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view-password-asteriskSay you’ve taken on a new job and you find that the fellow (or fellows) doing the job before have never documented their passwords for the many applications you need to do your job. Purely hypothetical, I’m sure it NEVER happens.

Let’s also say that you have a major update to do and you can’t get a hold of the web host to change the password, because it’s 4:59pm on a Friday. What on earth can you do?

Well, let me point out a few tools that will allow you view passwords behind asterisk characters and let your employers know they have the übergeek for the job!

View One Hidden Asterisk Password at a Time

Most of the programs I came across worked the same way – open the locked program, open the password revealer, click on a button called ‘password reveal’ or some similar thing, then get the password.

Asterisk Key from Passware is one such solution. It will run on Windows 2000/NT/XP/2003/Vista and requires 64MB of RAM and at least a Pentium 300 processor. Seriously, if you don’t have at least that, send me a self-addressed stamped envelope and I’ll print you a copy of this article. You’ll get it faster.

What you’ll notice at first is that this is a piece of loss-leader software from a company that would like to sell you their other wares. Nothing wrong with that.


asterisk key -view hidden passwords

Once you have Asterisk Key open, open up the application you wish to recover a password from. In my case it was FileZilla. Once the locked program is open, you simply click on the ‘Recover’ button in Asterisk Key, and voila!

filezilla password reveal

That’s great, but what if you have several applications from which you need to recover and view password fields? That’s where I find this next piece of freeware to be most useful.

Reveal Multiple Hidden Passwords

Asterisk Logger from NirSoft makes the process of recovering multiple passwords that are hiddent behind asterisk characters very easy. It works on Windows 9x, ME, 2000 and XP and with a little tweaking it will work on NT. I’m not sure about Vista, since I never made that leap.

The feature of Asterisk Logger that puts it above other asterisk revealer freeware is the fact that it logs the passwords AND shows the password in plain text right in the program you are using. Simply open up Asterisk Logger and start using those programs that you forgot the password for. Below you can see how Asterisk Logger reveals the password right in the program you are using as well as in Asterisk Logger.

asterisk logger

You can see in the screenshot below that I opened FileZilla and Quicken to show you how it logs the passwords.

Asterisk Logger

After a session on the computer with Asterisk Logger open, you can save the log to a text file to refer to it later. But remember to not tell anyone where the list is – that’s called job security!

Asterisk Logger does not work well with instant messenging applications though. But NirSoft has a pill for that too.

Reveal Instant Messenger Passwords

Yes, I am a NirSoft fanboy. If it works, it works. I searched for and tested others specifically designed for instant messaging (IM) software. They either weren’t really freeware or seemed sketchy.

MessenPass works.

“How well, Guy?”, you inquire. Well, I hate instant messaging so I haven’t used mine in about a year or so. I installed and fired up MessenPass and it not only found the password I was looking for, but an account I forgot I even made and its password as well.

messenpass - msn password view

Well, now you know my MSN username, so go ahead and add me. I probably won’t respond though. I am to IM what the old guy with the shotgun full of rock salt, sitting in a rocking chair, is to meddling kids. Get off my IM! Dagnabbit!!!

Got any other leads on cool freeware apps that reveal what’s behind those asterisks? Love to see them. Any stories about getting snookered by hidden passwords? I’d love to read those too.

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