Review: Create very strong and secure passwords with the free PWGen
By Mark O'Neill
At a Glance
PDF manual available for those wanting to get into the nitty-gritty details
Can batch-generate up to 2 billion unique passwords and save them to a text file
No portable version
Graduate from simple, guessable passwords to Herculean ones with this open-source password generator.
It’s very fashionable among hackers these days to randomly choose someone’s online account and break into it for bragging rights. If you are determined not to become a victim of hacking, then you need to strengthen and overhaul all of your passwords. It’s no longer cute or safe to use passwords like “password” or “123,” PWGen is a neat little software app that can help you generate passwords in an instant, no thought required.
Although this app kind of suffers from the lack of a portable version (which would really make it extremely useful), PWGen still has a lot of nice features which make this something you should seriously consider putting on your PC. I strongly recommend you also download the PDF user manual so you can set things up properly the first time around.
For a start, you can specify how long the character strings should be. I generally recommend no fewer than 15 characters (but being ultra-paranoid, all of my passwords are at least 25 characters long). You might think that is overkill, but if you have an extremely valuable online account, then it’s better to overdo it than underdo it
Then underneath, in the “character set,” specify which characters you want included. This field is already pre-populated, but if you want to change things around, the manual has a complete list of what you can include.
The next section asks if you want to use a wordlist to include words in your passwords. By default, PWGen uses an internal English wordlist but if you have your own special wordlist (in your own native language, for example), then just load up a text file with the words inside and PWGen will use them to generate the passwords.
Then specify if you want to specially format the password. I’ve found it best to leave this option unticked and leave it to the software to format it itself.
Then all you have to do is click “generate” and a password will appear in the “generated password” box. Don’t like the one you’ve been given? Then press the “generate” button again and you’ll be offered another one.
As you look at your password, keep an eye on the colored bar underneath it. Orange is minimal security and as the colors progress all the way to the right of the app, you end up at bright green, which is maximum security. You obviously need to aim for bright green every time.
PWGen has some other great features. First of all, the app can batch generate up to 2 billion unique passwords for you, and save them to a text file on your computer. You can also use the app to encrypt your Windows clipboard You can even set up profiles to save all of the different password customizations, if you have different needs for home, work, school, and so on.
Considering that PWGen is free, it certainly packs a lot of punch. So much so that if you read the manual from beginning to end, there is the potential to get bogged down in all of the technical details. So unless you’re into all of that stuff, just skim the manual, get what you need and have your secure passwords generated in an instant.
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