Manage Windows User Passwords

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It's on the list of things you should always do: be courteous to delivery people, wash your hands, and keep track of login passwords. And even I have broken the rule. Just a few days ago, I tried to log into a seldom-used Vista installation, only to have forgotten my password. Since I don't use that PC often, I wasn't concerned about losing applications and data. But after spending ten minutes guessing various combinations, I gave up and reinstalled, costing another hour. Here's how to take better care of these keys, especially if you have a many logins.

For simple duplication, you could record each login and password, then store that document in a safe or somewhere only you have access. An off-side duplicate, such as a bank deposit box can be an aditional backup. Encrypted password-storage applications, such as SplashID and eWallet work even better, because even if someone else gets access to your password file, they won't have a way to unlock it.

Finally, you can create a USB thumb drive in Vista that will store a special unlocking key, in case your memory--and access--are blocked later. Insert a thumb drive, and visit the User Accounts Control Panel. Pick Create a password reset disk as a Task, and follow the wizard's instructions to enter your current password. Lock the thumb drive in a safe. If you ever need to use it, click Reset Password at the Vista login screen to restore access.

This password management can also be critical if your employees leave. And especially if you have an IT employee, document all of their passwords, and keep those locked up. Your business will keep running, even if your parting is sudden.

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