Can I install my son's OS on my wife's computer?
November 21, 2011 9:18 PM   Subscribe

My wife is locked out of her netbook (W7 Starter). We're far from home with no backup or password recovery disks. Can I create a backup from my son's identical netbook and install?

My son and my wife have the same version of netbook - can create a backup of his OS and install on my wife's netbook? Wife's netbook is new, so there are no files on it, and it's used for internet anyway.

As far as the password goes, it's really weird - it suddenly stopped working, so it's not as though she forgot the password.
posted by KokuRyu to Computers & Internet (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

Another smaller distro: Reset Windows Password with SystemRescueCD. Can be booted from USB disk or CD.

Alternatively you can copy the hard drive from one netbook to the other with a Linux boot disk and a combination of the tools nc and dd, but both will need network access for this to work. This may lead to Windows activation badness and require a complete networking overhaul.
posted by benzenedream at 9:31 PM on November 21, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for the help... I've not had much success in the past creating a Ubuntu ISO, but I will give it a try!

benzendream, do you think your solution will work on a USB drive?
posted by KokuRyu at 9:42 PM on November 21, 2011

Have you tried Windows 7's inbuilt repair stuff? If you Google your netbook model number you should be able to track down the arcane sequence of keys you need to press at startup to get into that.
posted by flabdablet at 10:14 PM on November 21, 2011

This may be obvious, but did you check that the NumLock key didn't accidentally get pressed? That has messed up my password entry on more than one occasion!
posted by platinum at 10:27 PM on November 21, 2011

If it's a problem where you've lost the password and don't think it was all that complex, I'd say get a USB key, and then use the other computer to install Ophcrack on the key and then boot off the USB key on the netbook in question. It'll crack basic passwords in about 15 minutes or less and you'll have the satisfaction of knowing what the password was changed to for future reference.

If that doesn't work because the password's too complex, you can use ntpasswd on a USB key to reset the account's password to something else. See this guy's blog post for detailed instructions on how to get it on a USB key using the other machine and use it.
posted by barc0001 at 11:35 PM on November 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

Well if there's no files or anything to lose, yeah, why not just install Ubuntu or something similar for now? Especially if its just for internet use ... can always get Windows or whatever back on there when you get home.

Incidentally, I just got around to reinstalling Linux on my netbook this morning for the first time in two yrs ... creating the bootable USB drive was more trouble than I remembered having the first time. But I got it to work (posting now! hurray) so if you any questions I should have fresh troubleshooting ideas.
posted by mannequito at 12:22 AM on November 22, 2011

I think the easiest possible thing to do would be to make an Ubuntu live CD and run off that for the rest of your trip, then deal with Windows once you have the install discs handy. You don't even need to install anything on your computer; you can just run off the live CD for casual internet browsing.
posted by auto-correct at 1:21 AM on November 22, 2011

Previous personal experience with the Linux based live CD that resets/changes your password is that changing it to something else frequently fails to work.

However resetting it to blank (so you just log in without needing a password) always does the trick.
posted by mr_silver at 2:34 AM on November 22, 2011

As far as the password goes, it's really weird - it suddenly stopped working, so it's not as though she forgot the password.

Aside from Num Lock, a password that stops working sometimes indicates keyboard issues. Can she type the password in clear text on the same keyboard?

Apologies for stating the obvious, but I can't count the number of times that I've missed simple solutions...
posted by Busy Old Fool at 2:44 AM on November 22, 2011

I make this real easy for you:
1. Download the pendrivelinux auto-drive maker.
2. Download Kon-boot. This is hosted out of my dropbox b/c the zip you d/l from the site is a challenge for's passworded and a couple folders deep. You can download it directly if you feel more secure. This is a direct link to the ISO, it's TINY.
3. Stick your flash drive into a usb slot---you're going to lose all data. Select "Kon-Boot" from the drop down menu on the pendrivelinux app.
4. Choose your flash drive in the "drive select" box thinger.
5. Say OK. Say OK to all the warnings.
6. Eject disk.
7. With netbook powered off, insert USB stick. Hammer f12 when you boot up the netbook, this should take you into the boot-select option.
8. Choose either USB Storage or the drive, depending on the computer it may see the flash drive on the first screen. USB Storage should find it regardless.
9. When the screen comes up that looks all weird, just press enter. If it pauses, just press enter.
10. It will take you to the normal windows login screen.
11. You can just click her account and it will log you in.
12. Change password.
13. There is no 13, you're done.

If that doesn't work, I can walk you through using the Active Password Changer tool on Hirens Boot Disk. But that should work---I had the same issue w/ my netbook after a friend changed the pw when he borrowed it.
posted by TomMelee at 5:16 AM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Just one more that I've seen. I have known people who accidentally reset (or originally set) their password with caps lock or num lock engaged.

Make sure you try the password with caps lock (or num lock) engaged to be sure this didn't happen.
posted by NoDef at 5:16 AM on November 22, 2011

Along with checking the key locks, I'd also try safe mode beforehand just to be sure (press F8 repeatedly as the laptop is initially booting, performs POST, and begins to load the operating system). If you're lucky, your local administrator account is enabled to where you could log into it without a password and reset your main account from there. Another lucky find would be if you see any recovery options that were installed by the manufacturer. It is common for laptop makers to put a factory restore partition on the same drive that has the main OS, making it easy to wipe/reload without needing extra media.

As for your other question on whether you can theoretically copy Windows 7 Starter to another machine using 3rd party cloning tools like DriveXML, Ghost, dd, etc. It's doable but licensing will be the issue as the copy will notice the system hash change and will want to re-activate. I'd avoid that route for now and try the suggestions above first, from less risky to most risky/work intensive (cloning/re-activation).
posted by samsara at 5:41 AM on November 22, 2011

Response by poster: Wow, you guys are awesome, thanks so much for all of the information so far. I'll try out various strategies and will report back.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:06 AM on November 22, 2011

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