Tip o’ the Week #123 –Windows 8: sign in, with Pic & PIN

clip_image002A short but sweet Tip this week, aimed at those of you who are running Windows 8: if not, why not check out the Release Preview page.

Out of the box, the logon security model that Windows 8 supports offers a variety of ways to log into or unlock your PC, though ultimately it could still requires a complex password just like before and network admins could disable certain features. It might be decided, for example, to not Both the Picture Password and PIN approaches are really aimed at making it easier to sign in when you don’t have a keyboard – unlocking a slate device using a strong password can be pretty laborious with an on-screen keyboard, so both provide a more touch-friendly way of logging in.

Picture-based logon


Picture Password allows the user to take any photo, to choose 3 features of it, and to make a gesture on each of them. An obvious (and therefore – seriously – not recommended… do not do this) choice would be a picture of your child/spouse/dog/self, where you touch on both eyes and then the nose, or swipe along the smile. This don’t-pick-the easy-to-guess-feature approach is somewhat reminiscent of the great Monty Python “How Not to be Seen” sketch*. Fans of the original Halo game may like to hark back with this spoof video.

Anyway, best practice says to choose a picture with lots of potential points of interest, so that you and only you will know which people to tap on, or which trees in the forest to swipe the trunk of, etc. Although Picture Password can be operated with a mouse, its sweet spot is really if you have a clip_image004touch-capable device.


This is something of a secret gem, since it’s as useful on a desktop or laptop as it is on a touch device. In a nutshell, setting a PIN on Win8 will allow you to unlock your work PC with only 4 keystrokes (you don’t even need to hit ENTER). As with Picture Password, you need to set your strong password first, and when your password changes, you’ll need to go back in and edit the settings for the PIN. Essentially, PIN and Picture Password are just used as way of unlocking the strong Alph4numer1c Pa55!w0rd that’s been stored already.

clip_image005To enable either of these options, go into the Settings charm from the main Start Screen, and choose More PC settings, then go into the Users option on the left, and look under Sign-in options.

Do bear in mind that it’s possible that your company’s information security folk (if you have them) may decide that they don’t want people to use the new Picture Password feature, or the ability to unlock your machine with a simple PIN, if either won’t meet their security policies. For the moment, you might find that both are allowed, and if you get your funky Windows RT slate device later in the year (like this one?), you’ll still be able to use these techniques to unlock it.

*Mr Nesbitt learned the first lesson of not being seen: not to stand up. However, he did choose a very obvious piece of cover…

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