[NTLK] NBU, NCK et al: Beware of Windows XP restore points

From: Frank Gruendel <newtontalk_at_pda-soft.de>
Date: Sat Mar 14 2009 - 13:53:07 EDT

Hi all,

this is slightly longish, and only partially
Newton-related. Still, I feel that I should post
this as a warning. People hating Windows will
consider it yet another reaason why this OS is
evil. Tek-Ed will probably feel that these
incidents were entirely my fault.


Last Thursday I finished repairing the MP120 of a
fellow list member. The last thing I normally do
is install the latest OS patch.

This 120 is a Newton OS 1.3 model, so the Newton
Connection Utilities, which I normally use for
this, did not allow this (NCU is OS 2.x only).

The Newton Package Installer 1.1, which should
work with Newton OS 1.3, did not see my Newton
although the COM port was working fine, its
settings were as required and three instances of
slowdown.exe were running where normally two are

So I decided to install the Newton Connection Kit.
Being as paranoid as I almost always am, I created
an XP restore point first. I always do this before
installing new software.

For some reason or other installing the Newton
Connection Kit failed. For this reason I decided
for the first time ever to RESTORE an XP restore
point. I must have created dozens in the last
couple of years, but I never had a reason to
restore one.

During the restore process Windows XP required a
restart. When it had restarted, it asked me for my

The problem was that I did not HAVE a password. I
never set one. Up to then I had always been able
get into my computer by simply clicking the user

This was going to be annoying. But what do we have
F8 for. Pressing F8 during the boot process allows
annoyed Windows users to boot into the safe mode,
in which annoyed Windows users have the chance to
login as Administrator. Unfortunately, XP did not
grant access to the Administrator account, either.
Although like my own account the Administrator
account never had a password.

Last attempt: Log in as Guest. Unfortunately,
Windows wanted a password. Which the Guest account
previously did not have.

If this PC had been my only computer, I would have
had a serious problem now. One that might have
resulted in re-installing everything from scratch.
Which usually requires a week's worth of nights in
my experience.

But fortunately I firmly believe that people
forced for whatever reason to use a PC should have
a Mac next to it. This will enable them to check
the internet for info on what might be done to a
PC whose OS has just added a lock to all doors
that previously did not have one. I fired up my
trusty G4 Mac and searched the Microsoft knowledge
base for "reset password".

Said knowledge base informed me that this wouldn't
be a problem whatsoever. All I had to do is boot
the PC from my password reset disk...

Hello? MICROSOFT?? Wouldn't it have been a
tremendously excellent idea to make someone who
has just spent a couple of hundreds of bucks on
your stupid XP Professional aware of the benefits
of password reset disks somewhat earlier? Like,
immediately after the OS installation has

This was one of the rare moments that saw me
tempted to throw a bomb. Terrorism DOES have its
benefits. I would be interested in how many of the
> 2000 list members we have use Windows XP and DO
have a password reset disk. Then again, most PCs
these days no longer have a floppy disk drive. So
this might be a moot point.

Some more internet search brought me to a site
that offered downloading an iso image. I will not
post the link here since I am almost sure that
both offering and using such a tool is illegal,
but frankly, I couldn't have cared less. If it
takes an illegal tool to get back into an OS that
I legally purchased, so be it.

My trusty old Mac burned this iso image to a CD.
The PC dutifully booted a mini-Linux from the CD
that automatically lauched an application that was
able to read and change the SAM file. This file is
part of the Windows registry and, if I understand
things correctly, stores the encrypted passwords.

The utility told me that all three acounts (mine,
Administrator and Guest) were disabled and locked
out. To make things worse, the maximum number of
failed login attempt was set to 0, which makes it
kinda difficult to log in even if you DO know the
password you never had...

This tool allowed me to reset the passwords and
re-enable the accounts. Lo and behold, the next
time I restarted Windows, I was able to log in
without a password. However, the login process
took somewhat longer than before. But this was
only because XP was still busy rolling the system
back to my last restore point.

Finally, it proudly informed me that the system
was rolled back to my latest restore point. Oh
boy. Up to that moment I had always been under the
the impression that they do not mean having to set
the PC up from scratch when they say "system
restore point".

To make a long story short: It is always a good
idea to create a system restore point when
installing software. But it might be a VERY bad
idea to actually try to USE one of them. An idea
that might well render your PC useless because it
locks you out. If you DO try it, make sure you
have another computer with internet access at your
disposal that can burn CDs. Just in case. Or, even
better, go ahead and create a password reset disk
THIS VERY MOMENT! This is done by clicking
"Start", then "Help and Support" and then
searching for "password").

Frank (still immensely pi**ed and grumbling)

-- Newton software and hardware at

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Received on Sat Mar 14 13:55:02 2009

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