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How to Create a Picture Password for Windows 8.1

A picture password consists of two parts: First, you choose a picture — any picture — and then you tell Windows 8.1 that you’re going to draw on that picture in a particular way, such as taps, clicks, circles, and straight lines, with a finger or a mouse.

The next time you want to log in to Windows, you can either type your password or you can repeat the series of clicks, taps, circles, and straight lines.

So, for example, you may have a picture of an old gold mill, as shown in the upper-left corner, and you may decide that you want your picture password to consist of tapping the higher roof peak, tapping the lower roof peak, and then drawing a circle around the door.

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That picture password is simple, fast, and not easy to guess.

Microsoft has a few suggestions for making your picture password hard to crack. These include the following:

  • Start with a picture that has a lot of interesting points. If you have just one or two interesting locations in the photo, you don’t have very many points to choose from.

  • Don’t use just taps (or clicks). Mix things up. Use a tap, a circle, and a line, for example, in any sequence you can easily remember.

  • Don’t always move from left to right. Lines can go right to left, or top to bottom. Circles can go clockwise or counterclockwise.

  • Don’t let anybody watch you sign in. Picture passwords are worse than keyboard passwords, in some respects, because the picture password appears on the screen as you’re drawing it.

  • Clean your screen. Really devious souls may be able to figure out that trail of oil and grime is from your repeated use of the same picture password. If you can’t clean your screen and you’re worried about somebody following the grime trail, put a couple of gratuitous smudges on the screen.

Here’s how to change your account to use a picture password:

  1. On the Metro Start screen, swipe from the right or hover your mouse in the upper-right corner (or type Windows Key + C) to bring up the Charms bar, and then at the bottom, choose the Settings charm.

  2. At the bottom of the Start Settings pane, tap or click the Change PC Settings link.

    The PC Settings screen appears. If you’re looking at the PCs and Devices window, tap or click the arrow to the left of PCs and Devices, to go back to the full PC Settings screen.

  3. Select Accounts on the left, and then Sign-in Options.

    The password settings for your account appear.

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  4. Under Picture Password, tap or click Add.

    If your account doesn’t yet have a password, you’re prompted to provide one. If you do have a password, Windows asks you to verify your typed password.

    You must have a typed password — the password can’t be blank — or Windows will just log you in without any password, either typed or picture.

  5. Type your password, and then tap or click OK.

    Windows asks you to choose a picture.

  6. Tap or click Choose Picture, find a picture (remember, with ten or more interesting points), and tap or click Open.

    Your picture appears in a cropping bucket. The picture has to conform to an odd shape, or it won’t fit on the logon screen.

  7. Slide the picture around to crop it the way you want it. Then tap or click Use This Picture.

    Windows invites you to set up your gestures.

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    Windows then asks you to repeat your gestures. This is where you get to see how sensitive the gesture-tracking method can be.

  8. Repeat the gestures. When you get them to match (which isn’t necessarily easy!), tap or click Finish.

    Your new picture password is ready.

  9. Go to the Start screen, tap your picture, choose Lock, and make sure you can replicate it.

If you can’t get the picture password to work, you can always use your regular typed password.

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