The Magic of a Linux Thumb Drive

Sometimes you just need a Linux thumb drive. A friend ran into a tax emergency. It turned out that some important documents where locked up on his Windows laptop. Unfortunately, he had forgotten the password. His hint wasn’t helping either. He was up against a deadline to get access to the files. He had tried everything he could think of.

He ended up reaching out to me on Facebook with an SOS to see if I could help. I’ll be honest - Windows is not my strong suit. I use it to game and edit video - and that is about it. Actually, when I boot windows it often feels like I’m just there to update the OS as my main task….

I was able to build a Linux thumb drive with Unetbootin and System Rescue CD. It had the chntpw already which was really handy since that was the main tool needed to reset the password. I used a great guide from Howto-Geek

This was a windows 10 laptop so it had Secure Boot turned on. I disabled that so it wouldn’t get in the way of using the thrumb drive. I also had to find the key combo to get the HP laptop to let me choose the boot device so it would run off the usb instead of the hard drive.

. I ran into some small problems because the drive wasn’t shutdown properly. I needed to use ntfsfix to reset the partition.

$  ntfsfix /dev/sda5

Then it refused to mount because it was hibernated.

It turns out there was a way around that (assuming you are willing to lose any data in open applications)

$ mount -t ntfs-3g -o remove_hiberfile  /dev/sda5 /mnt/windows

After all that was cleaned up, I was finally able to reset the password. He was very happy to get to his data and turn everything in on time.

In the modern era they make it so easy to encrypt your home directory on Linux I see no reason not to. I was aware of the Evil Maid Attack . But I didn’t realize just how easy it is to get in. If you don’t encrypt your windows home directory, once you have physical access you can get in very quickly. I knew that was the case with single user mode under linux but strangely I thought it was harder under Windows. As i type that I have no idea why I thought that….