Windows 8 just like its predecessor Windows 7 ships with an administrator account that is disabled by default. While it is not suggested to enable and use the administrators on a day to day basis, it can be used for a variety of purposes. One of the reasons is to use it as a fallback account in case you can't log in to a regular user account, or for tasks that require administrative privileges.
When you list the accounts in the user accounts control panel applet, you will notice that the hidden administrator account is not listed there while the guest account that is also disabled is. It is easier to enable the administrator account if you can still log in to Windows with another administrator account.
Enable the administrator account on Windows 8
You need to run the command from an elevated command prompt. To do that you need to do the following:
- Press the Windows key to get into the Metro interface if you are not already there.
- Enter cmd and right-click on the Command Prompt result that should appear.
- This opens a list of options at the bottom. Select Run as administrator there.
- Accept the UAC prompt
Enter the following command to enable the hidden administrator account: net user administrator /active:yes
If you ever want to disable the account follow the same instructions, but run the following command instead: net user administrator /active:no
Once you have enabled the account, you will see it listed in the user accounts control panel applet. Note that the account has not assigned a password to it, and that you should consider setting one to improve account security.
Enable the account if you can't log in anymore
If you have forgotten your account password and can't log in to the system anymore, you may use the administrator account to get back into the system. Please note that it may be easier to request the password to be reset if you are using a Microsoft Account password to log in. You can for instance request that from a different system or your smartphone.
If you can't sign in anymore you can still recover the system from that by enabling the hidden administrator account. The process itself requires you to download the Offline NT Password & Registry Editor which is available as an ISO image that you can burn to CD or DVD, and a file that you can install on an USB Flash Drive. You then need to boot from the selected device to see a DOS-like interface where you need to run a series of command in to restore the user account. Here are the steps that you need to complete:
- First screen, press enter to continue
- Select the hard drive that your Windows installation is installed on. This may take some time to get right depending on the number of partitions on the PC as it is using the "Linux-way" of listing the hard drives.
- You then need to enter the path to the Registry. I'd recommend to tap on enter to try the default path first which usually is detected correctly by the program.
- Press q
- Select the Password Reset option (1)
- Enter Administrator as the user account that you want to modify.
- Select the unlock and enable user account option (4)
- Use ! and q to end the editing and save the values
Restart the PC and make sure you are booting from the operating system's drive again. You should now see the administrator account listed on the sign in page. Select it to regain access to the system. From there, you can change other account passwords or run administrative tasks to restore access to the PC. (thanks Caschy)
Instead of enabling the hidden administrator account, you could as easily create a new user account with administrative privileges on the system. You could then use that account to log in if there is an emergency and you can't sign in with your regular account anymore.
You also need to know that changing the password of a user account may have an impact on the files accessible to that account. This is especially true if encryption was used. If that is the case, the files may not be accessible anymore after the account password has been changed.
I'd generally recommend to create a second "regular" administrator account for the purpose of recovery than enabling the hidden administrator account. The core reason for this is that the hidden account has additional privileges that other administrator accounts do not have.