It’s hard to believe, but even in the short time since my friend picked up a new computer, there’s already been a password problem. Apparently it was a new password, misspelled slightly for added “security,” and then promptly forgotten. After several failed login attempts as the primary user, I got a text message pleading for help.
In Ubuntu, if you can believe this, it’s quite easy to change or “reset” the password for an account, so long as you have physical access to the machine. In total this should take you about 10 seconds to finish, give or take for the actual speed of the machine.
First restart, and then watch closely as the computer starts up again. After the BIOS screen disappears (the screen that usually shows the manufacturer’s logo, or information about the hardware), hold down the Shift key (if you’re using a version earlier than Karmic, you will probably have to press Esc repeatedly).
If all goes well, you should be at a Grub boot menu. From the list you see, pick any option that ends with the “recovery mode” option, and press return.
In Karmic and perhaps in some earlier versions, you may get a gray, blue and red menu that describes several different options; the final option — “Drop to the root shell prompt” — is good enough. Some of the earlier versions of Ubuntu went straight to the prompt.
Then you should see the command-line cursor, with root as your user name. Next type
and press return. You’ll need to enter the new password twice for confirmation, and then you can restart the machine.
You can logout of the root account if you like, and go back to the gray-blue-red menu, but it’s just as easy and useful to reboot from that point.
And the new password should work fine. From within Gnome there are ways for a person to adjust their password by themselves, so I gave my friend “password” as the reset one, and at some point it can be changed to something else. Crisis averted.