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Passwords are important and most people don’t know enough about them. How do you choose a strong password, use a unique password everywhere, and remember them all? How do you secure your accounts so you’re safe even if someone discovers your password? How do you protect your files and operating system — and what if you ever lose a password? We’ve covered all this and more over the years.

Be sure to read our password management guide for an in-depth overview to everything from choosing strong passwords to picking a password management technique and setting up two-factor authentication.

How to Create Good Passwords

All the password tricks in the world won’t help if you’re using a bad password everywhere. You should choose sufficiently complex passwords that can’t be easily guessed — anything based on a name, birthday, or dictionary word is terrible. Passwords should ideally be fairly long and contain numbers as well as symbols. For help coming up with good passwords and for an overview of ways to deal with all those passwords, read these articles:

xkcd-password-strength-comic[4]

Password Managers

Not only should you use a long password containing numbers and symbols, you should use unique passwords everywhere. It’s practically impossible to remember enough different, strong passwords for all the services you use without some tricks. One of the best tips is to use a password manager, which will generate strong passwords and remember them for you. We’ve covered a variety of password managers, including the cloud-based LastPass and the open-source KeePass desktop application.

password maangement

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Using Two-Factor Authentication

Many services allow you to go beyond passwords, requiring a second code to log in. If someone discovers your password, they wouldn’t be able to log into your account without the second authentication method. A variety of different services support two-factor authentication, including Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Dropbox, Evernote, Twitter, and many other popular services. Read these articles for tips on setting up two-factor authentication:

google-two-step-verification

Password-Protecting Files With Encryption

Encryption effectively allows you to password-protect your files. The encryption key functions as a password, which must be entered before your data becomes readable. If someone doesn’t have the encryption key, the files will appear as random gibberish. This is useful when storing financial information and other sensitive data or transmitting it online — email is insecure, so you shouldn’t send sensitive documents over email. There are other ways to password-protect your files, such as password-protecting a USB stick or encrypting your hard drive. For more tips on securing your files with encryption, read:

encrypt files cloud

Password-Protecting Your OS and BIOS

Websites and files aren’t the only things that can be password-protected. Securing your operating system with a password will ensure that other people can’t easily gain access. You can also password-protect your computer’s BIOS to prevent people from changing its settings or booting unauthorized operating systems from USB sticks, CDs, and DVDs.

how to password protect computer

Recovering Lost Passwords

If you’ve forgotten a password, you aren’t necessarily out of luck. There are ways to recover or reset lost passwords, so you can log into your computer or web account. Note that you can’t recover a password for encrypted data — the password functions as a key, and you can’t unlock the encryption without that key. If you lose your encryption password, your files won’t be accessible.

windows-forgotten-password-wizard

Alternatives to Passwords

Passwords can be inconvenient. People are constantly looking for easier ways to log into devices and services. From pattern locks and picture passwords to security mechanisms that rely on capturing a photo, scanning a fingerprint, or using Bluetooth, you can log into your devices in other ways:

change windows 8 password

Do you have any other password-related tips or tricks to share with us and your fellow readers? Leave a comment below!

Image Credit: Password Strength comic by XKCD

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