When the Web was new (I climbed on board in 1995) like everyone else, I started accumulating passwords. Slowly at first, but with two websites to manage and a fondness for on-line shopping, by 1999, I was pinning scraps of paper to my bulletin board, jotting in notebooks, tucking them into my wallet, in various files in the filing cabinet, and, oh heck, just sticking Post-Its to my computer monitor. And more times than I’d like to admit, I forgot to write them down at all. I knew some people who kept their passwords straight by using the same one for everything, but that seemed to me an invitation to hackers.
About ten years ago, I started noting each password on its own 4 x 6 inch index card, then filing it alphabetically by service (e.g., Amazon.com under “A”) in a little box that looks just like my grandmother’s cookie recipe box.
Call it the Grandma’s Recipe Box Solution to Password Management.
On each index card I note:
Name of Service (e.g., Amazon.com)
My email address for this account
Any other relevant information
Now that I’m still on-line in 2014 and managing a plethora of websites, a batch of blogs, two YouTube channels, Vimeo, three Twitter accounts, and do my banking on-line, use PayPal, and have not set foot in a shopping mall in more time than I can remember, I have accumulated a prodigious stack of index cards. But my little plastic index card holder, with its alphabetical tabs, is still right here by my desk, doing the job.
I have found that there are several advantages to this method:
1. I can keep all my passwords at my fingertips (so when it’s time to check my bank balance or tweet or shop on-line, if I cannot recall the one I need password, I just pluck it out);
2. Filing the cards alphabetically allows me to plunk one back in quickly (and find it again just as
3. I can use longer and more varied passwords without having to remember them nor go through the hoops of waiting for it to be resent to my email, and then having to click on some link to confirm;
4. If I need to change a password, I just pluck out the card, note the change, and put it back;
5. When I had to cancel one of my email accounts, I was able to whip through the stack of index cards to see which accounts needed updating;
6. It’s cheap and after 10 years the plastic index card holder still looks like new;
7. Its small enough to stash in a locked drawer;
8. Finally, should anything happen to me, my family knows where to retrieve all my passwords to put my affairs in order. That’s a gruesome thought, but a realistic one. Last I checked, no one gets off this planet alive (except astronauts, and only temporarily).