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Using and losing passwords

Question : I password-protected some sensitive Microsoft Word files on a floppy disk. Now I forgot the password. How can I retrieve the files?

Answer : There's no easy fix. If there were, password protection for files wouldn't be worth much.

Your first strategy should be to try to remember the password. Unlike some Web sites which lock you out after a certain number of unsuccessful attempts to enter a password, Word will allow you to try entering a password as long as you wish.

When you try to open a password-protected Word file, a dialogue box will appear, asking you to enter the password. If the password is incorrect, you'll be told so, and the dialogue box will disappear. Just try to open the document again, and you'll be presented with the same dialogue box.

If you're still unsuccessful, your best solution is to purchase a password recovery tool such as Word Key, from LostPassword.com, or Word Password, from LastBit. Both of these companies make password recovery tools for a number of applications - not just Word.

The bad news is that none of these password recovery tools is free. The good news is that is you purchase a password recovery tool for a single application, it's likely to cost no more than about 40 dollars. That may sound like a lot, but it's not when compared to larger multi-application password recovery software, which can run several hundred dollars.

Question : How can I use a password to protect an Excel or Word file?

Answer : First, open the file you wish protect with a password. Then open the Tools menu, and click Options. In the resulting Options dialogue box, select the Security tab.

There, you'll see two options to add a password. You can assign a password to be required when opening the file, or you can assign a password to be used whenever someone wishes to modify the file. If you choose the second option, opening the file will be possible by anyone, but if someone attempts to modify the file in any way, a password prompt will appear.

Once you've typed a password, click OK, and you will be prompted to enter the password again for verification. Once you've done that, you're free to save the document as usual. Once saved, the password is in effect. Any attempt to open or change the file will be prevented unless the proper password is entered.

Question : I use Roboform to hold all of my passwords. I have so many passwords that I would never remember them all if something happened to my PC. How can I back up my passwords?

Answer : Using a password manager like Roboform, which also automatically fills in online forms for you, is not a bad idea today, when a growing number of sites require you to register and provide a password in order to log on. So losing all of those passwords is a legitimate concern.

Any password manager on the market should come with instructions on how to back up your passwords. In the case of Roboform, click Options, then User Data, and then click Backup. You'll be able to choose the backup folder and drive of your choice.

Remember, too, that a regular, full backup of your computer's main hard drive (usually 'C') will also back up all of your passwords.

When using a password manager, be sure to block access to those passwords with a master password. Without it, you could face some serious worry if your PC were ever stolen.


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