What is a clipboard?

The clipboard is another one of the small, but powerful little items that we often take for granted.

It’s such a simple thing and yet we never talk about exactly what it is or why one would care.

We just use it. Constantly. Every single day.

Let’s look at the clipboard.

The Mysterious Clipboard

The clipboard isn’t so much a “thing” as it is a “place”.

But even then, “place” isn’t exactly accurate either.

The clipboard is simply a place where Windows remembers something – exactly one thing – for you.

That’s really all it is.

And yet, as simple as it is, it’s extremely powerful.

“The Windows clipboard can hold only one thing at a time.”

Putting things in the clipboard

You place things into the clipboard using either the Copy or Cut commands in various applications and in Windows itself.

Copy simply makes a copy of whatever it is you’ve selected and places it in the clipboard, whereas Cut deletes your selection after the copy is made.

Great. But, once it’s in the clipboard, what then?

Using things in the clipboard

The opposite of copying something into the clipboard is to copy something out – the Paste operation.

Paste copies whatever is in the clipboard and places it at the current cursor or selection location.

Copy/Cut puts things in the clipboard (wherever Windows might keep it) and Paste copies the contents of the clipboard into your selected destination.

Clipboard contents

The clipboard is available for many, many things.

Most commonly, you can select some text in a document using your mouse, then right-click it and select Copy or Cut. You can then click elsewhere in that document to Paste what you had selected into a different location.

Windows Explorer uses the cut/copy/paste metaphor and the clipboard to allow you to move or copy files.

But the real power of the clipboard isn’t in simple file or text manipulation.

The clipboard works between applications

The real power of the clipboard is that it’s a Windows service that’s provided to all applications that choose to use it.

Copy text from one application and Paste it into another.

Copy a file in Windows Explorer and Paste it into an email where it becomes as an attachment.

Copy a photo from a website and Paste it into a graphics program to save or modify.

Copy a file from one drive and Paste it to another to make a backup copy.

Hopefully, you get the idea.

Viewing the clipboard’s contents

Windows XP includes a tool called “clipbrd.exe” (located in \Windows\system32) which, when running, will display the current contents of the clipboard.

For some reason, Windows 7 doesn’t include this tool. You can copy the clipbrd.exe tool from a Windows XP installation, if you like. If not, you’ll need to download a third-party application to view the clipboard contents.

Important: You don’t need a clipboard viewer to use the clipboard. Just use cut/copy/paste as described above and Windows will handle it all just fine.

The one big limitation

The Windows clipboard can hold only one thing at a time.

When you Copy or Cut something into the clipboard, anything that was previously there is erased.

While that might sound like a serious limitation, in practice, it is not. The clipboard is a quick, short-term storage location as you copy data from one location to another.

While occasionally it might be nice to have more than one clipboard, and there are tools that attempt to do this, the simple “copy/paste” metaphor is quickly complicated in those cases to track which clipboard or which item it is you might be operating on.

Often you’ll hear “in” or “into” the clipboard as well as “on” or “onto” the clipboard. “In” is much more common, but “on” more accurately matches the physical clipboard metaphor. Both are correct.

Resetting Windows Password

First, let’s walk through what you need to do. The screen shots below are from my Windows 7 machine, but Windows XP, Vista, and 8 are all documented as being supported.

Obligatory caveat. This utility has been around for a while and it has a good reputation. As with any third-party software that’s going to operate on sensitive system areas, however, you are always at risk. Make sure you have a good backup of your machine prior to performing these operations. And of course, you use utilities of this nature entirely at your own risk.

First, download and burn to CD the Offline NT Password and Registry Editor. This is actually a highly customized version of Linux that’s designed to do exactly what the name implies: allow you to examine and edit the password information and registry of a Windows machine. (A USB version is available as well.)

Boot your problematic machine from that CD that you just burned. You’ll end up with something like this on your screen:



Don’t let all the stark plain text worry you. The process for what we’re doing is actually pretty simple. Typically, you can just press Enter to continue on to the next step. The program boots and then automatically searches your hard disks for Windows installations:


Here’s the relevant portion of that screen enlarged:


You can see that it has found one installation of Windows. Because it’s the only installation, it’s number one on the list. If your machine has multiple Windows installations, you’ll need to select the proper one. In our case, we can just hit Enter once again as “1″ is the default choice.


The program lists the contents of the folder containing the Windows registry (you may need to press the space bar on your keyboard once or twice to scroll through the paged listing. Typically, you can simply ignore it).

There are several options. In our case, we’re only concerned about performing a password reset. Once again, we can just press Enter because “1″, Password Reset, is the default.


It’s now asking us what we want to do. “Edit user data and passwords” is exactly right and it’s the default once again, so … press Enter.


There are a couple of things worth noting about this step:

  • All accounts on the machine are listed. You can see that there are three: Administrator, Guest, and LeoN.
  • Two of the accounts have administrative privileges: Administrator and LeoN.
  • Two of the accounts are actually disabled: Administrator and Guest.
  • Each account is identified by a RID, which is essentially an ID number for that account.

Here you choose on which account you want to act. To select that account, type in the RID number. In this example, the program has selected the RID of the only active account as the default. Once again, we just press Enter.


The program displays a summary of account information and then gives us a menu of things to do to that account.

This time, the default is q for quit. Instead, type 1 – to clear the password – followed by Enter. It’ll redraw the screen quickly and present the same menu again.  In all of that text, there will be confirmation that it’s done what we need:


Because we’re done, this time accept the default of q for quit and simply press Enter.


This returns you to the previous menu. Here, you’ll need to type q followed by Enter to quit.


None of the changes that we’ve made have actually been written to disk as of yet. To complete the operation, type y (the default is no) followed by Enter.


You’re done! You can now remove the CD and reboot your machine. The account in question has no password. You can now login with that account and set its password to something that you would prefer.

Offline NT Password and Registry Editor

As you’ve probably surmised by the choices that we made and the options that we bypassed, the Offline Editor is a powerful tool for going in and performing all sorts of registry manipulation on Windows machines.

This has only been an overview of one type of operation, addressing the most common request that I encounter.

I recommend that you familiarize yourself with the utility before using it and then review the documentation and FAQ on the website.

The most important lesson of all

So, that was pretty simple, right? OK, maybe a little scary if you’ve never done something like that before. You can see that it’s pretty darned easy. Reboot from CD or USB, press Enter (in most cases) a few times, and *poof* … the account password is cleared and you have access once again.

So easy anyone could do it.


This is where you should be concerned. You need to be aware of this.

Anyone with physical access to your machine can do what I’ve just described.

If you’re in a position where folks with a motive or other random strangers can access your machine, you may want to rethink your physical security. Remember one of the most important security rules of all:

If it’s not physically secure, it’s not secure.

The ability to walk up with a CD and “own” the machine with a reboot and a few keystrokes hopefully makes that pretty clear.

Source: www.askleo.com