Sunday, April 20, 2008

How to log in as Administrator on any XP machine

Reader Jake writes: I'm working with my wife's Dell D505 laptop running Windows XP. She's been using the built-in Administrator account login since I got her the computer. This morning I decided to create an account for her and another for me. I copied her documents, music, and photos over to her new account, and that went fine, but I've managed to lose her bookmarks for Firefox. Now, since I've created her account as an administrator, I no longer have the option to log in as "Administrator." The only two options are my login and her new login. Is there a way to either get the Administrator login back or retrieve the bookmarks?

There sure is. For some reason, when Administrator is the only account on the machine, it appears as an option on the login screen, but when you add another account, it goes away from that screen. However, it's still there, just hidden. All you have to do to get to it is hit Ctrl-Alt-Delete at the login screen, (we're talking about the screen with the icons for each user) and you'll be presented with the old login screen for Windows, much like the one used in the NT/2000 era (see screenshot above). Here you can type in the user name instead of selecting it from a list. Just type "Administrator" into the username field and use the same password you used before. You'll be back into that account with everything the way you remembered it.

Once logged in, you can grab the old Firefox bookmarks easily. (Just click Bookmarks > Organize Bookmarks > File > Export to export them to a file on a thumbdrive or another public folder; use the same technique but choose Import to bring them back into Firefox when you're in your wife's account.)

This trick works on any XP machine that has the Administrator account enabled.

This should also be a reminder of an important point for all Windows users, and that's that the Administrator account is really not a good choice for your day-to-day computer use. When you first set up a machine or reinstall Windows, the very first thing you should do is set up all the user accounts you will need on the machine, and don't start installing software and creating files until you're logged in with the account you want to use.

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