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* BIOS/CMOS * Windows NT - 2003 * Windows 95-ME *
* Behind Asterisk * Word * Excel * Access *
* Outlook & E-mail * Office Non-MS * Network & Website *
* Zip * Handhelds * Misc. Passwords * Quick Links *

An Explanation of Password Encryption
and Cracking How to
Get Your Lost Password
Back with Freeware

Word and Excel 95 passwords for protecting files from opening or change are easily and immediately removable. See here for a program which will open them for free, please note it is a command line version (the link may be out of date). The GUI version costs $45. Excel 97-2002 read-only passwords, Excel workbook & individual sheets protection are not secure and can be recovered instantly. The free program is here. There is free software for recovering the Excel VBA module passwords instantly but unless you pay $30 you will have to use a Russian language version for Excel 2000 (I couldn't get the program to install on my English language machine). There is a freeware English language Excel 97 command line VBA module password recovery application, see here. Apparently there is no freeware for removing Word 97-2002 read-only change protection passwords. Any of the commercial password cracking software should remove them immediately.

Only passwords for opening Word/Excel 97-2002 files are strongly encrypted. This means they use at least a 40 bit key to encrypt the files. You can use a brute force attack on these files (trying all number, letter and special character combinations) but if the password is over 8 characters long this is impractical. The keys are different from the actual password and these too can be decrypted and the resulting key can be used to open the file instead of the password (I'm looking for a good explanation link to refer to but haven't found one yet). Because of US export regulations Office 97 and 2000 use a 40-bit key. Encrypted files can be decrypted without password knowledge in an average 10 days when searching for a 40 bit key with good software on one reasonably fast computer (1.5 GHz Pentium). With Office 2002 keys you have an option of choosing up to a 128-bit key. Office 2002 still defaults to the 40-bit key, but if a higher-bit key has been specifically chosen, it could take an impractical amount of time (years) without using a supercomputer. The Russian Password Crackers Site is the best guide to start for Office Password Recovery.

Access 95-2002 database opening passwords can be broken immediately and can be had in several versions for free, even for business use. See the freeware on this site here. Password protected Outlook files (pst) can also be broken immediately, although there is no freeware available.

Some companies offer guaranteed service for either brute force attack or key decryption (in practice just 40 bit keys I think), usually in 3 days or less. But if your but you can do the brute force attack or key searching yourself. The general advice is to try a brute force password attack for one to two days and then switch to a key search if unsuccessful. Again a 40-bit key search can take up to 20 days with the best software even with a Pentium 1.5 Ghz computer.

Logo of Decryptum an excellent MS Office file decrypting service.One note as an update, there is an excellent service called Decryptum which because they probably use precomputed tables of password keys called Rainbow Tables, can decrypt an uploaded file in 3 minutes rather than up to 20 days. They give you a free preview of the results. They cost $39 with volume discounts.

Excellent Password Cracking Links

  • Russian Password Crackers Site - "This site concerns the practical demonstration of cryptography weakness. (If you don't like the term "password cracker", use "password recovery" instead). All software presented here illustrates four main reasons of cryptosystems untrustworthiness: application of weak algorithms, wrong implementation or application of cryptalgorithms and human factor. The main goal of this site is to explain these reasons and to convince people to use strong cryptography." Only free password crackers and the best of the commercial ones are included. It does miss some of software below.

  • DMOZ.ORG > Computers > Security > Products and Tools > Password Recovery - Password recovery directory from DMOZ the Open Source Directory that Google Yahoo and others use. Huge selection. Basically most companies register here. Mostly not free. See also here.

  • D.O.E. System Works - includes some free cracker programs under the Key Recovery Resources Section.

  • New Order - Awesome security site with cracking software found here: These are almost all commercial software.

Please note: Honestly the commercial software and services is the route you will sometimes have to take to recover your data. Generally, it's a lot easier to find free programs for file repair for non-Microsoft products than Microsoft ones. You can explore them by following the links to the left.

On those occasions that you try the freeware and it doesn't work, the software in these pages will appear not be worth the time and effort you put in and this can be frustrating. I try to point out at the top of each page, what I see is the likelihood that and difficulty with which freeware can recover your data.

The Google Adsense Ads displayed on the pages should lead you to the standard commercial software and services available for the problem you are having. You can also try the commercial links by clicking on the Navigation Bar by the file type name on the left. It's also here.

To see if the program works before buying, always be sure to try the demos of commercial software first. Also the difference in prices for software that does the same thing, for instance recovering PowerPoint Presentations, can be a large range like with PowerPoint case $50 - 299. If possible, try several software solutions before buying. For services, be sure there is a no data, no fee guarantee, and a recovered file preview available.

If you need help, I charge $22 per incident. You can E-mail me at socrtwo@s2ervces.com,but because of finances and legalities, I only use free methods.