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Windows 95/98 Password

by Oscar Sodani
March 14, 2003

Oscar Sodani is a founder of Help2Go and owner of Help2Go Networks, an IT consulting firm in the Washington D.C. area. Oscar holds the CISSP certification as well as industry certifications from Microsoft, Cisco and Novell.

You turn on your home computer -- after an eternity, Windows starts to load, and then you see a box that asks for your name and password before you are able to see the desktop. You dutifully type it in, assuming that the password will somehow keep intruders away from your valuable files. Never assume.

In fact, you should try a little experiment: try restarting your computer, and when the password screen pops up, click on Cancel. Do you know what will happen? Your Windows desktop will load, just as usual, and you'll have full access to your files.

Unless you are logging into a network, the Windows password is useless. It protects nothing, and the password is easily bypassed. Even worse, if you use your normal password in this box, it will be VERY easy for someone who has access to your PC to figure out what that password is.

It's best to get rid of the Windows password feature altogether. This article will show you how.

(This tutorial assumes you are working on your home computer. Do not disable the password feature at work, or you may accidentally disable your access to your company's network. This is meant for stand-alone home machines only.)

The Password File

Here's the secret: when you first type in a user name and password in that Windows password box, it saves the information in a file on your PC. The file is saved in your C:WINDOWS folder, and it takes the name of username.pwl ; for instance, if your username is John, then your password is stored in a file called John.pwl in the Windows folder.

If someone gets a hold of this file, they can use hacker programs to find out what your password is. And if that password is the same as your other passwords (i.e., your banking password or corporate network password), your whole life can be thrown into chaos.

Search & Destroy

The first step is to find all of the password files stored on your computer. This is easy:

  1. Click on Start
  2. Choose Find
  3. Choose Files or Folders
  4. In the Named: box, type *.pwl
  5. In the Look in: box, choose your C: drive
  6. Check the box that says Include Subfolders
  7. Click on the Find Now button

You should now see one or more files listed. They will be named John.pwl, or whatever your username might be. Click on each of them and hit the Delete key on your keyboard. Now you are rid of them!

Clean Slate

Now, when you reboot, you will again be asked for a username and password. Two very important steps:

  1. Type in Default as the username.
  2. Leave the password blank.

Click OK, and you're all set. Here's the best part: that Windows password box will NEVER pop up again. Isn't that the way Microsoft should have made it in the first place??

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