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[How-To] What to do when the SA account password is lost in SQL Server

1. Open the Configuration Manager tool from the “SQL Server 2005| Configuration” menu

2. Stop the SQL Server Instance you need to recover

3. Navigate to the “Advanced” tab, and in the Properties text box add “;–m” to the end of the list in the “Startup parameters” option

4. Click the “OK” button and restart the SQL Server Instance

NOTE: make sure there is no space between “;” and “-m”, the registry parameter parser is sensitive to such typos. You should see an entry in the SQL Server ERRORLOG file that says “SQL Server started in single-user mode.”

5. After the SQL Server Instance starts in single-user mode, the Windows Administrator account is able to connect to SQL Server using the sqlcmd utility using Windows authentication. You can use Transact-SQL commands such as “sp_addsrvrolemember” to add an existing login (or a newly created one) to the sysadmin server role.
The following example adds the account “Buck” in the “CONTOSO” domain to the SQL Server “sysadmin” role:

EXEC sp_addsrvrolemember ‘CONTOSO\Buck’, ‘sysadmin’;

6. Once the sysadmin access has been recovered, remove the “;-m” from the startup parameters using the Configuration Manager and restart the SQL Server Instance

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