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How To Do Password Recovery on Cisco Switch?

how to do password recovery on cisco switch

How to do password recovery on cisco switch>? Learn the essential steps for password recovery on a Cisco switch. Our comprehensive guide will help you regain access and ensure network security.


In the world of network administration, knowing how to perform password recovery on a Cisco switch is a valuable skill. Whether it’s a forgotten password or the need to regain control of a network device, understanding this process is crucial. This guide will take you through the steps to securely and effectively recover passwords on your Cisco switch, ensuring that your network remains accessible and secure.

Understanding Password Recovery

When it comes to managing Cisco switches and network security, understanding password recovery is paramount. Passwords are the first line of defense in protecting your network infrastructure, and there are various types of passwords involved, such as the enable password and enable secret. These passwords control access to critical configurations and the overall security of your network.

Why is Password Recovery Necessary? 

There are scenarios where password recovery becomes necessary:

  • Forgotten Passwords: Network administrators might forget the passwords they’ve set, leading to a lockout from the device.
  • Security Measures: In the interest of security, it’s essential to ensure you can regain access to your devices when needed.
  • Device Handovers: Password recovery can be crucial during staff transitions or when you inherit network devices with unknown passwords.

The Last Resort 

Password recovery should always be considered a last resort. It’s a process that should be used when all other methods of gaining access to the switch have failed. Performing password recovery can lead to a potential security risk if not done carefully.

Understanding the significance of password recovery and when to use it is the first step in ensuring the security and accessibility of your Cisco switches. In the event that you need to perform password recovery, a step-by-step guide can help you navigate this critical procedure.

Initial Preparations

Before you embark on the journey of password recovery for your Cisco switch, there are essential initial preparations that you must undertake. These preparations will ensure a smooth and successful recovery process. Here are the key steps:

1. Gather Required Equipment

To get started, make sure you have the necessary equipment on hand. You’ll need:

  • Console Cable: A console cable, often provided with your Cisco switch, is used to establish a direct connection between your computer and the switch.
  • Terminal Software: Install terminal emulation software on your computer. Popular choices include Tera Term, PuTTY, or HyperTerminal. This software allows you to communicate with the switch through the console cable.

2. Physical Connection

Next, establish the physical connection between your computer and the Cisco switch:

  • Connect one end of the console cable to the console port on the Cisco switch.
  • Connect the other end of the cable to the serial port on your computer.

3. Access the Command-Line Interface

Once the physical connection is established, you’ll need to access the command-line interface (CLI) of your Cisco switch:

  • Open the terminal emulation software you installed earlier.
  • Configure the software to connect to the serial port where the console cable is connected. Typically, this involves specifying the port and connection settings.
  • Power on the Cisco switch if it’s not already on, and you should see the switch’s boot-up messages on your terminal software.

With these initial preparations in place, you are now ready to proceed to the next steps in the password recovery process. These preparations are crucial to ensure that you can communicate with the switch effectively and initiate the necessary recovery procedures.

Accessing ROMMON Mode

how to do password recovery on cisco switch
how to do password recovery on cisco switch

In the realm of Cisco switch password recovery, understanding how to access ROMMON (Read-Only Memory Monitor) mode is a critical step. ROMMON is a special mode that allows you to interact with the switch’s firmware for the purpose of recovering or resetting passwords. Here’s how to access ROMMON mode:

  1. Establish a Terminal Connection: As mentioned in the previous step, ensure you have a functional terminal connection between your computer and the Cisco switch using a console cable and terminal software.
  2. Reboot the Switch: To access ROMMON, you need to initiate a reboot of the switch. This can be done by power cycling the device or by issuing a reboot command in the command-line interface.
  3. Break Sequence: During the boot process, you’ll need to send a break sequence to interrupt the normal boot sequence and gain access to ROMMON. The specific key combination or method to send the break sequence may vary depending on your terminal software. It’s commonly done by pressing Ctrl-Break or Ctrl-Pause. If you’re unsure, consult your terminal software’s documentation.
  4. Access ROMMON: Once you’ve successfully sent the break sequence, you should be presented with the ROMMON prompt, which typically looks like rommon 1 >. This indicates that you are now in ROMMON mode, and you can proceed with password recovery or other troubleshooting tasks.

It’s worth noting that the ability to access ROMMON mode depends on your switch’s configuration and the specific model you’re using. In some cases, you might encounter a password prompt even in ROMMON mode, which adds an additional layer of security.

Password Recovery Steps

Once you’ve successfully accessed ROMMON mode on your Cisco switch, you’re ready to proceed with the password recovery process. This set of steps will guide you through the necessary actions to reset or recover your passwords effectively:

1. Change the Configuration Register

The configuration register is a crucial setting that determines how the switch boots. You need to modify it to bypass the startup configuration, which is where the password information is stored. Follow these steps:

  • Enter the command confreg 0x2142 in ROMMON mode. This value instructs the switch to ignore the startup configuration on the next reboot.
  • Reboot the switch by typing reset or boot in ROMMON mode. The switch will restart without loading the startup configuration.

2. Enter Privileged EXEC Mode

Once the switch reboots without loading the startup configuration, you’ll be in the initial configuration dialog. Skip this dialog and enter privileged EXEC mode by typing enable.

3. Rename the Configuration File

You’ll need to rename the startup configuration file to avoid loading it on the next boot:

  • Enter the command rename flash:config.old flash:config.text. This changes the name of the configuration file.

4. Copy the Configuration File to Running Configuration

Now, you’ll copy the renamed configuration file to the running configuration, effectively restoring the previous configuration:

  • Enter copy flash:config.text system:running-config. This action will bring the configuration file back into the running configuration.

5. Access Global Configuration Mode

Enter global configuration mode by typing configure terminal or simply conf t.

6. Reset the Password

Now, you can reset the password(s). For example, to reset the enable password:

  • Enter enable secret new_password, replacing “new_password” with the new password you desire. Alternatively, you can use enable password new_password if you prefer to reset the older, less secure password.

7. Restore the Configuration Register

Return the configuration register to its original value to ensure the switch boots normally in the future:

  • In global configuration mode, type config-register 0x2102. This resets the configuration register to its default value.

8. Save Your Changes

Don’t forget to save the configuration by typing write memory or copy running-config startup-config. This step ensures your changes are stored for future reboots.

With these password recovery steps completed, your Cisco switch should now have a new password, and you’ve successfully regained control of your network device. It’s essential to keep your new password secure and well-documented to avoid future issues.

Verification and Testing

After successfully resetting the password on your Cisco switch, it’s vital to verify and test the changes you’ve made to ensure that the recovery process was successful and that your network device is functioning correctly. Here are the steps for verification and testing:

1. Test the New Password

First and foremost, test the new password to confirm that it grants you access to the switch. Attempt to log in to the switch using the newly reset password to ensure it works as expected. This step is crucial for verifying that you can now access the switch with the updated credentials.

2. Check Configuration Integrity

Examine the switch’s configuration to ensure that it’s intact and didn’t suffer any unintended changes during the password recovery process. Specifically, look for any configuration settings that might have been affected by the recovery steps. Make sure that all essential settings and parameters are as they should be.

3. Test Network Functionality

Verify that your network is operating normally after the password recovery. Check network connectivity, routing, and the performance of the Cisco switch. Ensure that all network services and applications are functioning as expected. Any disruptions or issues in network functionality should be promptly addressed.

4. Backup Configuration

Before making any further configuration changes or applying additional updates, it’s a good practice to back up the current configuration. This way, you have a snapshot of the working state of your switch that you can revert to in case of any unexpected issues.

5. Review Security Policies

Consider reviewing and, if necessary, updating your network security policies. Password recovery may have been necessitated by a security breach or the departure of a previous network administrator. Ensure that your security measures are up to date and aligned with your organization’s policies and best practices.

6. Document Changes

Thoroughly document the changes made during the password recovery process. This documentation should include the previous and new passwords, configuration changes, and any relevant network information. Keeping accurate records helps in troubleshooting and ensures that your network remains manageable.

7. Create a Password Recovery Plan

Use the experience gained during the password recovery process to create a password recovery plan for the future. This plan should include best practices, secure password management, and procedures for handling forgotten passwords or staff changes.

By following these verification and testing steps, you can be confident that your Cisco switch is back in working order, and your network remains secure. Regularly reviewing and updating your network security and configuration practices is essential to maintaining the integrity and reliability of your network infrastructure.

FAQ’s How To Do Password Recovery on Cisco Switch?

Can I avoid using password recovery altogether? 

The ability to recover a password is one of the most valuable skills, but you should maintain thorough documentation regarding your passwords so that you won’t have to recover them in the future.

What if I can’t access ROMMON mode? 

If you are experiencing difficulty accessing ROMMON mode, you may want to refer to Cisco’s official documentation or contact Cisco’s support department for assistance if you are experiencing difficulties.

How often should I update my passwords? 

Keeping your password up-to-date is one of the best ways to make sure that your security is enhanced, and as a result, it should be done regularly, such as updating it every few months at the very least.

Is there a risk of data loss during password recovery? 

In the event that the password recovery procedure is executed in a correct manner, there shouldn’t be any data loss, however, it is extremely important to back up your configuration as a precaution.

Can I reset a forgotten enable secret password without a console cable? 

When attempting to recover a password on a console, it is typically necessary for the console cable to be connected to the console so that the password can be recovered.

Are there any alternatives to accessing ROMMON mode for password recovery? 

Although ROMMON is the standard method for installing ROMs on devices, some devices may offer alternative methods, so be sure to check the documentation for your specific device for more information.


Performing password recovery on a Cisco switch is an essential skill for network administrators. By following this comprehensive guide, you have been guided through the entire process, from understanding the fundamentals to performing recovery steps and verifying the results. Following these steps and best practices will allow you to restore access to your network device and maintain network security. Keep your passwords secure and well-documented to prevent future issues. Stay up to date with the latest network security measures.

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