I recently got a second-hand PC, which I can’t access as it’s asking for the
previous owner’s passwords. I’ve tried reinstalling Vista, but I can’t get past
the login screen. I can’t get a Start menu. Thank you.
In this excerpt from
Answercast #19, I look at a second-hand computer that is protected by the
previous user’s password and give my strong recommendation on how to
Accessing a second-hand computer
When you get a second-hand PC, you are getting whatever’s on the hard drive. That could be an installation of Windows.
So, what I’m leading up to is the fact that you can’t login, the fact that you don’t have the previous owner’s password means nothing. Even if you did, you should not login!
You are putting yourself at the mercy of whatever it is they happened to install on that machine prior to your ever having laid hands on it.
Format that drive!
My strong, strong, strong recommendation is that you format the hard disk.
Use a utility like DBan to completely erase everything on that hard drive and reinstall from scratch.
How to reinstall
- You’ve indicated that you’ve tried reinstalling, but you can’t get past the login screen.
Unfortunately, that tells me that you’re probably not reinstalling correctly. When you install an operating system, there is no login screen as part of the installation process. You grab the original media, the CD or the DVD (for Vista, in this case) and you boot from it.
Once you boot from it, it then walks you through the operation of reformatting the hard disk:
- Installing the operating system from scratch.
- Setting up user accounts.
- Setting up Windows.
You would then login using the user account that you originally set up as part of this setup process.
Do a thorough reinstall
So the short answer is don’t trust what’s on that hard drive! It’s just not worth it. Reformat it. Reinstall Windows and you should be fine.
That’s the best to way to actually use a second-hand machine.
Next from Answercast 19 – How do I send an email that can’t be traced back to me?