How-To Geek

The Best Password Tips to Keep Your Accounts Secure


With all of the online accounts we all have, it’s easy to get lazy and start using the same password for multiple websites, services, and accounts, for fear of forgetting an important password. However, this can compromise your private information.

We have published many articles about generating secure passwords, storing your passwords securely, resetting your password in your operating system, and other useful information about managing your passwords and other private information. Here is a collection of useful tips about passwords to help you keep your information and accounts secure.

Storing Passwords

lastpass_icon_100pxThere are many ways out there to securely store your passwords, including online and offline solutions, such as LastPass and KeePass. You can also have your browser store passwords for you. The following articles discuss using LastPass, KeePass, and browsers to store passwords, and how secure it actually is to store your passwords in your browser.

Generating Passwords

wolframalpha_logoNow that you know of some good quality tools for storing your passwords, it’s time to generate some very secure password to store in your chosen tool, for use with all your important websites and accounts. The following articles discuss ways to generate secure passwords. You can also use LastPass and KeePass to generate secure passwords, as discussed in some of the articles listed above.

NOTE: We have some more valuable links to web pages where you can generate very secure passwords at the end of this article.

Resetting and Finding Passwords in Windows

forgotten_password_windowsMost of us have forgotten our Windows password, at one time or another. Luckily, there are several easy ways to reset or change your Windows password. The following articles show you the various ways, even how to find the Homegroup password for Windows 7, if you’ve forgotten that.

  1. How to Reset Your Windows Password Without an Install CD
  2. How to Reset Your Forgotten Windows Password the Easy Way
  3. Change or Reset Windows Password from a Ubuntu Live CD
  4. Change Your Forgotten Windows Password with the Linux System Rescue CD
  5. Reset Your Forgotten Password the Easy Way Using the Ultimate Boot CD for Windows
  6. How to Crack Your Forgotten Windows Password
  7. How Do You Find Your Windows 7 Homegroup Password? [Answers]

Resetting Passwords in Linux and Mac OS X

ubuntu_logoIf you use Linux or a Mac, you can also easily reset your password, should you forget it. The following articles show you how to do so for Ubuntu and Mac OS X.

  1. Reset Your Forgotten Ubuntu Password in 2 Minutes or Less
  2. Reset Your Ubuntu Password Easily from the Live CD
  3. How to Reset Your Forgotten Mac OS X Password

Everything else…

email_lockHere’s some additional helpful articles about password security.

  1. How To Recover After Your Email Password Is Compromised
  2. Ask How-To Geek: What’s Wrong With Writing Down Your Password?
  3. ShouldIChangeMyPassword Tells If Your Password Has Been Compromised
  4. How to Use the New Picture Password and PIN Logon in Windows 8
  5. Set Up a Posthumous Password Contingency Plan
  6. Change the Length of Time When Users Need to Change their Login Password
  7. Temporarily Lock Your PC if Somebody Tries to Guess Your Password

No article about passwords would be complete without mentioning the really useful password tools on the Gibson Research Corporation website (, run by Steve Gibson, security guru and privacy expert. He also publishes a podcast called Security Now with Leo Laporte from TWiT TV ( Archives of all the Security Now podcasts, back to the first one in August 2005, can be found at

Steve’s Password Haystacks page provides an interactive, brute force “search space” calculator that checks your password’s “crackability.” It allows you to enter possible passwords and experiment with different combinations of character sets and password lengths. The calculator shows you how long it would take to do an exhaustive search of every password up through the length of the one entered and displays times for three different scenarios. It also shows an analysis of the brute force search space. The Password Haystacks page was covered by Los Angeles’ KABC-TV and there is a link on the page to the two and a half minute explanation they produced.

There are two pages on Steve’s site that help you to generate very secure passwords. His Perfect Passwords page generates long, high-quality random passwords using three different sets of characters. Passwords generated on this page are completely unique and will never be produced again. If you need a one-time password, Steve’s Perfect Paper Passwords page provides a free, simple, safe, and secure method of generating a convenient card of passcodes each of which is meant to be used one time only.

Lori Kaufman is a writer who likes to write geeky how-to articles to help make people's lives easier through the use of technology. She loves watching and reading mysteries and is an avid Doctor Who fan.

  • Published 01/21/12

Comments (26)

  1. StevenTorrey

    There is a warning on the password calculator: ‘nothing entered here is deleted from the browser.’ Well, that made me think, maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to enter my password into the computer just to see how strong it was. By the end of the article, I got the general idea that numbers, upper case and lower case letters, and characters were important. But really, the biggest defect of passwords is the need to REMEMBER the password. If a person can’t remember, than the password is useless.

  2. Bob

    Hi, I don’t have a comment as much as I do a question. What is your take on Norton Identity Safe?

  3. Wm

    The only problem I can see with Lastpass is the owners appear to have the ability to track our surfing on the web..

    Norton is a DOD approved product and I cannot say that inspires me to trust their Identity Safe..
    however it does appear to remain on your harddrive or flash as you choose.

    There is a one man Company out of Eastern Europe who produces a product call Password Agent.. and has for more than 10 years.

    As long as he remains honest his product appears secure .

    One can only do the best they can..

  4. Grex

    It is January; an appropriate time to break out of old ruts. For years, one of my ruts has been putting off reorganizing my passwords from 3 x 5 cards to one of the electronic methods. Today I feel it is foolish of me to continue delays. Owing to the clarity of this article, I have insights as to how simple it should be to put all of them on an encrypted flash card that I can keep in my travel stash. I guess I can copy that folder from the flash card to my desktop where I can use while at home? I am beginning to feel motivated as well. Thanks Geek. Do you ever help out with “Dear Abby” type issues? (;~0

  5. Don Hazlewood

    Not a reply but a question. Does anyone know of an application (or method) to encrypt a newly-generated file that can be started with a ‘SHELL’ command from Visual Basic 6.0? For example, say I have a root directory of ‘C:\Personal Data’ and a sub-directory of a name, such as ‘John Doe’. Then, for John Doe, there would be a file containing personal data (this is the file I want to encrypt). When John Doe selects his name, he would have to enter the encryption key to unlock the file.

    Any help or comments would be greatly appreciated.


  6. Eric

    Best password generator: your license plate number.
    if you have 2 cars, use both numbers. it is an alphanumeric password that is 16 characters long. it would take 877yrs for a super computer to crack ( as long as it isn’t a novelty plate with an actual word).
    like 5cim3457vca821
    If you forget, go outside and get your license plate numbers.
    Also helps you remember them.
    Another great password is the VIN# for your car. harder to remember, but nearly impossible to crack.

  7. jonrichco

    Sorry to say, but I think a simpler approach to passwords is preferable (at least for me). I use the same fairly simple password for all accounts that (hopefully) no-one would want to hack (eg, my HTG log-in). Then for more valuable accounts like bank log-in a combination of upper/lower case, numbers and symbols at least 8 characters long. The only way IMO that anyone will crack those is if a hacker installs a keystroke logger on your machine, in which case a 100 character password that you change every week won’t save you from disaster. You can get over the keystroke logging problem by (i) ensuring your computer is secure, or (ii) using a bat file to put a key password on your clipboard. But then you’d better hope that the bad guy doesn’t find your bat file.

  8. Forensic Penguin2

    I use Password Gorilla. Its good for Windows, Linux and Mac. Very secure and you can transfer the file from computer to computer to keep it updated. It stores all your user names and passwords, along with login information and other notes, in a securely encrypted file. A single “master password” is used to protect the file. This way, you only need to remember the single master password, and its free.
    The Password Gorilla generated database is besides compatible to actual Password Safe 3.2 databases. The password is SHA256 protected and the database contents are encrypted with Bruce Schneier’s Twofish algorithm. Brute force attacks are prevented by key stretching.

  9. Frank Verano

    Go to, click on Newsletter then select last June’s newsletter for a write up on simple and relatively secure password system for most applications. FV

  10. Andrew

    Why hasn’t RoboForm been mentioned, or evaluated? Been using it (PRO version) for years. It’s probably the most know and widely used out there.

  11. vic

    I’m a retired IT guy who loves RoboForm Everywhere. It syncs with my wife’s computer and our Android phones. Fits our lives perfectly.

  12. Icusawme

    This site gives some interesting information about passwords

    this site will give you and idea how secure your password is

    Password generator that generates strong passwords that you may actually remember

  13. Cedric

    How about generating and storing everything with one app on your iPhone? This app creates secure passwords, “stores” them and you can use it anywhere. I found it a while ago, I love it waiting for it to come on android also :)

  14. DJ Rose

    What about taking the first five words of the opening lines from a classic novel, insert a few old address numbers in the blank spots. Then randomly capitalize some letters in a self created pattern unique to yourself. At that point all you need to remember is your capitalization pattern and keep a copy of the book handy. Keeping passwords in a program is a prayer for disaster.
    Gone with the Wind

  15. secure password enthusiast

    Passwords are easy to generate and remember if you know how:

    Let’s say you need a password for your bank.

    Think of a six to eight word sentence about it eg. Standard National Express Bank Has A Jonesville Branch.

    Think of a 2 digit number, say the last two of your phone number, and put them together to give you a passphrase to remember.

    Take the first character of each word and the 2 digit number.

    Split the numbers apart and make at least one character upper case and you’ll get a very secure password that’s easy to remember. eg. 3Snebhajb6 and will meet criteria of almost any website.

  16. Shea Todd

    Frank – I read your whole password article. How long did it take you to write that? I like the core character idea but I also like statistics. I tend to vary the same group of characters for passwords but I need to change them out more often.

  17. Steve Wilson

    Are passwords becoming obsolete? Google is now tracking everything, including Gmail, for businesses that advertise with them. YouTube is now tracking videos we watch. I am going back to my old E -Mail provider. Giving up YouTube is easy and done. Twitter and Facebook, I don’t need.

    But, a browser?

  18. Austra

    Does anyone ever wonder about old accounts and emails you used years ago?

    I have a few email accounts I can’t access anymore that could possibly harbor personal information.

  19. Shauna

    URGENT!!!!! On my mac OS X, i have forgotten the password to get in to my personal desktop, so im stuck using the guest acount as i cannot get in to my own account, I have alot of pictures, work ect. that i need to get to ASAP!! please help me??

  20. Scott

    Shauna, try and try again to get your password, if you can’t remember it try this:

    My computer was infected with a virus a few years ago, attacked a kernel in the program root and wiped it out. I had to reinstall Windows and pretty much “wipe” the hard drive. But I found a program called Spotmau that allowed me to access the hard drive before I wiped it. I created a Spotmau (or is it Spotmao?) “boot disk” that allowed me to boot the computer off of the CD, like a linux application. Then, I was able to download my “my documents” to an external hard drive. I put that hard drive on a computer with virus software and cleaned it.

    Long story short: The spotmau program has a “password reset” function that will reset the admin password on your computer to “admin.”

    It was the best $20 (or was it $30?) I ever spent. Hope this helps you.

  21. resetlin

    How to recover Windows 7 password has always been a challenge to most of the Windows system users, well, here we will introduce one professional and powerful computer software to bypass password of Windows 7, XP, Vista, 2000, 2003, 2008, etc, for that Windows Login Recovery Professional crack password efficiently at any cases.

  22. dtempleton

    Great list of links, but you can’t write about passwords without mentioning xkcd.

  23. Koober

    About two trillion years to crack my password i dont use anymore.ROTFLMAO!

    Un Want to know my best storage spot?My brain.Unhackable and safe.

  24. kaky

    Well, I’d like to introduce another software- Windows Password Rescuer. It can reset Windows 7/vistaxp/2008/2003/2000 instantly as remove windows password directly.

  25. Ammonomus

    Shauna, Theres a program called Konboot, search it, bootable cd that you burn and when you logon dont enter anything fior the password, works like a charm! :)

  26. chairsnj

    Norton is a DOD approved product and I cannot say that inspires me to trust their Identity Safe..
    however it does appear to remain on your hard drive or flash as you choose.

    There is a one man Company out of Eastern Europe who produces a product call Password Agent.. and has for more than 10 years.

    As long as he remains honest his product appears secure .
    i forgot my windows 7 password

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