Finding lost passwords on your PC usually requires special third-party software. Some, however, you can recover without it. Various programs may use different types of encryption for its passwords, and therefore may require a unique method to recover those passwords. Exhaust the free methods before shelling out for help.
Open the program for which you are trying to recover the password. If you're trying to recover a website password, skip to Step 3. If the program normally saves passwords and has the password you need stored, but asterisked so you cannot read it, install a password-box-revealing program. Cain & Abel is one such popular, free download, and allows you to convert those asterisks back into normal text and see the password. If the password is not stored, you will need to recover it from the registry.
Open the registry on your PC. Choose "Run" from the "Start" menu and type "regedit" into the command prompt box. This will open the registry and display a list of registry values on the left side of the opened registry window. To locate your password, scroll down to "Local Machine," choose "Software," then the program you are searching for the password to. After selecting the program, scroll through the program's sub-menu until you see a "password" value on the right side of the registry window. Copy this value; it will most likely be written in Hex Value code, so convert it to regular text using a Hex converter. Hex conversion software, such as Hex Editor Neo, is available free online.
To look for website passwords, start your browser and open its history, commonly done by holding "Ctrl" and pressing "H." Most browsers will allow you to view files and cookies; you must find the cookie left by the website that you have forgotten the password to. Choose "Open Files" and search for the website. After finding the website's cookie, open it by right-clicking and selecting "Open With ... Notepad." In Notepad, you should be able to view the password among the information the website stored on your computer.
Contact the software company or website in question and request your password. You will likely be required to prove your identity by answering a secret question chosen when you registered the software or set up an account.
If all the above steps — and plain old guessing — fail, download and install a password-recovery program. These programs are usually able to recover passwords from hidden registry values or other file-seeking methods. IE PassView is one such free option, and is capable of recovering passwords stored in Internet Explorer forms. MessenPass, also free, enables you to recover lost passwords to various messaging programs including Yahoo! Messenger and AOL Instant Messenger.
When guessing passwords, always write down words you have already guessed. This will keep you from wasting time by guessing the same word twice.
Do not use these methods to gain access to a password not belonging to you.
- Wired: Password Snatcher
- Top Bits: Password Recovery
- Wired: Secure Passwords Keep You Safer
- Cain & Able: A free password box revealing program
- Free Hex Editor Neo: Free hex conversion software
- IE PassView: A free password recovery tool for Internet Explorer
- MessenPass: A free password recovery tool for instant messaging