving to advocate for emerging technologies. He is dedicated to simplifying complex notions and providing meaningful insight into data center and cloud technology.
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