Ohai Windows Vista. Remove disks or other media. Press any key to restart.

 

So my buddy handed me a Vista laptop, a Dell Inspiron, for which his mother had lost her account password. It was mine if I could make it usable. It was kind-of a pain in the groin, so I thought I’d list everything I tried in case anyone might be in a similar situation.

Things I tried that did NOT work:

  • The ctrl-alt-delete ctrl-alt-delete trick (in XP, you can hit ctrl-alt-delete twice and then type in “administrator” as your user and log in as a super-admin with no password)
  • the F8 menu, which revealed a “repair my system” option, which almost me access to the Administrator account, but it was “not enabled” or something.
  • Burn an Ubuntu iso onto a disk
  • …and a DVD
  • …both of which failed on my machine for some reason. “Aborting, hardware failure”. Even when I used an external DVD-RW drive.
  • A USB stick with this presumably super handy program, Trinity Rescue Kit, dropped onto it. This is when I started getting the “Remove Disks or other media. Press any key to restart.” error when I booted from USB (this did, eventually, work – see below).
  • I tried following this guide to make the USB bootable using windows command line. Everything seemed to go smoothly until I booted from the USB and got that same bloody error again.
  • This guy had a similar problem trying to install Windows XP from a USB, and although he got nowhere, but the forum to which he posted gave him a bunch of tips that somebody might find useful.
  • I also tried this program. This allows you to use create a DOS boot, and I actually got into a DOS prompt with this, and when I used the command DIR (which is like “LS” and “PWD” in one) it showed the ISO file I wanted to boot from sitting in my current directory. But I couldn’t “mount” it or run it or anything.
  • Tried ISO to USB. Just got the same old “Remove disks or other media…”, though the program does seem like it could be handy.

Things I tried that DID work:

UNetbootin. I used this to make my USB drive bootable, and used the Trinity Rescue Kit ISO as the image. It does load Trinity, but fails to find “TRK”:

Seems we didn't find the TRK medium
Manually enter the device on which TRK can be found (e.g. 'sda1')

I found a hint here to enter “SDB1″ as the device, and bam, it worked.  Amazing. Reset the password… rebooting…

IT WORKS!

…and it only took two hours.