When you forget your password, do this…

By | May 13, 2019
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I’m not always ham-fisted.  But now and then I am… particularly if I’ve not had much sleep the night before – usually woken up by one of the boys.

And this morning, turning on my laptop to write to you, I accidentally clicked on “I’ve forgotten my password” instead of the box to type my password in.

I hadn’t forgotten it and when it eventually brought up the next screen, to reset my password, I could click on the cross in the corner to close it and go back to the log-in screen.  (It took ages to bring it up – I’ve no idea why it took so long!)

But it set me thinking about what happens if you forget your password.  After all, chances you have several passwords, for several different things, so it wouldn’t be that surprising if you forget one.  What do you do then?

Well, in time-honoured techie fashion, the answer is “it depends”.

For most things you have a password for, it’s pretty simple.  They’ll email you a special link to the email address they have for you. You then go into that email, click that link and it lets you reset your password.  It probably won’t tell you the old one – it just lets you set a new one. (Make sure it’s one you can remember!)

For a few things, it’s a bit more complicated.  For example things that need to be extra secure, like bank accounts or tax accounts… then they’ll usually make you answer some security questions before they’ll let you reset the password.  It’s the same principle, they just want to be certain it really is you, by asking your mother’s maiden name, the name of your first pet, the length of your left big toe or whatever.

And if you’ve previously set up “2 factor authentication” then they’ll ask you to use that as well before they’ll let you reset the password. (If you’ve no idea what “2 factor authentication” is, that’s probably a good sign that you haven’t got it set up, so it’s not likely to ask you about it!)

So there you go – it’s usually not too bad to reset a password that you’ve forgotten as long as the company has an up to date email address for you and you have access to that email address.

By the way, if you’re wondering how to avoid forgetting passwords in the first place, well, there are a few ways.  You could use a “password manager” (like LastPass for example) to remember them for you, so you only need to remember the one for that service.  

On the other hand it’s not a good idea to just pick a word or name that’s easy to remember – hackers write programs that go through the dictionary and through lists of names trying them as passwords to get into your account, so that makes it easy to hack.

But you could use a trick I like: come up with a short sentence that you won’t forget.  Something like: “It’s not my birthday today or tomorrow.” (Or something more personal to you that’ll be easier to remember.)

Then you take the first letter of each word from that: Inmbtot

That gives you a password that it’d be almost impossible to guess, but you can remember as long as you remember the sentence.

Then if you need to have a number in the password (you often do) you can replace the letter o with a zero or the letter i or l with a 1: 1nmbt0t

So there you go – if you ever forget a password from now on you know what to do… and if you have to make up any more passwords you’ve got a handy trick to make it easier.

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