How to Remember a Forgotten Password

Unless your password was randomly generated, it's probably locked away in your mind somewhere.

Brute force memory retrieval (i.e. "thinking really hard") isn't usually very effective so what can you do to try to remember what your password was?

Easy! You need clues! Most people create passwords, even complicated ones, based on the people, places and things in their personal and professional lives.

Knowing this, check out the clues below. They might give you enough edge to finally remember that password!

Tip: If you're looking for a program or app to remember passwords for you, check out my list of Free Password Managers for some ideas. This is a very smart way to handle your passwords going forward.

Important: Please, please, please... do not use the ideas below to create a new password. These are absolutely horrible passwords which, unfortunately, might be just what you created. Going forward, make sure you generate a random password and store it with a password manager.

Try Your Other Passwords

The most obvious advice is to try some of your other passwords!
Sadly, very few computer users (you, maybe?) actually create unique passwords for each account that requires one. Most people have one or two passwords that they use across all of their accounts.

If this works... stop doing this! Hackers know that people often reuse passwords and they can use this knowledge to access your other accounts.

Your Name

Try variations of your own name. While this of course isn't a secure way to create a password, it's very common and you may have created your password in a similar way.

For example, if your name was Michael P Archer, common passwords might include:
  • Mike1234
  • MikePA
  • leahcim
  • archerMP
You get the idea. Try different combinations of your name or nickname if you have one.

Names of Friends and Family

Many people use names or combinations of names of family members and friends to create passwords. If something rings a bell here or you have ever created passwords like this before, give this one a try.

Many people believe that using relative's names is a clever way to create a password but it's really only slightly more secure than using your own.

Pet Information

We love our pets, which is why many passwords include pet names and pet birthdays. If you treat your cat like your kid, chances are you've used his or her name as a password. Maybe you used it this time!


Birthdays are also very popular passwords, especially when combined with names. If Michael P Archer's birthday was June 5, 1975, then some passwords he might have come up with include:
  • m060575
  • 1975MPA
  • archerjune
  • mp75
There are a lot more possibilities here. If you think you've ever set a password like this, try some combinations with your information.

Again, like with everything you've read about so far, these are not good ways to create passwords, just common mistakes you may have made yourself.

Home & Office Addresses

Complete or parts of addresses important in your life could have been inspiration for a password you created.

Think about where you grew up and all the places you've lived since then. Parts of addresses, like the street numbers and street names, are a favorite among the not-so-great password makers among us.

Ideas from Childhood

Something important to you as a child may be a theme throughout your passwords.
Examples here are endless but maybe you had a favorite pet growing up, a name for an imaginary friend, etc. These types of ideas are popular ways to create easy to remember passwords... well, usually.

Important Numbers

Some numbers that often play a part in passwords include phone numbers (especially previous ones), social security numbers, notable sports scores, important historical dates, drivers license numbers, etc.

Another interesting way people use numbers as passwords is by how they are arranged on the computer keypad. For example, a popular combination includes 1793 because these numbers are at all four corners of the keypad. Does this sound familiar? If so, try some things here.

Try some of these number ideas in combination with some other ideas in this article like family and pet names.

Some Other Ideas

Other popular password inspirations include favorite foods, favorite places, vacation spots, celebrity names and sports teams.

If you're pretty good at creating secure passwords, chances are you used a combination of of any of the above ideas in creating your now forgotten password.

A Final Tip

While not exactly a guessing strategy, I've had several readers email me and suggest that I share this very simple password advice: Make sure you're entering what you think you're entering!

Since passwords are usually displayed on screen using nothing but asterisks, it's often impossible to visually confirm what you just typed.
Here are some things to think about while entering your password:
  • Is the Num Lock key on?
  • Is the Caps Lock key on?
  • Are your fingers accidentally shifted on the keyboard?
  • Is your keyboard working properly?
If you're lucky, whatever service or device you're logging on to will include a button on screen you can press that will temporarily show you what password you just entered. I see this more and more and it's an extremely helpful way to avoid simple typing mistakes.

A great way to check that one of the issues above is not occuring is to open Notepad or other text editor and type out the password. You may notice that a key isn't working properly, everything is accidentally in uppercase, etc.

Still Can't Remember the Password?

If after all this mental work you still can't remember your password, you may have to try something a little more high-tech like a password recovery program.

If you're needing your Windows logon password see Ways To Find Lost Windows Passwords, which includes the option of using a free Windows password recovery program.

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Tech Magazine: How to Remember a Forgotten Password
How to Remember a Forgotten Password
Tech Magazine
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