In the course of fixing computers, I occasionally have to backup the data from an unbootable drive or reset a password to login to Windows. Under Windows XP, I had used ERD Commander, a bootable CD of utilities from Winternals. For better or worse, Microsoft recently purchased Winternals/Sysinternals. Microsoft is no longer offering software such as ERD Commander for sale, only saying that it may integrate this software into future products (see http://www.microsoft.com/systemcenter/winternals.mspx for more details).
Recently I was faced with the task of resetting an account password on a laptop. Unfortunately the laptop was running Windows Vista. I knew sooner or later I would need to update some of my software to deal with Vista problems, so this was not unexpected. But with the Winternals situation, I had to find a similar piece of software from a reputable company. I began by searching for password reset utilities for Vista. I stumbled across a few promising ones, one of which was Active Password Changer. Looking into the company that makes the product, I found out they offered quite a few different utilities including a boot disk set of utilities called Active Boot Disk. Once I saw the amount of useful utilities that came with the product and the very reasonable price of $79.99, it was a no-brainer to make the purchase.
Once purchased, I was sent a link from which to download the product (I opted for the digital download delivery method). I installed the software which was essentially an ISO image and an ISO burning utility, a nice touch if a person does not have a utility already for this purpose. The software also included a pdf manual for the product. I used their ISO burning utility, which was very simple to use, and burned a CD with the software on it.
With the CD in hand, I inserted it into the Vista laptop and booted off of it. Active Boot Disk uses a Windows PE 2.0 environment, and its shell gives you the option of running several different types of software, including data backup and recovery, a hex editor, partition manager and recovery, password reset, disk wiper, and many others. Using the password reset utility, I cleared the password on the user’s account. You also have the option of disabling accounts.
I had to end up running the boot disk twice because the laptop included some kind of child safe software which didn’t like me clearing the user’s password; it went ahead and reset the password to what it had been before. I then cleared not only the user’s password, but also the Administrator account’s password and disabled the child safe user account (it had its own account). The software was unable to reset the Administrator password (I don’t know if there ever was one or not) instead prompting me to enter a new password for the Administrator account. With that done, I was able to login and change the user’s password from within Windows. When I gave the laptop back to the user, she didn’t want a password on her account, so I had to uninstall the child safe software and then remove her password.
As you can see, I’ve barely used Active Boot Disk, but was impressed with the number of options I have with it. I know I will be needing it in the future as more people buy new PCs with Vista and run into problems. At this time I feel good recommending Active Boot Disk to anyone for either personal use or business use to fix particular PC problems or backup data from an unbootable drive.