May 082010

Do you have billions and billions of password to remember? Well, maybe not quite that many, but I can tell you that I currently have 113 username and password pairs that I am remembering, mostly for logins to different websites. What if I told you that most of my passwords are something like “L6qjB5NM04GEXjTTeXeQ”. I try hard to not use the same username and password for every site I visit. I used to. It’s the only way you could possibly remember all those passwords.

Now I use a free program called KeePass to manage my passwords. Every time I register for a new account at a new website, I fire up KeePass and add a new entry. KeePass already has generated a password similar to the one I showed above. I then copy and paste that pre-generated password in the desired password field on the registration for on the website. If the website accepts the new password I save the entry in KeePass. The websites almost always accept the generated password from KeePass, but would you believe that sometimes my passwords are too long and the website forces me to trim down the length of the password? Sad. And that’s it. No more having to remember passwords.

Ahh, but you don’t want to use a password manager because you have multiple computers and you will need access to your passwords no matter where you are. I get that. That was what kept me away from such a program too. Well, I have the perfect solution. And it comes with lots of nice side effect features too. Get yourself a free Dropbox account. Dropbox is a file synchronizer that allows you to automatically sync up files and folders over the internet. If you work on some files at home and work, then you have undoubtedly forgotten your thumb drive once before, or forgot to copy over the latest version before you left. Well, dropbox can easily solve that problem for you. The Dropbox program watches a certain folder (or folders) on your computer. Whenever a file is added, changed, or deleted in that folder, the change is propagated automatically over the internet to any other computers on which you have installed dropox. So when you get to work after adding a new file to your dropbox at home, the file is happily waiting for you in your dropbox folder at work. So, to make this work with KeePass, just save your “key ring” (your database) to the dropbox folder. KeePass allows you to save and open database files from any folder, so this works quite well. Then all you have to do is install KeePass on your work computer too, and tell it to look in the DropBox folder for the key ring, and you will see all of your entries saved their. Now you can easily add new entries on either computer, and the change will be propagated to the other computer. Of course you could also install Dropbox and KeePass on your laptop too, so that you have access to your passwords (and files) when you travel.

Finally, there is an Android app for KeePass too. There is not a dropbox app, so you will have to periodically copy over (or email) the latest database to your phone so it has (a somewhat) up to date database. I try to do it around once a month or so. This also has the added benefit of backing up my database. Dropbox is pretty good about recovering accidentally deleted files, but really bad things can happen, and losing every password would be really bad. By having a copy in my email that I can go back to retrieve a copy, I know that I will always have a fairly recent backup that I can rely on.

And for the record, even though Lifehacker has also given instructions on how to do this, I figured it out before they did :) I just wasn’t smart enough to blog about it.

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