How to remember your passwords better?

Making a secure password is easy. For example: $uByX4d8@jMn3u7*!hN1. See? That only took a few seconds to type! Now, uh … how is anyone supposed to remember something like that?

You should first make a good password (start by making it longer), but remembering passwords is a bit more tricky, especially since you should avoid re-using the same password for everything. A study of web users by Microsoft Research found that the average user has 6.5 web passwords, 25 accounts that require passwords, and types an average of eight passwords per day. That’s a lot of alphanumeric and special characters to remember. Fortunately, you can rely on another part of your brain to recall all those pesky passwords.

One memory method involves creating a unique visual story or scene to remember passwords. First, select words that rhyme with numbers (fun for one, blue for two, free for three, etc.). Then create a visual image to associate with those numbers.

For example: if your bank PIN is 1234 (and please change your bank PIN immediately if it is 1234, as that combination accounts for 10.7 percent of all PINs), then you could visualize a bun (for one) on top of a shoe (two) sitting in a tree (three) with a door (four) in its trunk. The same approach can be used for letters by assigning them an image: A is apple, B is bowl, C is crayon, and so on.

This may sound like a daunting task at first, but it becomes easier over time. Don’t believe us? Think back to the mnemonic device you might have learned to remember the order of the planets orbiting our sun before Pluto got demoted: “My Very Eager Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas” (or any of the dozens of variants). That probably sounded silly the first time you heard it, but for millions of people, the strange sentence stuck.

Ian Robertson, a professor of psychology at the Institute of Neuroscience and School of Psychology at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, told CIO that with practice, recalling these scenes can help you remember two or three dozen visual images at a time. “The links there embed themselves in the brain much more deeply and widely, such that you will remember that image much more readily than you will remember the verbal encoding of a password,” Robertson said.

Why is this method so effective? You can thank science: A 2011 study from researchers at Harvard and MIT argued that it is easier to remember images and information that we are already familiar with and have some meaning to us.

There are other ways to make life easier. You can use a plethora of password managers to keep a library of your passwords under one hard-to-crack master password. And you’re allowed to write down your passwords, but at least modify what you write down to give it a disguise. Maybe just write down a password hint, like something that rhymes with your password. No matter what you write down, at least keep it away from your computer, and if possible, don’t mention what the password unlocks.

Little things like that can mean the difference between staying safe and asking for trouble.

Check out my related post: Do you have a shadow profile?

Interesting reads:


  1. This method was used in a business seminar about 15 years ago to help remember someone’s name. I still remember one example given was Mr. Payne and to remember that name to picture a man walking into a large pane of glass and it breaking.

    We thought it was odd, but it the stranger the visual it seems the better it works. I had never thought of using that for passwords, but it is a great idea! Thanks for sharing this with us.

    Liked by 1 person

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