Why Windows 7 wasn’t accepting any passwords on our new laptop

We bought a new Samsung NP-X120 laptop the other day, which I’ve christened Sirius (previous laptops were called Hagrid and Lupin).

Samsung NP-X120 laptop


I spent a couple of hours on Easter Monday installing software (Eclipse, emacs, iTunes, the usual stuff) and running Windows Easy Transfer to copy stuff from XP to Windows 7.

“Hi, could you tell me what you set my password to on the new laptop”.

“I set it to ‘monkey'”. (Note that I didn’t actually set it to monkey. I’m not going to tell you her password. Sheesh!)

“It doesn’t work. It’s not letting me in.”

“Did you type it all in lower case?”


“Is caps lock on?”

“No. Can you tell me your password?”

I’ve been conditioned not to tell people my password, but this is my wife after all. Even so, I felt a bit funny telling someone a password over the phone.

“Well, I’d rather not, I’m in a train full of people. I’ll text it to you.”

I hung up, sent her my password (something memorable like ‘kH6mnP98s1&*’) as a text message. This was a 15 minute exercise because texting anything other than complete sentences with real English words is a bit of a headache on my phone.

A bit later, I got another phone call.

“It’s still not working.”

Hmmm… curious. When I got home, sure enough, neither account’s password was being accepted by Windows. While I could believe that I would be unfortunate enough to mis-type one password, mistyping two is looked like carelessness. Also, how was I going to log in to reset the password? The administrator password didn’t work either.

To cut a long, frustrating story short, after running a recovery (and losing most of my installations from Monday) it turns out that the Num Lock key was turned on. There appears to be no visual indication of this in Windows (as there is for example with the Caps Lock key) and there’s no LED for it on the keyboard. So a password of “monkey” was being entered as “06n2ey”, but because the text is hidden behind asterisks, I couldn’t see this. Because this was Windows 7 Home Premium, you get given a list of user names, rather than being given the opportunity to type the user’s name in (which also might have alerted me). One clue that I should have picked up on earlier was that the shift key appeared not to work; but since this was a new laptop, I thought it might just be a faulty keyboard. Ah well…

According to some forum posts, Windows 7 remembers the state of the Num Lock key from the last time you ran. So presumably I had turned it on by accident, and I’ll know to check for this next time.

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