With Russian hackers cracking the secure files of every major website in the country every few weeks, and starting to work on the smaller guys, too, if you haven’t been using KeePass Password Safe it’s time to start. It’s free. KeePass stores your passwords in encrypted form and lets you copy and paste them into logins without using any keystrokes. That prevents keyloggers from stealing your login information. When disaster strikes and suddenly you need to create and revise a long list of important passwords, KeePass does much of the work for you with a simple password generator and automatic features for updating password files.
KeePass provides so many advanced features that upon opening the program for the first time, the average user might find it very intimidating. The website offers two versions: Classic, a simplified version suitable for the home user; and Professional, the one with all the bells and whistles. Either one gives you the best password security available, and is equally simple to use. If you go with the Pro, you’ll get options you probably will never look at, but it’s interesting to poke around in them just for fun.
The simple approach to using KeePass involves nothing more than Right Click, Left Click and some straightforward menu selections.
Start by choosing one master password that’s easy enough to remember, that’s the one you will use to open Keepass. Write it down and keep it someplace at home just in case you forget it.
When you open KeePass, a menu of password categories appears on the left, like “Internet”, so you can organize your passwords. Right click on a blank space in the menu box to create a new folder you can name, or change the name of existing folders by right clicking on the listing.
Left click on a folder to see what’s in that category. On the right hand side of the program you see a list of passwords you have filed, or an empty box if you haven’t done any. Right click on the open space to get an action menu and select “Add Entry” to start a new one.
Choose a name for it; enter your user name; and either enter your current password or create a new one for updating an existing account. Click on the box with “…” to the right to reveal the password. When it’s revealed you can copy and paste and it won’t delete it from the clipboard on your computer until your machine does it’s housecleaning or copies something over it. For best security, work with it when it’s concealed behind the string of …….. You can copy and paste the password by highlighting the dot string and using right click/copy. Keepass gives you a brief interval to paste it to your updated login page and then deletes it from the clipboard automatically. All the data is encrypted until you actually paste it in the account.
Below the “…” box, see another box with a key in it. Click on that to use their password generator. KeePass already made a new password for you when you opened the entry box, but here you can choose a new one that’s also randomly generated, and you can tailor the rules to fit the account you are working with. If the account wants less than 16 characters, a number, upper and lower case and a special character, you can set those rules here. I always use the first option, “Generate from Character Set”, but you have other options here that will make things even more random. So, set your rules, punch OK, and KeePass creates and enters the password in the Add Entry box.
Enter the URL of the login page.
Click OK in the Add Entry box and your new password file shows in the folder space.
Left click on an entry in the list and the details come up at the bottom of the program box. Click on the URL link there to open the login page in your browser.
Right click on an entry in the list to get the working menu. Here you can copy either user name or password and paste them someplace new, then KeePass deletes them from the clipboard after that short space of working time. Here you find other essential options, so you can view the entry details, edit the entry to change the password, etc.
KeePass includes important failsafe features for saving files. If you edit a password, create a new one, and your account won’t take it for some stupid reason, you can get the old password back by closing Keepass and saying NO!!! when it asks if you want to save changes. If you don’t save then the next time you open the program and go to that entry, you’ll get the old password. KeePass will always ask about saving changes when it closes, if you change any of the stored information, and unless you save manually first, you can still get your old info back. I’ve needed that several times.
When you update passwords, a neat feature called “Derive from old password” tumbles the character string of the old password into a new random sequence, ensuring that your new choice abides by the rules of that login site. Pretty handy if the account has stupid rules. One I use allows every character except comma and apostrophe and it can take me several tries before I read the fine print and figure this out once again. If I scramble the old password, it eliminates trouble.
Best thing, KeePass creates encrypted passwords that are too hard to remember mentally and remembers them for you, so all you need to do is copy and paste. You’ll only need to remember the master password for KeePass to get quick access to everything else.
KeePass will print a hard copy of all your user names and passwords if you want something that won’t fail when your computer does. Or you can copy the encrypted KeePass password file and store it online or on removable media. The KeePass website offered a free portable version for those who want their passwords available on USB sticks.
Practice on something not very important first, but KeePass isn’t hard to learn. There are tons of things in it that you don’t need, but the stuff you do need is pretty simple.
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