I was typing in a password today for a work account and thought for a second that I should make sure I have it recorded somewhere. It’s not that I’d forget it, but I do sometimes have a memory outage, so to speak. I’m not the only one. One of my customers called me one evening frantic that she’d forgotten her windows password. I asked her if she had it written down anywhere and she said no. She tried a couple of things while I was on the phone to no avail. Finally, I told her to take a break from it for a bit and then try again later. She called an hour later and excitedly told me she’d just logged in! All she had to do was relax.
I think passwords, especially ones we use often, tend to not just be stored memory, but are sometimes tied up in muscle memory – that is to say, movement and specifically movements that you routinely copy – like a password. I often key in my password almost too fast to even think about it because at some point, the memory has shifted from knowing it to “feeling” it when I type. The problem, then, is that at some point if your muscles can’t remember the movement, you may have not paid attention for so long that you’ve forgotten the password. This actually is only a small step from Chrome and other browsers remembering our password for us. Since I work in the department that gets calls when someone can’t log in, I know firsthand how often passwords are forgotten and it happens to all of us. It will happen to you too, which is why you might actually want to record that password somewhere safe. Not in case you just plain forget it, but just in case one day you need to log in and don’t remember how.