Passwords Again?

Episode 566

December 7, 2019

This bLog has discussed passwords many times, yet knowing passwords remains a challenge for most users.

As human beings we know 20,000 words and use 5,000 of them while routinely speaking or writing.

Why is it so hard to remember the 5 or 6 passwords we use all the time?

The main reason people do not know their passwords is that we teach our computers to remember them for us. When setting up email we tell the mail app to remember our email password. When setting up a computer for the first time we teach the computer our user account password. We only have to sign in once with our Apple ID to automatically take advantage of all the iCloud services.
When retrieving email the mail app just gets your mail. When you turn on your computer it logs you into your account and delivers you to your Desktop.

If signed into iCloud, when checking your address book, calendar or notepad these services synchronize without your input. Your iPhone backs up to iCloud without requiring you to know your Apple ID password. Once signed into your iCloud account there is no setting which will require an additional sign in to use each service. At least the Apple ID password is not stored anywhere on the computer. This, however, makes it harder to recover when you forget the password. 

When setting up email on a client’s new device it is necessary for me to ask, “What is your email password?” The answer is often, “I don’t have an email password.”

If a human adult can know 20,000 words and master 5,000 words memorizing 5 or 6 passwords should not be a challenge.

Here are the few passwords you should know:

  1. ATM PIN (you probably know this 4 digit number).
  2. Computer admin (login) password (This is what allows your computer to display your Desktop).
  3. Passwords for each email address (These are critical because without them you cannot retrieve your email from someone else’s computer or set up an email on another device).
  4. Apple ID password (all communications with Apple including iCloud services require you to sign in with your Apple ID).
  5. Social media passwords (services like Facebook, Linked-in, Instagram and Twitter all require a password).

There is nothing you can do with a computer that does not require you to sign into an account. Even public web sites require your browser to sign into their web page as an anonymous user.

i get it that passwords are often complex and esoteric.

Try making your passwords into a sentence. For Facebook your password might be “mYfacebookpa55”.

Apple ID password might be “mYc0nn3ctionWithApp!e”.

Some consultants advocate using a password management software like 1Password. This is just as bad a teaching your computer to know your passwords… worse maybe. If you forget the one master password for the password management software you can no longer access all of your accounts. What if the password management company goes out of business?

Unlike many of my colleagues i believe in keeping a written record of all my passwords. i base the list on a three column spread sheet. Column titles are “Description,” “User Name” and “Secret.” Because i compile the list in Excel i do not use the word “password” in the content or title of the document. This way my password document is not easily searched. An entry in this list might look like this:

Facebook – theiMentor – mYfacebookpa55

My list includes over 400 account credentials. There is no way i can remember that many user names and passwords.

This written record is extraordinarily valuable. If stolen the thief would possess your entire identity. Guard it with all your effort. When, if ever, have you lost your driver’s license? Use the same precautions with your password list as you have used with your driver’s licence.

i keep my spread sheet document buried in a locked volume on my computer.

The name of the document is totally unrelated to passwords. i print two copies of the list. One copy i keep in my safe deposit box. The other copy is folded in a place near my computer that a thief would not think of looking. This copy i update by hand whenever i change a password or add an account. Periodically i open the electronic version and update it from my written notes. Spread sheet format is convenient because i can sort the list by “Description” after i have edited it.

You may choose to place a copy of your password list in a secure area of online storage, such as DropBox.

This will give you access to your passwords when you are away from your home. If you do, make sure that you must sign in to the file service and that you have not taught any of your devices to sign in automatically.

i prefer to memorize the passwords i might use when i am away.

Passwords are the keys to your digital life.

If you leave the house without your physical keychain you will not be able to drive away and you will not be able to get back into the house. You will be stuck in the yard wondering what window to break.


  1. Sandy Levine December 6, 2019
  2. Glenn Still December 11, 2019

Leave a Reply