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Note: some of this may not work in all versions of Windows

Always Back up your data before doing any maintenance

Question from a client:

I have a problem with passwords. When I turn on the computer, Windows asks for a Password. Is it required? Can it be bypassed?

I've updated this discussion to reflect Windows 10.

There are multiple places to use passwords in a computer and they create a lot of confusion. Let me review the various places passwords are used.

First a definition: A password is used to allow controlled access to a specific function. Note: Passwords are case sensitive, meaning you must type upper or lower case correctly.

The functions in a computer that can be passworded are:

1. Initial starting of the computer, called BIOS password. Click Here for further discussion.
In this instance, the password blocks access to any and all operations of the computer completely. If you forget the password, the computer is rendered useless. The only fix is to short out the backup battery on the motherboard. Should be done by a tech only. Depends on what machine you have whether you lose any information. By default, computers do not ask for a BIOS password. If you want one, it must be selected from the BIOS. Most name brand computers describe how to do it in the operators manual. (The instruction book for the computer, not the Windows book). If you do not have a book, most techs know how to do it.

2. Starting Windows. On first installing or reinstalling Windows or starting a new computer, you may be asked if you want a password. If you enter one, you will be asked each time you start or restart the computer. If you do not enter one and click OK, you will not be asked again and no password is required. In windows 10, your password is tied to your Microsoft account. if you do not have an account you may be asked to create one. If you do, and have multiple computers, they will all require the same Microsoft password.

See Creating or Changing the Windows Password Below

3. Internet and the web. All ISP's (Internet service providers) require a password to access their system. You may have it set so that it is entered automatically when you connect, but if there is a wrong password or no password, you will not be allowed access. If you forget the password, you are out of luck and must contact the ISP to retrieve it or get a new one. (Good luck here too! Just make sure you record EVERY password!)

Many sites on the web require a password for access and prevent unauthorized users from accessing the information. For example, banking, accounting, etc.

You can also password some separate functions within the computer as well. If you are on a network (and you are anytime you connect to the web), You have a choice to share or not share various parts of your computer with other computers. If you are a single computer in a home, this is not of any concern since by default, Windows does not allow sharing any parts of the computer.

This can be changed when a network is installed as with a cable modem or router, so it's a good idea to check the status. You can do this easily. See the discussion on changing other passwords below.

Let me give a scenario and it may help give understanding to this subject. I have 6 computers in my home all connected with a LAN (local area network) meaning I can access the data on any computer from one of the others. Before I went to a router, nothing was passworded since I was never on line long enough for anyone to do harm. Now that I have the router and broadband Internet, I am on line 24/7 and this allows access to anyone out on the web (WAN - wide area network) to get into my computer. I prevent this by adding passwords to all my computers internal functions that are shared. In addition, I use a firewall program that also blocks unwanted access into my computers. Nothing is foolproof, but it is very discouraging. The folders and files can also be separately passworded to allow access only to authorized users. I can't tell you how many times I have had problems personally and with clients that forget a password, so use them with caution and keep a record somewhere. Many times they are not recoverable.

4. Network password. If you have a network in use, you may be required to enter a password to use the network. This may or may not coincide with the password in number 3 above. In some networks (Novel, NT, Windows and others) you may have limited access as a user or full access as an administrator. Logging on as a user prevents you from making changes to the computer. Most businesses, schools and libraries are set up this way.

Creating or Changing the Windows Password:

Method A: If you do not have a password and want to add one, Use the Password icon in the Control Panel. Skip the box asking for current password (leave blank). Enter your new password in the second and third boxes and click OK. You will get a message that the password has been successfully changed. (From nothing to something). The main purpose is to keep unwanted people from using the computer without your permission. As you will see a little later, this only keeps out inexperienced users.

Method B: If you have a known password and want to go to no password, just reverse the above. Enter current in box 1 and nothing in the second and third boxes.

Method C: To change a password, do the same as above, but enter the current and new passwords as instructed.

Method D: If you do not know the password, you must delete the file that contains it. Use the Find or Search feature in the start menu and type *.PWL and click Find or Search. (Star, dot, PWL) The star is the asterisk for the newbies. You will get a list of password files. If there is more than one, it is because the computer has been set up to have multiple users. If there is only one user, there should be only one PWL file with the users name as the file name. Highlight the correct file and delete it. (Keyboard, Menu or Icon). When you restart Windows, you will be asked for a name and password. If you want a password, type a simple name and the password. You will be asked to repeat it and then will be asked every time you start Windows. If you do not want a password, add a name and leave the password blank and click OK. You should not see it again.
No longer works in windows 10.

Creating or Changing Other Passwords

BIOS: As mentioned above, this requires someone with a reasonable amount of computer skill. Click Here for further discussion.

Internet: Contact the company that controls the access.

Network: Contact the Network Administrator. If that is yourself, you should already know how or you need to be instructed in the network administration.

Folders and files: Open My Computer. Right click on each icon and look for a menu item called Sharing. If it is not there, you do not have a Windows network and cannot password these items. If it is there, select it and look at the dialog box to see if it has the Not Shared or Shared button selected. If the Shared As button is selected, you are allowing access to anyone on the network. If you do want this to be shared, then it should be passworded. This function requires two passwords. One allows "Read Only" access. Anyone using this password can look at/ and or copy the data, but cannot change or erase it. The Full access password allows full access to do anything.

If this does not answer your questions, please E-Mail me using the link below.

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