Coping with passwords

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

Q. It seems that everything I do online requires a password and I'm running out of ideas. Can you offer any suggestions, Mr. M?

A. Passwords are definitely taking over our lives. At last count, I had more than 120 username and password combinations for a variety of Internet and Web-based sites and resources. Is it any wonder I'm dazed and confused most of the time?

So what makes a good password? Experts suggest that a good password should be at least eight characters in length, include at least one number, one special character, and upper and lower case letters. CumQuat007!, for example, would meet these recommended criteria.

Security experts also tell us not to use the same password for multiple applications. Personally, I think these experts should mind their own business. Who are they kidding? I don’t know anybody who uses a unique password for every application. When it comes to passwords, there are two standards to consider: What is ideal, and what is practical. I’ll opt for practicality every time. Toward that end, I tend to use five or six password/username combinations. I’m sure that would render some security experts apoplectic, but it works for me.

Ultimately, how you manage your passwords is a personal decision. If you’re the only one with access to your computer, chances are you’re not going to use different passwords every time you’re requested to create a password. In that situation, try to be as vigilant as you can protecting your passwords, particularly if you have them written down. If so, place them in a safe location, away from the computer, and keep a second copy in your safe deposit box or other ultra-secure location.

It’s also a good idea to review your passwords at least once each year and delete or remove any that relate to sites or programs that you no longer use. While you’re at it, be sure to periodically change frequently used passwords once or twice each year.

Q. I keep my Quicken data in a “Finances” folder on a thumb (flash memory) drive. Recently, when I wrote a couple of checks, I was not able to access my data. Instead, I received the message "Memorized Payee List is Full.”Apparently it is necessary that I delete some of the entries, but I can't seem to figure out how to do that. Can you help?

A. When using Quicken, it should be running entirely off your hard drive, not off any backup disk or data saved elsewhere, as you described. It’s fine to back up your data to a flash drive or other device, but the Quicken program and its data should run from your system's hard drive.

To delete memorized transactions click Tools > Memorized Payee List. Click to select a payee or hold down the CTRL key to select multiple payees, then click the Delete button at the bottom of the Memorized Payee List screen. It doesn't hurt to periodically delete items you haven't used in the last couple of years, just to keep the list manageable and avoid “capacity” type errors such as you received.

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