Many commercial or free antivirus and internet security applications will offer some sort of built in protection to stop unauthorized users from tampering with the settings of the program, or disabling its functions. This is especially useful if the computer is used by children or less experienced users because they can’t inadvertently leave the computer more vulnerable by disabling real-time protection or altering other configuration options which shouldn’t be touched. Some antivirus software can even prevent an unauthorized uninstallation. While generally a good thing, it can also lead to issues if there’s a problem with the password stored by the software.
Avast Antivirus and Internet Security is one range of security software where we’ve heard stories about users being blocked from accessing the main user interface of the program or settings by the integrated password locking feature, even if they are convinced they never set a password in the first place. It is not known why or how the Avast software manages to password protect itself on these rare occasions. Even if you have accidentally forgotten a password you have set yourself, it can be frustrating being denied access to get back into the program.
The above image shows the password authorization window when a user tries to access a protected area of Avast. There are several different areas of the program that can be protected including general program access, configuration, protection, scanning, updates and access to the virus chest. Trying to access any one of those selected for protection will dim the screen and pop up a window.
An attempt has been made to enter a protected area of Avast. This may be a legitimate action, but could also be the result of a malware attack.
Do you want to continue?”
To try and track down a way around this issue, we did some monitoring and analysis of Avast, and eventually found out where the password to lock and unlock is stored. The password is unsurprisingly encrypted in a file called aswResp.dat. All you need to do is to delete the file and the password lock is removed. Unfortunately it’s not that easy, the file cannot be deleted using Windows Explorer because most antivirus applications prevent manipulation of their own files, and Avast does the same. Even using a popular file unlocking and deleting utility will not get rid of aswResp.dat while Avast is running, and of course you can’t disable self-defense because it’s password protected.
In more recent versions of Avast, the aswResp.dat file has been given even more protection against deletion so a tool which we created a while back that used to work, now doesn’t. We have recently revisited this issue and found a newer way to remove the password lock completely from Avast.
Renaming the aswResp.dat File in Windows
Here’s the alternative way we have found to get around the password lock. This method works on both 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows XP, Vista, 7 and 8.x.
2. Extract the PC Hunter archive and launch the 32-bit or 64-bit version depending on your Windows version, administrator privileges are required. The program is portable and doesn’t need installation.
3. Click the File tab and navigate to the following using the folder tree on the left.
For Windows XP:
C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Application Data\AVAST Software\Avast
Click on the Avast folder to populate the file list.
4. In the file list right click on aswResp.dat and choose Rename. Give the file another name such as aswresp.dat_old and click OK.
The file will instantly be renamed, now open Avast from the tray icon and the password should be gone.
Deleting the aswResp.dat File
While the above method works without issues on just about all current Windows versions, in reality renaming is only required for Windows 8.x. You can actually delete the aswResp.dat altogether and let Avast recreate it when required for Windows XP, Vista and 7. It doesn’t make any difference to the end user but some people may prefer to keep the method as clean as possible without redundant files being left.
1. The delete method is virtually the same as renaming, follow steps 1-3 above to reach the Avast folder in the PC Hunter Files tab.
2. Right click on aswResp.dat and select Force Delete.
The file will be instantly deleted and you can now access Avast as normal.
Important Note: PC Hunter is an incredibly powerful tool and could cause irreparable damage to your operating system if used incorrectly. We strongly advise you use PC Hunter only for following the guide above and don’t use any other parts of the program or delete any other files unless you know what you are doing.
A Manual Solution
Another method is to delete the aswResp.dat file from within Safe Mode. Avast and just about all other antivirus applications are not active in Safe Mode, hence the file is not protected and can be moved or deleted. To boot into Safe Mode, restart your computer and start tapping the F8 key until you see Advanced Boot Options. Select Safe Mode from the list and hit enter. If you can’t get to Safe Mode yourself, there are some tools around that can do it easily for you.
Tip: Windows 8.x can be a pain when trying to get to Safe Mode using F8, an easy solution is holding Shift while pressing Restart. Then click Troubleshoot > Advanced options > Startup settings > Restart. Finally press number 4, 5 or 6 to enter the desired Safe Mode option. This is a one time Safe Mode boot unlike MsConfig which will repeatedly boot to Safe Mode until you turn the option off again.
1. When you’re in Safe Mode, navigate to the Avast folder listed above in the renaming solution.
2. Delete or move the aswResp.dat file to another location.
You will need to enable showing of hidden files in Folder Options first if your Windows isn’t already
configured that way. Go to Control Panel > Folder Options > View tab > select “Show hidden files, folders, or drives”.