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By Greg Cunningham
owner of Tech-hachapi 

Passwords, security questions, e-mail addresses, phone numbers

Tech Talk


September 3, 2022

Greg Cunningham.

In most cases, when your password suddenly won't work with a website or e-mail address, there is a "Forgot Password" link, and this is where it can get scary. The site may want to send you a code to your phone or your recovery e-mail address, or you'll get asked for answers to your security questions.

What if the site has an old phone number for you? Or is your recovery e-mail address is the same as the one you're trying to recover? Or what if you and the site disagree about the answers to your security questions?

Sometimes, if the site doesn't have this information, it may tell you your account "cannot be recovered."

Sending you a text with a reset code is a great way to reset passwords. It "proves" you're you because you have your phone, plus it's fast and easy. Some sites call the number on file and "read" you the code if you gave them a landline instead of a cellphone number.

E-mailing a code or a password reset link to an alternate e-mail address also proves you're you because you can access the other e-mail address.

But what if you don't have a cell phone, landline or another e-mail address? Or what if you've changed your phone number or don't remember the password to your other e-mail address?

Then you're stuck with remembering the answers to your security questions. (Where did I meet my spouse? What was the first beach I went to in high school? Do they want my first full-time job or my first part-time job?) Maybe you set up the account so long ago that you don't know the answers.

If all else fails, look around on the site for a support chat feature or a phone number.

Once you get your password reset, check your profile and update everything that isn't right. Reset your security questions, ensure they have your current cell phone number and add another e-mail address. If you don't have another e-mail address, how about using a trusted family member's e-mail address?

Even if you're not currently having any password problems, when Google, Microsoft, Facebook or anyone else prompts you to do a security checkup when you log in, do it. Verify your recovery info now to prevent problems later.

Google (Gmail) and Microsoft (Hotmail, Outlook) are hard to reset passwords with if you don't have up-to-date recovery information in your account. There's no phone number to call, and they don't have a support chat. So always ensure your recovery information is current for both Google and Microsoft. And everywhere else, too.

Password managers

Of course, if you were using a password manager, you wouldn't forget your passwords. So I recommend using either the LastPass or Dashlane password managers. Both offer free and paid versions, both have extensions that will auto-login to the site for you, and both will create secure passwords for you.

If (when) you get a new computer, having a password manager makes entering your e-mail, shopping, social media, and banking passwords easy.

Today I learned not to use my cat's name as my password

I scooted my cat off the keyboard and said, "Well, wJ#cg/v&A6BTt, I guess it's back to the drawing board."

Do you have a computer or technology question? Greg Cunningham has been providing Tehachapi with on-site PC and network services since 2007. Email Greg at


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