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Your computer is a veritable goldmine of personal and private information. Banking details, business documents, sentimental photographs, and more must be kept safe. Luckily, Windows 10 has a raft of locking methods to help protect your data.
Let’s take a look at every single way you can password protect Windows 10.
Password come in a few different flavors, depending on the type of Windows 10 User Account on your computer. There are slight differences.
The majority of Windows 10 users will lock their account using their Microsoft account password. During the Windows 10 installation you’re asked for your Microsoft account email address and password. This is used to create a User Account that is secured with the password provided.
Securing your Windows 10 computer with your Microsoft account password has positives and negatives.
Positively, your computer is secured with (hopefully) a very strong, single-use password. Using your Microsoft account brings other benefits, too. For instance, your Windows 10 license key links directly to your Microsoft account, instead of just your system hardware. Associating your Microsoft account with your product key makes new hardware installation that bit easier than before.
Another benefit of using your Microsoft account is settings sync. Your personal settings will sync across all devices that you sign into, saving time on each device.
The downside is having to enter your Microsoft account password at each login. Furthermore, if you forget it, you’ll be locked out of Windows 10 and have to reset the password for the entire account. This creates an immediate issue if you only have one PC.
Microsoft account sign-in is a privacy concern, too. Windows 10 is still beset with privacy concerns, and “when you sign into your Microsoft account, we [Microsoft] create a record of your sign-in, which includes the date and time, information about the service you signed into,” as well as your IP address. The latter also betrays your location, even if you have location settings turned off.
Don’t fancy using your Microsoft Account to secure Windows 10? You can use a local account instead. A local account offers the same level of password protection as your Microsoft Account, while not directly linked to your email address.
Microsoft doesn’t make it entirely clear that a local account is an option. However, if you’d like to switch, you can follow our guide on how to create a local account. Just be sure to set a strong password!
Alternatively, if you’re just about to start your Windows 10 installation, you can select an Offline account instead of providing your Microsoft account credentials.
Windows 10 has several alternative methods to secure your system. Using a PIN is one of them. Using a PIN has distinct positives. A major positive is the vastly reduced password length. The flipside? Your PIN is much, much shorter and therefore, easier to crack. It is incredibly easy to crack a four-digit PIN.
Set a PIN
Press Windows Key + I to open the Settings menu. Head to Accounts > Sign-in options. Under PIN, select Add.
Enter your current Windows 10 account password. Now enter your desired PIN. Your PIN cannot be a number pattern. I’d also keep away from birthdays, telephone numbers, and other patterns, like 753159 (number pad diagonals) or 0258/8520 (the center row of keypad numbers).
Once you have a strong PIN, press OK.
Forgot your PIN? Select I forgot my PIN and enter your last account password. This will give you the option to reset your PIN, or do-away with it altogether.
The Picture Password is a feature new to Windows 10. It is essentially a swipe-gesture password overlaid on a picture of your choice. As such, it suits touch-input, rather than a desktop keyboard and mouse combination.
However, that doesn’t mean you cannot use it.
Set a Picture Password
From the Sign-in options page, select Picture Password. Enter your current account password.
Next, choose your picture. I’ve gone for the MakeUseOf featured image poster. Now, draw three gestures on your screen. I’ll leave the gestures up to you, but remember that this will be your password. Think basic shapes and patterns.
Re-enter your gestures to set the picture password. Your next login will require your picture password.
If you forget the password, there is still the option to enter your account password to gain access to Windows 10. Removing the picture password is easy. Head back to the Sign-in options page and select Remove.
Dynamic Lock is a new Windows 10 lock method, which lets you lock your PC when your phone goes out of range.
With Dynamic Lock enabled, you no longer have to remember to hit Windows Key + L, or click through the Start menu. Bluetooth is the key here. You’ll need a Bluetooth adapter, or a device with integrated Bluetooth.
First, connect your phone to Windows via Bluetooth. Once that is done, press Windows Key + I and head to Accounts > Sign-in options. Check the box that says Allow Windows to detect when you’re away and automatically lock the device.
Next time your Bluetooth paired phone moves out of the vicinity of your Windows 10 system, the connection will drop, and your computer will lock.
Dynamic Lock is a good addition to the sign-in options roster, but it isn’t great. In certain scenarios, it could actually compromise you without realising. Say you’re in a coffee shop working on a private document. Dynamic Lock is on. You head to the slightly obscured counter for a flat white with an extra shot, assuming Dynamic Lock will kick-in. But you’re not quite out of range, and a nefarious individual takes a photo of your portfolio.
I know it’s a stretch. But these things do happen.
We’ve looked at every way you can password protect Windows 10. We’ve considered the pros and cons of using a Microsoft account vs. a local account to secure Windows 10. And the most important password tip of all? Secure your account with a strong, single-use password. Do it now!
How do you lock Windows 10 down? Do you favor a local account over a Microsoft account? Can you share your password creation tips with our readers? Let us know your thoughts below!
Image Credits: Martin Hladky/Shutterstock