WebSphere: wasadmin – how to recover a lost password

I had the case recently where was working on a WebSphere 7 environment that was being uncooperative and the previous creator had not taken any backups and the documentation was rather thin . . . one of my most favorite scenarios to walk into.

I found myself with three sets of documents that all stated a different wasadmin password and none of them worked and the client had never bothered to set up any secondary WBM console admins. A dilemma I had to solve.

Encoding vs Encrypting

You might know that all sensitive information about security is entered into the security.xml document that can be found at [$WAS_HOME]/profiles/[profile name]/config/cells/[cell name] folder. In Windows this might equate to:


Linux/AIX would likely be something like:


This document contains the name and password information for the primary admin account for the WebSphere cell – in most cases that will be the default account [wasadmin]. The password is, however, not encrypted but rather encoded. Encryption would use an encryption key to hash the password and without that key you would not be able to retrieve it. Encoding however is a whole other deal – the coding/decoding information is integral to WebSphere itself and is the same for any install anywhere in the world. That means if you encode the same password anywhere, the resulting hash will be exactly the same no matter which server you do it on.

Now, this is not great security in and upon itself and I will not go into details on this – other than it is really important to lock down the physical access to to any WebSphere server you are in charge of, all the way down to file rights …. or you might regret it at some later time.

How to Decrypt:

I am not the first blogger out there that is writing about this, but nobody every wrote it out for Windows servers so I am going to concentrate on that OS right now, and most of the blog entries out there are for older versions and the proces has changed since. Here some of the articles that I have read over the last few years Robert Farstad, Robert Maldon,  and a few more . . . . google the conent here and you will find them.

Here some basic details:

  • WebSphere Version: (the process is the same for any V 7.x server)
  • $WAS_HOME=C:\IBM\WebSphere\AppServer

Step 1: find the wasadmin information

Open the security.xml, find the entry for the encrypted password: it always starts with {xor}, in my case it is:

userId=”wasadmin” password=”{xor}LDo8LTor”

Step 2: Find your WAS Version Specific Java Plug-in Folder:

In my case it was:


Step 3: Find your java home and open a command prompt

In my case this equates to


Change to this folder in the command prompt you opened.

Step 4: Run the Password Encoder/Decoder:

This is where you need the folder location and the encoded password you looked up in the previous steps.

In C:\IBM\WebSphere\AppServer\java\bin\ run the following command

java – java.ext.dirs=C:\IBM\WebSphere\AppServer\deploytool\itp\plugins\com.ibm.websphere.v7_7.0.2.v20110524_2321\wasJars\ -cp securityimpl.jar:iwsorb.jar com.ibm.ws.security.util.PasswordDecoder {xor}LDo8LTor

This above command is one long command string (it might wrap depending on your screen) and it will create the following output in the command prompt:

encoded password == “{xor}LDo8LTor”, decoded password == “secret”

The process for Linux/AIX is basically the same, however the folder structure will be different. The commands are about the same but depending on which version of Linux you are running the Java switches might need some fidlding – though the base does not change.


Next to being helpful to retrieve lost passwords, this article hopefully also shows you just how important good physical security for your WebSphere servers is – don’t think that just because you have a log-on or locked down root that you are safe.

5 thoughts on “WebSphere: wasadmin – how to recover a lost password

  1. Pingback: WebSphere – The Basics on Security, Directories and Federated Repositories | Notesbusters
  2. I’m running and I get an error. Perhaps it is not in every version of WebSphere or I did not load up Java.exe correctly.

    Exception in thread “main” java.lang.NoClassDefFoundError: com.ibm.ws.security.util.PasswordDecoder
    Caused by: java.lang.ClassNotFoundException: com.ibm.ws.security.util.PasswordDecoder
    at java.net.URLClassLoader.findClass(URLClassLoader.java:434)
    at java.lang.ClassLoader.loadClass(ClassLoader.java:660)
    at sun.misc.Launcher$AppClassLoader.loadClass(Launcher.java:358)
    at java.lang.ClassLoader.loadClass(ClassLoader.java:626)
    Could not find the main class: com.ibm.ws.security.util.PasswordDecoder. Program will exit.


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