Q: How do I find the password for a laptop that contains all the legal and medical info for my brother, who is in the hospital and not able to communicate? I really need to get into the computer to be able to help my brother during this time.
A: As it turns out, I get this question from my readers quite frequently, usually from those whose loved ones have died, become incapacitated or even gone missing. Occasional readers even have managed to forget their own passwords. These are all good reasons to need to bypass the login.
If the computer is running Windows, there are two ways relatively easy ways to do this.
The first is to use the Off-line NT Password and Registry Editor created by H. Peter Anvin.
This tool creates a boot-able Unix CD, which gives you access to the password file in Windows so you can set it to anything you like. Once you do that, just reboot the computer and log in with the password you specified.
This program works on XP, Vista and Windows 7 computers.
The other method is to remove the hard drive from the computer, place it in an external USB enclosure and connect it to the USB port of a computer to which you do have access. Then you can browse the file system for the files you need and go from there.
The USB enclosure option would also work if you needed to connect the drive to a Mac, as Macs can read Windows files systems relatively easily. It will also work if you need to connect a Mac drive to a Windows computer, but you will need a program like MacDrive before the Windows computer can see the files.
There are also hacks for bypassing or resetting password on the Mac, and they’re published right on Apple’s website in an article called Mac OS X: Changing or resetting an account password, located at http://support.apple.com/kb/ht1274.
Q: My laptop uses both wired and wireless to connect to my network. When connecting using the Ethernet cable, both connections appear to be active. Which connection is being used? Does it slow connections to have both active?
A: When you have both a wired and a wireless connection to your network, the wired connection and the wireless will connect simultaneously. From what I have read and experienced, the laptop will pretty much just ignore the wireless and send all data via the Ethernet port when a cable is connected.
There is usually no problem having both connections active at the same time. In fact, I tend to leave my wireless enabled, so when I need to pick up the laptop and move to another location, I don’t lose Internet connectivity.
This is because when the computer loses the data connection on the wire, it will automatically switch to using the wireless connection to send and receive data on the network.
Of course, having both Network connections active simultaneously means the computer will have two IP addresses. That could cause a problem for any other network devices that may connect to the laptop, say, for the purpose of file sharing or other access.
It is recommended (by those who make recommendations on such things) that for the sake of stability and reliability, you should disable the wireless whenever you’re connected using a wire.
My suggestion is that if you are not experiencing a problem with your network connectivity, leave it as is and only disable the wireless if you are experiencing a problem such as intermittent data issues or problems connecting to network resources.