Changing your password

Logging in

Changing your password is easy. Telnet into the system and log in with your current password. Under Windows, open up a command prompt and type "telnet". Under Mac OS X, open up a terminal window and do the same thing. Under Mac OS 9 or earlier, or under Windows version 3 or earlier, you need to install and configure a telnet application yourself.

Changing your password

Once you are logged in, you will see a unix prompt. Depending on how your account is configured, this will probably be either the pound character (number sign) or the greater-than symbol. When you see the prompt, type in the command "passwd" and press enter. Note the unusual spelling! The system will then ask you to enter your old password, and then it will ask you to enter your new password twice. If you type everything correctly, you will get a message informing you that your password has been changed. Congratulations! If you make a mistake, the system will give you an error message and you will get the command prompt back. Just go ahead and type in the passwd command again, and proceed as described above.

Logging out

I'll bet you thought you were done! Well, you are almost there. All you need to do now is log out of the system. Just type "exit" at the prompt and you will be logged out. Technically this is not really required, you can just close your terminal, but logging out is the polite thing to do.

A word on security

Please try to choose passwords that are more or less secure. If your username is bob, then using "bob" as your password is not very secure. Things like the name of your pet or your girlfriend are not very secure either. The most secure passwords are just random strings of letters and numbers, but those are awfully hard to remember. In practice, a good compromise is often to choose a word that has meaning to you (your name would be too obvious, but the street you live on or your favorite Starbucks drink might be better) and then do funny things to it. For example, I might pick "icedmocha", and then replace some of the letters with numbers and capitalize the M, giving a password of "1cedM0cha", which would be very hard for someone to guess.

You should be careful not to choose a word that appears in the dictionary for your password. You might think that it would be impossible for someone to guess that "reiterate" is your password, and you are right. It is an easy matter however for a cracker to program a computer to try logging into your account with every word in the dictionary. Then they could log in as you and delete all of your email. This is clearly not what you want.
This file was last updated November 18, 2002


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