Getting back into a Windows 10 account

I have been working on a Windows 10 laptop from 2012. It came with Windows 7 but got upgraded during Microsoft’s all-but-forced “trick you into upgrading” period.  It has an AMD E-300 CPU which wasn’t zippy even when brand new.  The user has been logging in using a Microsoft account password as well as with a PIN.  Unfortunately, the computer has networking issues where it sometimes won’t connect to a wireless access point via Wi-Fi nor directly when plugged in using an Ethernet cable.  I’ve been working on that issue but that’s still an on-going process.

In an attempt speed up this excruciatingly slow computer, I went into msconfig and turned off all non-Microsoft services and disabled all startups.  Much to my dismay, it didn’t ask for the PIN to log in when I restarted it nor did it ask for the Microsoft password.  This was most likely due it not connecting to the Internet yet again. It seemed to revert to the local account password which the user didn’t know.  There were no other accounts on the computer.  After many restarts and password guessing attempts, nothing changed. I just couldn’t log in.

As I haven’t worked with a Windows 10 computer (I’m still using Windows 7 and a Mac) I had to Google how to get into safe mode.  The easiest way seemed to be clicking on the power icon on the login screen and hold shift while pressing restart.  From there I got options to do different things but they all required me to be able to log into the account which I couldn’t do.

After much searching I found a page (https://www.urtech.ca/2016/01/solved-how-to-reset-a-password-in-windows-10-without-using-a-reset-disk/) that described a process that might work by creating another user account on the computer by changing the program launched by the Ease of Access icon on the login screen.  Another page (https://www.howtogeek.com/222262/how-to-reset-your-forgotten-password-in-windows-10/) described the same process but added how to change the password of the original account using “Local Users and Groups” which unfortunately I found isn’t on the version of Windows 10 I’m working with on this computer.

The steps to create an account are:

  • Boot from a Windows 10 DVD or USB
  • When Windows Setup starts, press SHIFT + F10 to launch a command window
  • Find the drive letter with Windows.  This can vary from C, D, E, or possibly higher.  Just type C:\ and press ENTER then type dir and press ENTER and see if Windows is one of the directories.  If not, go to D:\ and repeat until you find it.  It was on E: on the computer I was working with so I will use e:\ in the following instructions.  You should substitute the drive letter where you found Windows on your computer.
  • Create a backup of the Ease of Access program by renaming it.  Type ren e:\windows\system32\utilman.exe utilman.exe.bak and press ENTER.
  • Make a Command window the program to be launched when the Ease of Access button is pressed by typing copy e:\windows\system32\cmd.exe e:\windows\system32\utilman.exe and press ENTER.
  • Exit the Windows 10 setup program by shutting the computer down by pressing the power button. Make sure the USB stick or DVD is removed before restarting the computer.
  • Start the computer normally and at the login screen, click the Ease of Access icon. (It’s supposed to open a Command window but didn’t as I describe below. I also describe how I fixed the problem.)
  • (From here, it is assumed the Command window opened) type net user test /add and press ENTER (This adds a user named “test” to the computer)
  • Type net localgroup administrators test /add and press ENTER. (This gives the user “test” administrative privileges)
  • Type exit and press ENTER to close the Command window
  • Click the power icon on the login screen and click Restart.
  • Sign in as “test” without a password.

Someone left a comment on the first page I linked saying the trick didn’t seem to work anymore (in September 2018) and must have been patched by Microsoft.  Well, I found that’s not quite the case.  It’s not Windows stopping the trick from working but rather the antivirus.  This page (https://www.bleepingcomputer.com/news/security/windows-defender-can-detect-accessibility-tool-backdoors/) describes how Windows Defender monitors backdoors and prevents them from being exploited.  I’m guess it does that by comparing the hash value of the files against what it should be.  All was not lost though.  When I restarted by going to the login screen and pressing SHIFT while clicking the power icon and clicking restart, one of the options I was presented with after digging through the various options in changing the startup behavior was stopping the antivirus from loading early.  With Windows Defender effectively turned off, clicking the Ease of Access icon did indeed launch the Command window and I could proceed with the rest of the steps.  If it still didn’t work, I would have next researched how to temporarily disable the antivirus program from the Command prompt of the Windows 10 installation USB or DVD.

Speaking of which, I found directions on how to download and create the Windows 10 installation USB or DVD from this page (https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/software-download/windows10).  It’s perfectly legal as it’s from Microsoft and you can’t use it to install Windows 10 on a computer that isn’t licensed for it.

Now I never got far enough to figure out how to change the local password of the original account from the test account, if it’s even possible.  I was able to get the networking card working again so upon restarting, it once again asked for the Microsoft password of the original account which the user knew.  I’m not sure but my guess is the networking stopped working when I disabled some services or start up items related to it.  It’s something I’ll have to look into in the future.  As far as the original account goes, I think you’ll have access to the user’s files from the “test” account so you can copy them out and start with a new user account if needed.

Keep in mind that the Ease of Access program was renamed in following these instructions so you’ll have to change it back if you ever plan to use it.  The test account will still be there too unless you decide to delete it. This was a challenging endeavor that took a few hours to figure out but it’s satisfying when the issue is finally resolved. It also proves that hackers can do anything to your computer under normal circumstances if they have physical access to it. Ciao!

iPod Touch 1st Generation

I’ve been slowly selling some of my unused stuff and have most recently took another look at my Apple iPod Touch 1st Generation.  The 16 GB iDevice I bought back in April 2008 cost me about $390 + tax.  I knew 8GB wouldn’t be enough, even back then.  I have fond memories of using it for years.  Of course, I remember wanting a 2nd generation Touch when it came out because it had a speaker, unlike mine.  I didn’t buy another one until the 4th generation Touch came out.

Anyhow, I looked at its contents and found I had several episodes of the podcast InTouch with Dr. Charles Stanley that I didn’t have saved on my computer.  InTouch is a television (and radio) broadcast of the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Atlanta, a Southern Baptist pastor whom I have watched for years.  I wanted to keep the episodes so I connected the iPod to my computer, fired up iTunes, and tried to back it up, only to find iTunes wouldn’t do it.  It saw the device but would not back it up.

After some Web searching, okay, Googling, I found some reports that iTunes (which I like less and less as time goes on) version 12 won’t sync with the 1st gen Touch.  I tried to install version 11 on an older PC I have but ran into lots of trouble doing it.  I uninstalled everything Apple related and tried it again but I had no luck.  In the end, the problem turned out to be some files left over in C:\Program Files (x86)\iTunes.  Once I deleted the folder, the installation went well.

Unfortunately, that version of iTunes wouldn’t communicate with the Touch.  It “saw” it because it gave an error that named it an iPod but it wouldn’t communicate with it.  I got further than that with version 12.  Lots of uninstallations later, I downloaded iTunes version 10 and installed it.  That version happily communicated with it but I couldn’t figure out a way to do what I originally wanted to do, get the episodes the podcast.

After spinning my wheels for two days at this point, I did more Googling and found a free program called iDump by EscSoft which served my purpose well.  As of this writing, version 3.0.0.0 seems to be the current one but I actually used an older version (2.0.70.0) that I found here.  It’s a very simple program that did exactly what I needed it to do and I love the price, $0.  I hope this post helps you if you find yourself in a similar situation.  I highly recommend iDump.

Windows Wouldn’t Go to Sleep

Recently I’ve been noticing that my HP Pavilion desktop running Windows 7 Ultimate doesn’t automatically enter standby mode anymore.  It used to but sure doesn’t lately.  I could manually do it but not automatically.  I thought perhaps it was a tab in a browser causing the issue but it would have the problem if I just boot the computer and didn’t open anything (except what the computer boots with).  I finally decided to try to figure out how to solve the problem.

I came across a nice post from Lifehacker entitled How to Find Out What’s Keeping Your Computer from Going to Sleep.  It said to go to Start -> Programs -> Accessories, then right-click on Command Prompt to open it as administrator then type “powercfg -requests” to see what’s keeping the computer awake.  In my case, it was “IDT High Definition Audio CODEC”.  Try as I might, I couldn’t figure out how to solve the problem.  I read many web pages.  I went to HP’s site and downloaded the latest driver.  I used msconfig to see if the problem would go away if I turned services and startup items off.

Using msconfig and a whole lot of trial and error, I figured out that turning off Multimedia Class Scheduler would solve the problem.  Unfortunately, I found out that Windows Audio needs Multimedia Class Scheduler when I tried to manually turn it off in services so that wasn’t a practical solution.  (I did turn off several other non-Microsoft things that I didn’t know were launching behind my back though).

In the end, the best solution was the simplest, and something I read in a couple of web pages but initially ignored.  Opening device manager, I saw IDT High Definition Audio CODEC under Sound, video and game controllers.  I deleted the IDT High Definition Audio CODEC entry.  It asked if I wanted to delete the driver and I said yes.  I then rebooted and Windows automatically discovered it and put it back with a default driver.  As the French say, Voila!  It worked.

The moral of the story is try the simple things first.  How hard is it to delete it and have Windows automatically put it back?

Improving VLC’s Performance with a Graphics Card

I own a few computers that I use for different purposes.  I recently put one of my old computers, an eMachines T5082, back into service.  It was one of the less expensive computers I could buy back in 2007.  It actually came with a recovery disc – what computer does that nowadays?  It has a Pentium 4 631 running at 3GHz, came with 512 MB DDR2 RAM which I upgraded to 2 GB, and a 160 GB hard drive.  It has Windows Vista Home Basic (32-bit) installed.  I brought it back out to try to play some old games on it but first, I wanted to use it to watch Amazon Instant videos and play DVDs while I worked on my main desktop.

I found that Amazon Instant dropped too many frames to be really enjoyable.  I normally play DVDs at a faster than normal speed , say up to 1.5x, sometimes even going to 2x or 3x on really slow scenes.  The playback dropped frames at nearly anything above 1x.  I tried to search the Web to see if adding a discrete graphics card would help the playback or was I stuck with sub-par frame rates because of the very old processor.  My search didn’t turn up anything.  I decided to take a gamble and buy it anyway.

The computer has an ATI Radeon Xpress 200 on-board graphics.  I previously researched two different discrete graphics cards back when I was thinking of buying a low-power, low-profile card for another computer of mine.  The choices were EVGA Geforce GT 610 1048MB GDDR3 or Asus ATI Radeon HD6450 Silence 1 GB DDR3.  They both run $40 on Amazon.  This eMachines can hold full-size cards but I figure as old as it is, I’d just stick with one of those two.  I chose the Geforce GT 610.

In short, yes, the discrete card made a huge difference in VLC video playback frame rates.  It’s well worth the money.  I tested the performance of the on-board vs. discrete graphics card playing in VLC media player 2.2.1 at 1920×1080.  (As a side note, lowering the resolution didn’t make my experience any better with the on-board graphics.)  I played Murder, She Wrote Season 4 Disc 3 in the DVD player using the “Play All” selection.  I ran it for one minute, paused playback, and looked at the number of frames dropped.  When playing faster than 1x, I increased the speed 5 seconds into the video and still ran it for one minute, then looked at the number of frames dropped.  I repeated the tests to make sure I got consistent results.  The average results follows:

ATI Radeon Xpress 200 on-board graphics:

  • 1.00x – 0
  • 1.50x – 208
  • 2.00x – 443
  • 3.00x – 521

Geforce GT 610 discrete graphics:

  • 1.00x – 0
  • 1.50x – 0
  • 2.00x – 0
  • 3.00x – 127

As you can see, the on-board graphics dropped frames as low as 1.50x but the discrete card went all the way to 3.00x before dropping anything and even then, it only dropped a bit over half the frames of the on-board graphics running at 1.50x.  The card gives the old computer new life for its new purpose.

The Cinebench 11.5 Open GL test wouldn’t run with the on-board graphics but showed 13.33 fps with the Geforce GT 610 card.  The CPU score was 0.48.  I had to use version 11.5 because it seems to be the last one that supports 32-bit operating systems.

Lastly, the Windows Experience scores for the computer with and without the card were:

  • Processor, Memory, Graphics, Gaming graphics, Primary hard disk
  • 4.2, 4.8, 2.6, 3.1, 5.7
  • 4.2, 4.8, 4.1, 5.2, 5.7

Now back to watching Jessica Fletcher solve the murder mystery.

Deleting LeapFrogMonitor from Mac OS X

I have used Windows PCs since Windows for Workgroups 3.11.  Programs were a lot more straightforward back then.  You could easily uninstall things without having to look in too many places.  With Windows 7, it’s a lot more complicated but at least I have an idea on how to do it.  Since I bought this MacBook Pro that I’m typing on, I’ve had the opportunity to see how another system handles things.

I installed the LeapFrog program on my Mac to interface with a LeapPad someone owns.  Since I don’t have a need for it anymore, I wanted to delete it.  I clicked on the .app file in Applications and deleted it.  When I launched Activity Monitor sometime later (many reboots later), I noticed LeapFrogMonitor was running.  I had no idea how to get rid of it.  It would be nice if Activity Monitor let you right-click on it to see where its source is.

I read Speed Up Your Computer! How To Uninstall Software Completely (PCs and Macs) which noted “Often additional files are tucked away within a Mac’s Preferences, Caches and Application Support folders in the Library.”  They also mentioned that since the Library folder is hidden, you need to “hold down Option key while you click Go in the Mac Desktop toolbar.”  I did all that and deleted what I saw under LeapFrog, rebooted, and still had the LeapFrogMonitor program running.

So, I continued my search.  I came across Uninstalling Applications in Mac OS X which gave me the answer.  The steps were:

  • Search for LeapFrog in Finder
  • Click the + button under the search box
  • Click on the box that says “Kind” and change it to “Other…”
  • Scroll down to System Files, select it and click OK
  • Change “aren’t included” to “are included”

Doing that showed the LeapFrogMonitor program in a folder that I didn’t see earlier in Application Support.  In fact, there were two LeapFrog folders there that didn’t show up when looking at them directly in the Finder.  Maybe they were hidden?  Deleting the two folders and restarting the computer finally made the persistent program go away.  Interestingly, they don’t show up in the Trash though.

It would be nice (really nice) if Mac programs included an uninstaller that got rid of things like that.  I’m not saying Windows programs always uninstall things (especially from the registry) but they do generally do a reasonable job.  I hope this information helps you.

Syncing a Podcast to iPhone from iTunes

I have been a long-time listener to Steve Gibson and Leo Laporte’s podcast, Security Now.  I think it’s a great podcast to listen to for people who have an interest in computer security.  Since it’s one of my concentrations in my Master’s in Computer and Information Science degree, it’s a perfect fit.  I only wish I had discovered it before I took a lot of the classes.  I would have understood even more and been able to apply the knowledge to learn even more.  I highly recommend listening to the podcast from the beginning episodes if you’re a beginning computer science student with an interest in security (and if you have the time).  I listen to it in the car and a lot of times while taking a shower, doing the dishes, cutting the grass, or some other mindless task.

I’m back in the 2011 episodes which I get from Steve’s site at GRC.  For a long time, I’ve been able to download the podcast episodes, import them to iTunes, set the media kind as podcast, check the “Remember playback position” box, and sync the podcast to my iPhone 5.  Having stopped listening for a bit and coming back to it on my iPhone 6, I find it’s only syncing one episode instead of five.  I have the options in iTunes set to sync the “5 least recently unplayed episodes” but it persistently only shows one on the phone itself.  To make it worse, the title shown and the podcast that play aren’t the same.  iTunes says the phone has all five episodes when I look but the phone insists it only has one episode.  That’s very annoying.

I read a few articles online looking for help and found one that gave me an idea.  It was a discussion thread on Apple’s site.  A user suggested changing the podcast to an audiobook and play it from there.  I tried it with 6 episodes, synced them, and found it worked just fine.  Another user switched them back and forth between podcast and audiobook and found that trick worked.  I then changed them back to podcasts, synced again, and found the five episodes that should have been there.  Success!

In summary, the only thing I did was change the media kind to audiobooks, synced, changed the media kind back to podcasts, and synced again.  I have no idea why it works but at least it did.  Before discovering this, I’ve had to sync only one episode at a time which meant I had to resync after each episode.  That got old fast.  I hope this helps you.

Mounting a Network Drive on a Mac

Sometimes for work I had to mount a network drive after connecting by SSH.  On a Windows machine, it’s pretty easy because you can type the address directly in Windows Explorer.  You can also type it in the Run box.  I didn’t know how to do it on a Mac so I had to look it up.  It turns out it’s pretty easy.  Just open a Finder window and press Command + K which brings up the Connect to Server window.  From there, you can type the address such as smb://<address here> and click connect.  You can then enter your login and password and connect.  Thanks to OSXDaily for the information.  They also describe how to permanently mount it as the method I described only lasts until the next reboot or disconnect.