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Suggested Steps for Resetting Cisco ISE Admin User CLI & GUI Password in a Production Environment

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  • Post category:Cisco / ISE
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  • Post last modified:19/09/2019
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If you’re familiar with Cisco ISE deployments, then no doubt you’ve encountered a time where an Administrator password has expired and needs to be reset. This can happen for a number of reasons however the most common would be because of the admin password expiry setting that hasn’t been disabled in ISE.

When setting up a new Cisco ISE deployment, you will set the admin password. It is important to note that the CLI and GUI admin password can be different.

Although you can reset the admin GUI password via the CLI when it has expired, if the CLI password expires or you forget it, you will be required to boot from the .ISO in order to reset the password.

Booting from the .ISO can be a pain if ISE nodes are in a production environment and you may find that you need a change window to do this. Whatever the case may be, this article focuses on how to reset the admin passwords while ISE is in production.

These steps were taken when I encountered a similar issue with a distributed ISE deployment. If you’ve encountered similar or done a password reset a similar way, share your experience below.

Steps Summary

  • Request a change window (Optional)
  • Acquire the relevant .ISO file
  • Decide on the order of relevance for nodes in the deployment
  • Reset the Admin CLI password node by node
  • Unmount .ISO file
  • Verify successful password change
  • Change the GUI admin password (Optional)
  • Disable Admin password expiry (Optional)

Request a change window if required

As your ISE nodes may be in a production environment, it might not be as simple as taking ISE nodes offline while resetting the Admin password. Distributed deployment a slightly easier because you’d normally have secondary/multiple nodes to manage tasks while others are offline. On the other hand, if your deployment is a standalone deployment, more planning may be needed before taking the node offline.

Whatever the case may be, it’s best to check whether a change window is required before proceeding with the change.

Acquire the relevant .ISO file

Navigate to and download the relevant .ISO. The .ISO needs to match the same version software of your current deployment.

Decide which nodes will be shutdown first & reset passwords one by one on each node

This is a rather important step within a live environment because each ISE node will be taken offline while the .ISO is mounted and the passwords are changed.

Each deployment will differ so this article won’t mandate which of your nodes should be shutdown first however, when I’ve performed this task in the past, I would normally start with shutting down PSN nodes. So here is what I would do with a typical distributed deployment:

  • Shut one node down at a time
  • Start with a PSN, ensuring NAD’s will use another PSN in the event that one of the configure PSN’s is not available. If load balancing is used then this should be taken care of
  • Shutdown the first node and mount the .ISO as per Cisco documentation and dependant on whether it is a physical or virtual deployment.
  • Power on the node, ensuring it will boot into the .ISO
  • Reset the password for the necessary admin accounts as per Cisco documentation:

ISE 2.4 Password Recovery Mechanisms

  • Unmount the the .ISO
  • Reboot the node
  • Verify access to the device now using the CLI now that the password has been changed
  • Verify all services are online before following the same steps again on other nodes

Change the GUI password (Optional)

The admin CLI and GUI password can be different. Some administrators are not aware of this and when one password is changed, they often think it will change for the other too but that is not the case. I think the assumption that this is the case stems from the initial install of ISE because you only configure the admin password once for the CLI and that is also used for the GUI.

If you would like to change the GUI password then either log into the ISE GUI and change the ISE password or if that password also needs resetting then access the CLI and enter the following command below or watch the video demonstration:

application reset-passwd ise <username-here>

Disable admin password expiry (Optional)

By default, ISE admin accounts will expire after a specific period (45 days by default). The following screenshot shows you how to disable admin password expiry.

In the ISE GUI navigate to Administration > System > Admin Access > Authentication > Password Policy and uncheck ‘Administrator passwords expire # days after creation or last change’.

I hope this post has been useful in helping you plan a password reset within your ISE deployment.


Kelvin is a Cyber Security professional with years and experience working with organisations in different verticals, both large and small. He enjoys contributing to the Network Wizkid knowledge base and he also creates technical content. Kelvin enjoys learning new things and often does this by working on achieving new technical certifications. He holds many professional certifications and academically, he has achieved a Bachelors and Master's degree in both Computer Networks and Cyber Security.

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