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The Forget Button

Strategies for Remembering Login Credentials

You know that big red "EASY" button that Staples uses for their advertising? I've finally decided that the checkbox for "remember me" should really be labeled with a big red "FORGET" button. That may sound harsh, but as a person who frequently has to remind others of their usernames and passwords...or reset passwords...I highly recommend that you never click "remember me" or "remember this password" in your browser.

The only way to truly remember credentials is to use phrases that are meaningful to you, use them repetitiously across multiple sites, and have to type those credentials over and over again. But why do that if a site or tool can automatically remember you?

That "remember me" function is executed by placing a file (cookie) on your desktop. That means that if you are not at your desktop, you can't be remembered, or if your hard drive crashes, the cookie has likely disappeared. For most people, once that cookie is gone, they have no clue how to log onto the site or tool.

To really make life easier for yourself, try to stick with a few rules of thumb for creating new accounts (or updating existing ones):

  • Use your primary email address as a username if possible, and stick with as few email accounts as possible. If in doubt, create a Google Mail account for yourself and use it for "all things loginable".
  • If you can't use your email address, create an ultra unique variation of your name. When I can't use my email address, I use the first four letters of my first name, a dash, and the first four letters of my last name. Unless you are "John Smith", this approach will get you there most of the time.
  • For passwords, start with a phrase dear to your heart, use uppercase and lowercase letters, use numbers in place of words or "IM" abbreviations, and limited special characters (particularly dashes -, carats ^, and underscores _). With these combinations, you might have passwords like Pieces_Of_8, URwhatUEat, Fr8OnBoard. Have fun with it...kind of like creating a phrase on a license plate for your vehicle.
  • If you are using an environment that forces you to change passwords regularly, keep a list...but in a secure, accessible place which doesn't include a sticky note on your monitor or a scrap of paper on your desk. There are several tools available on the Internet to help you store passwords. I know some folks who keep them in their cell phones, which could be a bit dangerous, and another who keeps a list in their bible. You probably don't need to tape it to the back side of the toilet, though.

Most of all, de-select that "remember me" box so you can start practicing to remember on your own!

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