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Cannot Access Windows With Any User

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  • Security
  • Windows XP
Last response: in Windows XP
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November 27, 2010 3:39:50 PM

I have a friend who's going through chemo for throat cancer, and his daughter asked me to look at their PC to see if I could get it running properly for his home convalescense.

When I start it normally I only get one account to display - Guest - not his name. There is a password on the guest account which is apparently not his (his daughter gave me his password).

When I start XP in safe mode, I am again presented with only 1 account. This time Administrator. Which ALSO wants a password. And which is also not the password his daughter gave me.

I have tried paging down, arrowing down, arrowing up, et al, but have not been able to see his user ID.

If this information is of any help..., when she first gave me the PC I was prompted for a password from the BIOS settings. Removing the CMOS battery for 15 minutes seemed to get me over that hurdle, but this latest obstacle has me baffled.

I have tried just hitting enter on both the Administrator (safe mode) and Guest (normal) accounts without any positive result.

Maybe I am mistakenly assuming it's a password problem - from the logon screen I get a Login Message box that reads:
'The system cannot log you on due to the following error.

The specified domain either does not exist, or could not be contacted.

Please try again or consult your system administrator.'

More about : access windows user

a b 8 Security
November 27, 2010 5:36:45 PM



You have a PM.

Look at the right side of your screen. If you see "<< Show the Right Column"
click it. A box will appear with 3 tabs, click the message tab and then the message link in the box.



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a b 8 Security
November 29, 2010 2:28:06 PM

You need to work with them to sort out what's going on. What's the history behind the computer? Sounds like it came from a business that had a domain setup. If they don't have any of the passwords is it even their computer?

If it had a BIOS password and none of the passwords you got work, the owners of the PC should know what those are.
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a b 8 Security
November 29, 2010 3:29:18 PM

hang-the-9 said:
You need to work with them to sort out what's going on. What's the history behind the computer? Sounds like it came from a business that had a domain setup. If they don't have any of the passwords is it even their computer?

If it had a BIOS password and none of the passwords you got work, the owners of the PC should know what those are.


It was apparently a gift for a cancer patient. They are going to reinstall Windows to start over fresh.
If it isn't their computer, that's on them. They have an 'air of sincerity' that satisfies me.
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a b 8 Security
November 29, 2010 3:52:28 PM

tigsounds said:
It was apparently a gift for a cancer patient. They are going to reinstall Windows to start over fresh.
If it isn't their computer, that's on them. They have an 'air of sincerity' that satisfies me.


We have given a few laptops for such use also, mainly to be used in our hospital during often long stays for chemo. But we also were smart enough to actually set up the PC so it can be used without going through hoops :-)

I kinda figured it came from a business but without the background of how it came to them it's not easy to offer a solution especially if they can just contact where they got the PC from and get the passwords.
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November 29, 2010 6:55:14 PM

No, this was NOT a gift. It did not come from a business. It was a PC that was infrequently used by my friend, who is now in the hospital with throat cancer.

He never, ever had any passwords on anything other than his email. The PC used to boot directly to his desktop.

Then, about the time he was being diagnosed, he discovered that he could no longer use the PC, there being a BIOS password.

That's when he asked me to look at it, and his mother said how nice it would be if the computer was working when he began his convalescence.

I took the CMOS battery out of the PC, and left it out for about 30 minutes. When I put it back, it no longer asked for that password, but when it booted to windows, it did not bring up his desktop. It went to the Windows signon page with the name Guest. And only that name. It did not show his user name (which is Mike). It also wanted a password for Guest.

We left it blank, but it brought up a message box reading

The specified domain either does not exist or could not be contacted
Please try again or consult your system administrator.


I booted into safe mode, where we got essentially the same result, except that this time the user was Administrator. No other users on the page. And once again it asked for a password.

I used an ERD disk, and booted from that, and then went into the Locksmith utility and reset both passwords, Guest and Administrator. According to ERD, there was no Mike listed as a user.

After I reset the passwords, I booted normally and in safe mode. Both cases worked the same as they did before.

I then took out the hard drive from his PC and hooked it up to his PC with a USB caddy. I found no user data for Mike. No pictures. No documents.

Now I've been told that the pictures and documents are there, but are hidden because I couldn't access any user account on his PC? I had never heard this before.

I'd hate to have to reinstall windows which would of course delete all the pictures before I had a chance to save them
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a b 8 Security
November 29, 2010 7:24:49 PM

Here is the issue, passwords don't just appear on the computer or in Windows someone must have set them. If you are getting a domain error, someone joined that computer to the domain, which you can't do without a domain controller. Also someone went into the BIOS and set the password.

There should be a Details button by the username/password, if you click that you also should now see a domain listing. If you can't find any of his files on this drive even when attached to a different computer you have issues, there seems to be a big blank space in the history of the computer that needs to be filled in during which time someone set passwords on the PC and possibly fully re-imaged it. If you go to Documents and Settings you will see his user account, if it's there. You may be denied access but you should at least see the directory on the drive.

What you describe is like leaving your car in the driveway one night, then waking up and finding dents, scratches and a tree branch in the window with a bag of dope in the back seat. These things don't just happen on their own. If the PC sat there it would not just on it's own decide to delete user passwords, accounts and set a BIOS password. Dig a bit and see what happened.
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November 29, 2010 8:09:30 PM

I don't wish to be arguementative, but in my experience, computers sometimes DO take a s**t without, seemingly, any outside influence. One day you're are easily browsing a word document, you page forward, and you get a BSOD. A PC that booted perfectly on Tuesday hangs on the Welcome screen for 6 hours Wednesday. Your car, which had worked perfectly yesterday, refuses to start today.

I sort of figured that these symptoms were a manifestation of some virus his PC picked up.

I can't really do a lot of digging. This guy is fighting for his life, and the health of his PC is hardly paramount in his consciousness right now. Hounding him with seeming inconsistencies in the life cycle of his Dell is not really going to do anything for his mood or his health.

That being said, there is no Details button. It boots to the screen that reads 'To begin, click your user name' There is a user picture and the word Guest under that. Clicking on either of those opens a white box with the cursor in position 1, and a small heading over the white box that reads 'Type your password' To the right of the white boc is a green arrow going from left to right. There is nothing else on the screen, other than the Windows logo, and the admonition, at the bottom that 'After you log on, you can add or change accounts. Just go to Control Panel and click User Accounts'

Anything I do beyond that point makes the background black, and puts up a box headed Logon Message, with a yellow triangle with an exclamation point and the words about 'the system cannot log... yadda, yadda, yadda'. There is an OK button at the bottom of the box. That is the only option. Clicking that takes me back to the previous screen, which displays with the little balloon 'Did you forget your password? Please retype your password again. Be sure to use the correct uppercase and lowercase letters'.

No Details.

And there is no user acoount named Mike, when I use the USB caddy. His daughter told me that he had a techie replace the hard drive about 6 months ago, and maybe the techie set up an account called Guest. And maybe Mike never noticed it, since he never had to enter a password. Maybe he never noticed that the name in the upper left hand corner of his Start screen no longer read Mike. I dunno. I only know that he never had to enter a password except to access his AOL mail.

I'm beginning to think that this is beyond the capabilities of anyone I have encountered so far. I guess he can just live without his pictures.
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Best solution

a b 8 Security
November 29, 2010 8:23:58 PM

The Guest account is built-in to Windows but is usually disabled, no need to set it up. The reason you can't see a domain is that it's using the simple logon. If you hit Crt - Alt - Del twice on that screen you will see the "old fashioned" logon with username/password and possibly domain fields. If the PC is really not part of the domain, there will be no domain field.

While PCs do crash at times, I have never seen one decide to set up passwords on it's own. It's different if you car does not start than from it starting on it's own, driving around the block and painting itself a different color when you are away.

The quick and easy fix for this is to get a new hard drive, install Windows on it, and use the existing drive as a secondary to make sure any files that may exist there are not touched. When the drive was replaced, were any of the files copied over from the old drive? Or are these files that are missing were from since then?

There are probably a hundred people on here that can fix this, the issue is that it's pretty much impossible without sorting out what happened to cause all these passwords to appear. Now that you say the drive was replaced, I'm thinking all the missing files and user name is on the old drive. If the pictures were put on there since the drive was replaced, that's a bit more of a puzzle, but still the core issue is that something was done to the PC, and that something may have involved deleting his user account or maybe re-imaging the whole drive. Which as you said was done 6 months ago when the drive was replaced. So we already have an extra clue that was not in the original post.
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November 29, 2010 8:37:16 PM

Best answer selected by boweasel.
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November 29, 2010 8:45:20 PM

Thanks for your help. I selected this as the best answer since I really just want to move on. Hitting Crt-Alt-Del twice does bring up the other signon screen, but I'd already tried that before. The user name is blank. Entering Administrator, Guest, or Mike and hitting enter all bring up the password/domain msg.

His daughter told me that she had saved the pictures to a flash drive 3 months ago (after the drive was replaced). They'll only be losing a handful of pictures so she told me to just reinstall.

Who knows whatever happened? He does have cancer, and he has been acting 'odd' lately. Maybe he did something and now has no memory of it. I don't know. And at this point I don't really care.
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