Keeping your trading computer secure is a frequent topic of mine, and for good reason. For traders, having your trading desktop or laptop hacked isn’t just inconvenient. It can cause a major financial loss.
One security best practice that’s not often mentioned has to do with the account you use on your trading computer. If you’re the only one on that computer, it’s easy to forget that multiple accounts are even an option.
It’s easy to fall into to the mindset of one user/one account. It’s just quicker to get ready for trading each morning if you don’t have to specify which user account you want.
However, it’s a bad idea to use an administrator account for daily tasks on your trading computer.
If a virus or malware gets access to your account, it can cause more damage if it has administrator permissions. Best practice is to trade from a user account with restricted permissions.
The only danger is that you forget the administrator password. After all, you aren’t entering it every day. So if you haven’t been vigilant about saving your passwords somewhere, it’s easy to forget that seldom-used administrator password.
In fact, you might not even remember you need that password until you have to make a system-level change or install new software.
We’re all used to apps that let us easily recover from a password loss via a link in an email. But recovering a lost administrator password in Windows can be challenging. You are responsible for your own fail-safe plan. So if you mess up, you need to know what to do.
Since plenty of traders are still using older versions of Windows, today I’ll share the ways you can recover such a password on various versions of Windows.
Understanding Microsoft’s Administrator Accounts
Before Windows Vista, Microsoft used to have a dedicated administrator account for each machine. But this created a problem.
Users would leave the administrator password blank or set it to something easily guessable (e.g., admin or password123). Also, some users were logging into the administrator account as their main work account. It wasn’t long before administrator accounts became targets for hackers.
Since Windows Vista, Microsoft doesn’t specify one particular administrator account on a machine. You can make any user an admin by granting administrator-level access. But you have to remember the admin’s password.
Let’s look at how to recover those lost admin passwords.
Password Recovery Procedures
On Windows 10
On Windows 10, the recovery process will depend on how the account was set up on your trading computer.
For any Microsoft account, you can go to the Recover your account page. Generally, when you first set up an account, you are asked to provide a secondary email or phone contact. A recovery password reset link will be sent through the communication channel you selected.
However, if you have set up a local account on your trading laptop or desktop, then you’ll have a harder time resetting the password.
In newer versions of Windows 10, you can add security questions by going to Settings > Accounts > Sign-in options. If the security questions are not set up, then you’ll probably need to get professional help or support from Microsoft to unlock the admin account.
There is a hidden admin account on Windows 10, but it’s disabled by default for security reasons. If you aren’t locked out already, you can enable it for future use. But this isn’t recommended as it will compromise the security of your trading computer.
On Windows 8
For Windows 8, if your admin account is also a Microsoft account, you can access the Recover your account page and reset the password as in Windows 10.
But for local accounts, Windows 8 doesn’t have the security questions option. So you’ll need help from Microsoft support to unlock your trading computer.
On Windows 7
For Windows 7, there is no Microsoft account option. So, if you are locked out of the account that has admin access, you’ll need professional help to reset the password.
Password Reset Disk
All Windows versions have the option to create password reset disks. If you aren’t already locked out of your account, it’s a good idea to create the password reset disk as a backup plan.
You’ll need a removable device like a USB or writable CD. Search for “password reset” in the Start Menu. Use the Create a password reset disk option. Then follow the on-screen instructions.
Password Management Software
Of course, the other option is to have a system in place to save your passwords. Maybe two systems.
The first system should be password manager software. Our team likes RoboForm, but there are plenty of other options. This solution requires the least amount of effort when it’s time to retrieve a password.
Other Options for Saving Passwords
The second system could be a password-protected spreadsheet kept in a secure place—like maybe on a USB key always kept in the same drawer—or even on your hard drive (but named something other than “passwords”).
Or, you could even write them down on paper (gasp!). But you might want to follow some additional safeguards if you decide to go this route.
There are lots of other options. Just about any system out there will have pros and cons. The best route is to do a little investigation and figure out which one works best for your situation.
Whatever system you decide to put in place, just be sure to use it consistently. Some form of prevention is always the best way to go.
Microsoft has instituted tough security policies to keep your trading computer safe. And you can help safeguard your own security by using a non-administrator account when you’re trading.
But Microsoft’s tough policies can also lock you out from performing important admin tasks. The best solution is to take precautions before you need the admin password.
If you are using a Microsoft Account as the admin, it should be easy to recover the password. So unless your computer is still on Windows 7, the obvious solution is to use a Microsoft account as your administrator account. Then use a local account or a different Microsoft account, with lesser permissions, for your daily trading activity.
But if you’ve set up a local account as the only admin on your trading computer, and you lose the password, you’re going to need the help of a professional.
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