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Practical Computer Advice
from Martin Kadansky
Volume 11 Issue 11
November 2017
Did You Change Your Email Password? Here Are 8 Other Places You May Need To Update Next

The problem

Whether you do it voluntarily or something forces you (like getting hacked or following corporate policy), changing your email password will also require you to update all of the other places where that password is stored.

Why? If you change your email account password, you will be unable to send or receive email on your computer, smartphone, tablet, or other device until you update the email password stored on that device.

The many places where your email password may be stored

Your email password might be stored in a number of places:
  • Computer email client software: On your computer, if you use regular email software (like Outlook, Windows Mail, Apple Mail, Thunderbird, AOL Desktop, etc.), look in its email Settings or Options or Preferences. In fact, there may be two separate places that store your password: the POP (incoming) or IMAP server, and the SMTP (outgoing) server.
  • Computer web browser for webmail: On your computer, if you use a web browser to access your email (via a "webmail" website), your browser may have stored your email password for your convenience, so you should update that the next time you sign in.
  • Email aggregator: If you have a second email account that fetches messages from the one where you changed the password, you'll need to update the place in that second account that stores the first one's password. Gmail accounts (among others) have an option to do this. However, if you are forwarding messages from the first account (with the changed password) to the second, then you do not need to update anything, since the second account doesn't need the first account's password.
  • If you use any other computers to access your email, you should update those, too.
  • The Macintosh "keychain": If you use a Mac, it's likely that your email password is also stored on your keychain. However, rather than trying to update the keychain yourself, if you simply follow my advice above to update your email password, your Mac will probably update the entry in your keychain without your having to do anything more.
  • Smartphone (iPhone, Android, etc.) "Mail" app: Similar to your computer email client software (see above), you need to update its stored email password, probably in two places.
  • Tablet "Mail" app (iPad, Android, etc.): Similar
  • Password chart: If you maintain a paper password chart or an electronic password database, you should update the entry for your email account, or create one if it's not already listed.
  • Backup software on your computer: If you use backup software that sends you an email when it's done (or gets an error), if it stores your email password it will also need to be updated.
  • Support people: If you have someone who helps you with your computer, you should also notify them when your email password has changed. Don't do this via email or text messaging! Those are completely insecure ways to communicate, so you shouldn't make any password visible to potential hackers. Instead, call your support person on the phone to give them your new password, or tell them in person.
  • Anywhere else? If you can think of another place that I haven't listed here, let me know!
So, I recommend that you make a list like this that's specific to your situation and needs. Start with the title "When I change my email password, I should also update...," revise the list as you discover additional places where your password is stored, and keep it with your password chart. It will save you time, especially the next time you have to change your email password!

How to change your email password

There are only a few ways that you can change your email account's password:
  • If you know your current email password, open your web browser (Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Safari, Opera, etc.) and go to the webmail address for your email account (or your email hosting account if you have your own domain email like martin@kadansky.com), sign in, then go into Settings or Preferences or Options or My Account as appropriate and follow the steps to change your password. Note: If your email address ends with "@verizon.net" you now sign into your webmail at the http://mail.aol.com web site, not Verizon's.
  • If you don't know your current email password, go to your webmail address using your web browser, click the "Forgot my password" link and then follow the instructions to reset it.
  • Call your email provider's customer service or technical support phone number and either ask them to change it for you, or have them tell you how to do it yourself on their web site.
Note that after your email account password has been changed, you can update where it's stored in your email client software (e.g., Outlook, Apple Mail, Thunderbird, the "Mail" app on your phone, etc.), but you can't change your account's password using those programs.

Trust me, your email account has a password

Many people think that because they can get their email without ever having to type a password, their email account must not have a password. I guarantee you that every email account has a password, including yours. Someone typed in your password back when your email software was first set up, and your email program or web browser has stored it for your convenience ever since.

Where to go from here
How to contact me:
email: martin@kadansky.com
phone: (617) 484-6657
web: http://www.kadansky.com

On a regular basis I write about real issues faced by typical computer users. To subscribe to this newsletter, please send an email to martin@kadansky.com and I'll add you to the list, or visit http://www.kadansky.com/newsletter

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Your privacy is important to me. I do not share my newsletter mailing list with anyone else, nor do I rent it out.

Copyright (C) 2017 Kadansky Consulting, Inc. All rights reserved.

I love helping people learn how to use their computers better! Like a "computer driving instructor," I work 1-on-1 with small business owners and individuals to help them find a more productive and successful relationship with their computers and other high-tech gadgets.

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