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How to recover data from a laptop you’ve forgotten the password?

Yes, your data might be recoverable, but there’s no guarantee. If the data wasn’t encrypted, the task is simple. Use a boot disk to bypass Windows and then simply copy the data to an external USB drive from the command line (you’ll need some mastery of DOS commands to pull that off). As an alternative, try disassembling the laptop, removing the hard drive, and using a USB-to-SATA adapter kit that can convert the internal drive to one that connects to a USB port.

Your job is considerably more difficult if the drive is encrypted using BitLocker or the Windows Encrypted File System. Because this is a local account, you might be able to use an old trick that involves booting from a recovery drive and fooling Windows into opening an administrative Command Prompt window where you can reset your password.

Lowell Heddings at the excellent How-To Geek website has a full set of instructions here: “How to Reset Your Forgotten Windows Password the Easy Way.”

For those following along at home, this might be a good place to remind everyone that backing your important data files up to the cloud (OneDrive, Google Drive, Dropbox, etc.) is always a smart idea. And signing in to your Windows PC with a Microsoft account also enables you to encrypt your data while still making it easy to recover from a lost password.

Good luck!

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