Reset Forgotten Domain Admin Password

Having failed to press save in my password manager I soon found out I didn't know my only domain admin password

Published on 28 February 2021

Following a series of errors I found myself in a very similar situation to that described by Rob Beekmans, just without the excuse of a bout of flu. But it was just a lab environment so

The basic mistakes I made were:

  • Only having a single domain admin in the domain.
  • Setting up a DSRM password but not testing it
  • Creating a single snapshot of the VM over 2 years ago
  • Allowing Windows update to reboot the machine with the new password unsaved in the vault.
  • Using Hyper-V with an external Virtual Switch, but that is a that is for a different post
  • Using a keyboards with different layouts to type passwords

So there was no reason to find myself in this position really, but having ended up there and having found Robs post it looked like the solution was still quite easy, however I am running Windows Server 2019 Core, so there is not GUI and therefore no UTILMAN.exe.

The Recovery

Boot using the installation media, choose Repair your computer, Troubleshoot and Command Prompt.

You will now be in the command prompt at X:\Sources.

To find your Windows install change directory cd /d c:\Windows\System32

Where Rob suggests to overwrite UTILMAN.exe with cmd.exe that is not possible in Windows Server Core, instead we can replace LogonUI.exe

copy LogonUI.exe LogonUI.exe.BAK
copy CMD.EXE LogonUI.exe

Answer yes when asked if you want to overwrite LogonUI.exe and then reboot normally.

shutdown /r /t 1

When it reboots you will be taken straight to cmd.exe, you can now set the Administrator password with the command

net user Administrator "new password"

Boot again using the installation media to change the file names back

copy LogonUI.exe.BAK LogonUI.exe
del LogonUI.exe.BAK

Reboot a final time and login with your new Administrator password

Other options

Various blogs suggest it is possible to get to safe mode using F8 or Ctrl+Shift+Alt+F8 from a cold boot. https://www.surfacetablethelp.com/2018/01/how-to-use-f8-key-to-boot-hyper-v-vm-into-safe-mode-on-windows-10.html

I was not able to make that work reliably, in fact it worked once and caused much frustration trying to make it happen again.

I found 2 more reliable ways to get to the safe boot menu: boot from the installation media to access to troubleshoot menu and boot to a command prompt.

At the command prompt type the following command to enable to boot menu.

bcdedit /set {bootmgr} displaybootmenu yes

The next command sets the timeout after which the boot will continue to the OS, 5 second should be plenty to press F8 without adding excessive time to the boot.

bcdedit /set {bootmgr} timeout 5

It is then possible to login with the

Test it, shut it down, cold boot it, test it again https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/troubleshoot/windows-server/identity/reset-directory-services-restore-mode-admin-pwd

https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/troubleshoot/azure/virtual-machines/cannot-connect-rdp-azure-vm#:~:text=The%20remote%20computer%20that%20you,the%20System%20Properties%20dialog%20box.