What do you use to remember passwords?

We’re at the point now with passwords that there’s no way we can remember all of them with all their different requirements and the way some of them have to change every few months and so on.

That leads to possibly bad ideas for how to remember passwords.  For example, writing them down on post-it notes and sticking them all over your monitor.  A step up from that is putting them on a sheet of paper and sticking them in your safe, which is maybe something you should be doing along with your will anyway.  Of course, then you have to go into your locked safe every time you need a password you’ve forgotten.

You could also email them to yourself.  Which is not the best idea for obvious reasons (getting hacked!).  Or you could have the same password for everything, which of course you can’t do because there are different requirements, and if you could would be a bad idea because if someone gets one of your passwords, they get them all.  Or you could have the same basic password with minor changes based on the program you’re logging in with (MintX3$v, HotmailX3$v, etc.)  Again, if someone gets one of your passwords, it’s pretty obvious what the rest are going to be (plus you might run into problems with requirements not allowing your set-up).

Partner 1:  The best setup I’ve found is using key-based authentication.  So I only have to remember the one password, and if someone hacks into Target and gets my public key I don’t care because it’s public anyway.  but only computer geeks use them…

Partner 2:  Is a computer geek.

LASTPASS is the answer.  I never remember any passwords anymore.

What do you do to remember passwords?  What are things other people do?

22 Responses to “What do you use to remember passwords?”

  1. Revanche Says:

    I’m using 1Password right now and it’s excellent for my primary counter but wreaks havoc when I need to log in from either phone or iPad since I have lost all muscle memory typing in those passwords. I suppose the smart move would be to just figure out if I can install the darn program on devices. But, lazy.

  2. Practical Parsimony Says:

    I use one of my children’s names, maybe the middle name and a Fibonacci number or two. If it is a password for a business online, I use something associated with that business. Okay, I never buy anything at WinterSilks except sweaters. So, the password there might be Sweater112. That gives me a capital letter, numerals, and enough characters to satisfy all the password requirements I have run across. Actually, my daughter buys me sweaters, and I don’t know if a password is ever needed. For Hotmail, I would never use Hotmail as part of the password. That’s too easy.

    For some businesses that call for a password, sometimes I use the password from the email site where I receive the business news. Of course, when I change the passwords, I have forgotten everything and have had to start over.

    Using 164 characters might be better, but there are programs that guess passwords. They can crack the codes faster than anyone can make them up just by trying all possibilities. A guy from Microsoft talked to the computer club to which I belong and thoroughly discourage us all about our security with passwords. 164 characters is the maximum number of characters that can be in a password and a machine can figure it out!

    The only reason I need passwords is to keep present people out of my email. If a program wants in, it will get in. “Locks only keep honest people out.” Same with passwords.

  3. moominoid Says:

    I’m not going to tell you “)

  4. plantingourpennies Says:

    I use Passwords Plus – more basic than Lastpass or Dashlane, but I prefer it because I don’t want anything auto-filling passwords. But it does sync across multiple devices, which is convenient.

    Also enable dual factor authentication on any email accounts that can be used to reset passwords for other important accounts like financials.

  5. Miser Mom Says:

    For my favorite easy-to-remember passwords, I go by nursery rhymes and/or songs, especially ones that have numbers in them. Nouns get captalized, other things don’t. So (fake example), I might write down on my password list (that I suppose other folks could find), that the password for my bank is “butcher-baker”, but that’s just to jog my memory. The actual password would be radd!3MiaT.

    That’s, “rub a dub dub! 3 Men in a Tub”.

  6. L Says:

    Firstly, I refuse to set up an account every dang place I shop in the internet. If I can’t spend my money there without an account, buh-bye!
    Secondly, I use the same password for all non-critical places, for instance, the library.
    Finally, for those important passwords, I have a little card I carry in my wallet with coded references to actual passwords. “Work Child” isn’t the password, but a combination of work and childhood data is.
    Totally agree with Practical above: locks only keep honest people out. I keep a sharp eye on my financial affairs, password or no.

  7. monsterzero Says:

    I feel like using a password manager is putting all of my eggs in one basket; instead, I try to diversify. My email is the most important since that’s how I do password resets for everything else, so that PW is unique and annoying long and complex.
    Second tier PWs are in a system which hopefully isn’t too easy to figure out. That’s for financially related stuff, except for my bank (which, incredibly obnoxiously, doesn’t allow more than 12 characters. I mean, what IS that?).
    Bottom tier is one password for all the sites I don’t really care about. That PW has actually been cracked, but it’s on too many sites to change at this point.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I have a throw-away password that I don’t particularly care about for unimportant sites too. Someone could wreak havoc with it, in theory, but only on sites I never visit and contain no information about me. They could just as easily wreak havoc under their own pseudonym.

  8. Debbie M Says:

    My brain.

    Ha! Just kidding!

    I’ll be the old fogie of your commenters. I have one of those blank journals from which I cut the edges to be like a directory with a couple of pages for each letter. So I keep my passwords in there and that’s on a shelf with a bunch of other books and notebooks. Each company is under its letter. If it’s not clear, I’ll have more than one entry, such as under “U” I might have “utilities–see [name of utilities company].”

    The journal has no title. Most of the passwords aren’t technically in there. Instead I have entries like “low,” “medium,” “high,” “high + [extra bits],” etc. I do have all my security questions on the last pages (for other people–and occasionally me). I also put my user name which also can’t be the same for everything, usually “usual,” “[extra bits] + usual” or “[usual + [extra bits].”

    So I am safe from online theft but not house theft. I am willing to accept this insecurity. I am also not safe from people stealing it from one place and trying it out at other places. But I do check my financial accounts a couple of times a month so again, I’m willing to take this risk.

    I have also used two other systems for when I had a work password that had to change. At first I would make a list that looked like a shopping list (eggs, butter, …) and each month I would cross off another one. The password would be the next item plus a constant.

    Then later I just picked a constant password and added some code based on how often it had to change. For example, when I had to change it every 6 weeks, I just changed it every month and used something about the month and year. We also have semester/year codes that have come in handy.

  9. rs Says:

    For non-trivial sites, I use the first 5 letters of the site followed by my year of birth (sometime straightforward, sometime backwards) and in most cases this trick is excellent as you don’t need to remember them. For important passwords we use keychain or keypass.

  10. Comradde PhysioProffe Says:

    I use Dashlane to generate and store strong passwords. It syncs between all my computers and mobile devices and also stores my contact and credit card info for automatic form filling.

  11. Cloud Says:

    I make the few I need access to in a variety of places something I can remember- I have a system that makes them complex & memorable. The others, I write in a book I keep at home. I figure that if someone wants my passwords badly enough to break into my home and steal the book, they’re going to get them no matter where I keep them. I may eventually switch to a password manager (I’ve used them at work), but I had a notebook my daughter gave me and it makes her so happy that I am using it!

    I also have two-factor authentication set up most places that support it. Eventually I’ll get to all places. If you’re worried at all about the security of your email or other online accounts, two-factor auth is the way to go.

  12. Sandyl FirstgenAmerican Says:

    I put a password hint in my bookmarks but not the actual password. That has been a lifesaver. Also, my passwords are obscure things that have some meaning to me but aren’t obvious (like not kids or pet names or spouse’s birthdays or something like that).

    For the stupid passwords you have to change every 3 months, I just add the next sequence of numbers to the password, so it’s sorta the same pattern but with one changing number or letter at the end.

  13. ana Says:

    I have to write some of them down. They are in a secret place. I did this after a particularly harrowing evening trying to do our taxes and I couldn’t remember any of my financial site pws and had to get on the phone and spend hours on-hold trying to get someone to help me. There is NO way I can remember the 20+ different passwords I have for my home & work sites. I am uncomfortable with a password manager, because then EVERYTHING is on there.
    For trivial sites (where there is no financial data) I use a throwaway one (name of a long-dead pet, only my parents and sister may guess that one). At work, every time we need to change, I just up the number I have in the password (from 1 to 2 etc…). I haven’t gotten to 9 yet, not sure what I’ll do then.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      We’ve got some websites we only check once a year when doing our taxes. Invariably I lock myself out after 3 guesses and have to spend some time the next day on the phone to reset the password. Stupid financial companies. But if you don’t go online once every few years they take your assets and give them to your state!

  14. becca Says:

    I used to keep them in a notepad document on my computer.
    Now I email all the passwords to myself. Basically, when I set up an account and get that “account confirmation” email, I hit reply (but never send- it’s just to link it to the username) an email with a coded description of the password. I use snippets of different personal data (old phone numbers, ssn, family members names) combined with mathematical constants, Chinese phrases, and website names according to a generalized format that often contains puns so it’s easier to remember.
    I also have a laughably easy dictionary word + number for stuff without any important data.
    The real problem is that I keep many important (like email) passwords short, so they are easy to input even on touchscreens. Ultimately, that’s a real weakness for computer generated guessing.

  15. Leigh Says:

    Lastpass is awesome. I mostly started using it because my boyfriend does and we can then share passwords! Now we have a shared folder and put passwords in there for things we both use. It’s quite convenient.

  16. chacha1 Says:

    I have a ton of unique passwords because my whole life, basically, is conducted online. I write them down in an E Life document. The ones I use most often, about a dozen, are memorized. For the other three dozen (slight exaggeration) I refer to the list. The list is usually at home but occasionally comes to work with me. There is nothing about it that screams “use me for identity theft!”

    I check my online financials every week to ten days. The only time I’ve had an “incident” was when I used my debit card – briefly – for workday lunches etc. Someone swiped the number and tried to open a Match.com account.

  17. MutantSupermodel Says:

    I have a couple and I have different versions of them. I am also fond of Forgot your password? links

  18. Susan Says:

    I email them to my primary email, so that I can search and find them from anywhere. My primary email is 2-factor authenticated (with a unique password) and my phone has a lockscreen.

    I do have some usernames + password hints added to bookmarks on my work computer.

  19. Katie Cross Says:

    Like an earlier commenter, I keep my password in a book, my address book. It’s all nice and alphabetical (unlike OCD but that’s another story!). My DH works in computing at a major midwestern university and he has convinced me to use a “pass phrase”. Generally I use the initial letters from a line of poetry or a favorite phrase with a capitalization and a numeral thrown in. Shopping sites share a similar password individualized by the letters capitalized, etc. When it’s a passoword I have to change frequently I throw in the 2-digit for the next month I have to change it, so I also have warning that change is coming sooooooon!


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