Locked Out in Windows Safe Mode

A smiling dog sits at a table surrounded by fire saying, "This is fine."

So I was fiddling with my desktop system the other day trying to fix a problem, and I set my system boot options to reboot into safe mode. Unfortunately, I accidentally selected Safe Mode WITHOUT Networking, which meant I could no longer use the network to connect with Microsoft/Live account, which meant I couldn’t log in to my admin account at all! It just wouldn’t accept my password, and there was no option for a PIN. No matter what I tried, I couldn’t get out of safe mode or turn on networking because I couldn’t log in! Microsoft, per usual, was absolutely no help. I found many others with this same problem, but no solutions.

I had a small moment of calm panic. Had I just completely locked myself out of my system? Was I going to have to reinstall the operating system?

I perused the help forums for what felt like hours, and grew increasingly frustrated and angry about the insulting incompetence of Microsoft Support. They almost never followed up after their initial response, and many times they hadn’t even read the question correctly! Finally I came across an off-hand comment by another user dealing with this problem and I found my solution:

When networking is turned off, Windows Live user accounts will revert to requiring the ORIGINAL, local password used to initially set up the user, not (if it’s ever been changed) the current valid one.

This seems like a security risk to me, in addition to being an incredibly stupid and apparently poorly-documented piece of the UX. But there you have it. I wish I’d saved the link so I could give credit.

Now, this information still would have been completely useless to me had I not been using a password manager for years, so my original password was still saved in my LastPass history, thankfully. This serves as yet another reminder of how important it is to use a password manager!

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