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SECURING YOUR WINDOWS NETWORK / HOW-TO GEEK SCHOOL

How-To Geek

Lesson 1: Securing User Accounts and Passwords in Windows

To access the Credential Manager, you need to open the Control Panel and go to “User Accounts and Family Safety -> Credential Manager.” In Windows 8.x operating systems, the Credential Manager has two main vaults: “Web Credentials” and “Windows Credentials.”

The Web Credentials vault stores the user names and passwords that you use in Windows Store apps, and when you log in to websites in Internet Explorer. Third-party browsers have their own password storing features and do not store their usernames and passwords in the Windows vault.

When you browse through these credentials you will notice that they are displayed in an encrypted fashion and you cannot tell which apps or websites they are used for, nor can you learn the actual login credentials.

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In the Windows Credentials vault, Windows stores the login details for your computer, for the Homegroup, and for accessing other computers on the network. These credentials are also encrypted and you cannot learn the passwords that are stored by looking at each entry in the vault.

In Windows 7, the Credentials Manager has only one vault – the Windows Vault. Windows 7 doesn’t use a Web Credentials vault for storing the user names and passwords used when browsing the web in Internet Explorer.

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How to Add Credentials for Accessing Another Computer on the Network

You can manually add the login credentials for accessing an Internet or network address or another computer on the network. To give you an example of how the whole process works, let’s see how you add the credentials for a network computer whose shared resources you want to access.

In the Credential Manager click the link that says “Add a Windows credential” in the Windows Credential/Windows Vault section.

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In the “Add a Windows Credential” window, type the IP address or the name of the network computer you want to access. In the “User name” field, type first the name of that computer, followed by \ and then the user account you will use to log in. In the “Password” field, type the password for that user account. When done, press “OK” and the credentials are now stored and used automatically the next time you access that network computer.

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How to Remove Credentials from the Credential Manager

There are scenarios when a computer on your network has changed the password for the user account you have used to access it. In that case, you will no longer want Windows to use those old credentials for accessing that computer. You can easily remove them from the Credentials Manager.

Go to the Windows Credentials/Windows Vault section and expand the credentials for that computer, then click the “Remove” button.

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You are asked to confirm the deletion of those credentials, press “Yes” and they are removed.

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Now you can enter the new credentials in the Credential Manager or you can access that network computer as you normally would, and you will be asked to enter the new ones. Obviously, they will end up being stored in the Credential Manager.

The process for removing credentials for web sites and apps is the same. The only difference is that you need to go to the Web Credentials section.

How to Back Up the User Names and Passwords Stored by Windows

Very few people know that you can manually back up the usernames and passwords stored by Windows in a file that’s encrypted and locked with a password. This file has the extension “.crd” (Credential Backup Files) and you can store it on an external hard drive, a memory stick, or any folder on your computer.

To back them up, click the link that says “Back up Credentials” in the Windows Credentials/Windows Vault section.

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The “Stored User Names and Passwords” window is shown. Here, click “Browse,” select the location where you want to save the file, give it a name, and press “Save.”

To go to the next step, press “Next.”

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Press “Ctrl + Alt + Delete” to continue your backup on a secure Desktop, which cannot intercepted by taking remote screenshots or any kind of remote monitoring tools.

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The screen will turn black and you will see only the “Stored User Names and Passwords” window. Here you are asked to type a password to protect your file. Type a long password, using the recommendations we made earlier in this lesson, and then press “Next.”

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You are now informed that the backup was successful. Your credentials are now stored in the file you have created, in the location you selected.

Press “Finish” to close the wizard.

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Now you can use this backup file to restore your usernames and passwords on another computer or on the same computer after you reinstall the operating system.

How to Restore the User Names and Passwords Stored by Windows

If you have a backup file with all the usernames and passwords you have used on a Windows computer, you can use it at any time to restore them on the same computer, in case you have reinstalled the operating system or another computer that you are using.

To restore your usernames and passwords, go to the Credential Manager and then to the Windows Credentials/Windows Vault section. Look for the link that says “Restore Credentials” and click on it.

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The “Stored User Names and Passwords” window is shown. Click “Browse” and select the backup file that you want to use, then press “Next.”

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Press “Ctrl + Alt + Delete” to continue your backup on a secure Desktop, which cannot intercepted by taking remote screenshots or any kind of remote monitoring tools.

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The screen will turn black and you will see only the “Stored User Names and Passwords” window. Here you are asked to type the password used to protect your file.

Type it and press “Next.”

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You are informed that your credentials have been stored.

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Press “Finish” to close the wizard. The usernames and passwords that you have restored will be now used by Windows automatically whenever they are required.

Coming up next …

That’s it for this lesson. In the next episode we will discuss about the User Account Control (UAC) in Windows, how it works, and why it is important for the security of your system.

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Ciprian Adrian Rusen is an experienced technology writer and author with several titles published internationally by Microsoft Press. You can connect with him on 7 Tutorials, Twitter, and Google+ or even buy his books on Amazon.

  • Published 05/26/14