I’ll never get back the last four hours of my life. I have spent them copying passwords from my laptop into my password manager app and watching paint dry would have been more exciting.

My laptop has been playing up. The mouse is misbehaving – it’s erratic and the touchpad isn’t working. Any wired mouse that I plug-in begins shuddering almost immediately. Yesterday, after hours of frustration and hoping to use my laptop for a training class today, I purchased a magic mouse that cost me $110. Much to my annoyance, this has not fixed the problem.

For those of you who know me, you’ll understand that when technology doesn’t work, I can usually fix it. I seem to have this weird, magical vibe that devices pick up on and they begin behaving themselves when I’m around.  I’ve been known to show off with this skill but now, it has come back to bite me in the ass. Nothing I seem to do fixes my laptop and I think it’s time to hand it over to the professionals.

So what does this mean and what does it have to do with decluttering? If I have to hand my laptop over, I have to acknowledge that so many of my passwords are currently saved in Safari. I don’t have to think about it, I just go to a website and my username and password are magically and beautifully filled in. Whilst I’ve had doubts about this – as it has meant that anyone who picked up my laptop and luckily guessed my login password – would have access to my shopping sites, my social media, among others (though not my bank details and or my Gmail as neither of these passwords have been saved). If I’m going to hand my laptop over to be fixed, I needed to get the passwords somewhere I can access them.

So how can you go about this password decluttering? The browser I use on my laptop is Safari. If I go into the preferences for this program, I can access the passwords tab. By putting in my login password, I can see all of the passwords that Safari has saved.

Safari Passwords Tab

This depends on the browser that you use. A quick google search should give you the relevant instructions. The next thing I had to decide was where to put all of the passwords. Excel is NOT the correct place. I see so many organisations keeping their passwords in Excel and it is not secure at all, even when the spreadsheet is password protected – it doesn’t take much to hack into it.

There are hundreds of apps that you can use. The collective term that is used to describe these types of apps is password managers. The idea behind them is that you put a very strong password to get into the app and then you can store all of your passwords in a fairly secure location. Your passwords are encrypted and the master password is the only one you need to remember.

Password Manager Apps

So which apps are the best ones to use? Here are a few suggestions. Some of these apps that are cloud based – for those of you who prefer storing things locally on your computer, there are a couple for that as well.

Dashlane: This password manager is available on Windows, OS X, iPhone, iPad, and Android. They have extensions for browsers and it can generate strong passwords for you. It is free to use on a single device or you can upgrade to premium to have access to your passwords on all your devices. Your passwords can be kept in the cloud where they will be encrypted or you can choose to have them saved locally on your computer.

LastPass: just like Dashlane, LastPass has apps and extensions available for every device or browser you might use. LastPass even offers two-factor authentication so a code would needed to be sent to your email or mobile device in order to access your passwords.

A screenshot of LastPass

mSecure: when I went looking for a password manager, I stumbled upon mSecure. I’m not 100% sure why, but at the time, it seemed to meet all my needs. mSecure is a password manager and digital wallet designed to help users store and protect personal information and data. It provides a safe place to store passwords and also acts as a vault for login information and keeps the stored data encrypted. As with the other password managers mentioned, mSecure has apps, browser extensions, and can even be encrypted and backed up to dropbox if you so desire.

screen grab of mSecure password manager on an iPad

So the frustrations of my laptop have led me to do something I’ve been meaning to do for ages – declutter my passwords and get them in order. I now have an incredible 167 passwords stored in my password manager. No, you didn’t read that wrong. I have 167 different passwords -actually, not different passwords but there are 167 different places that I need a password for. Some of them require strong passwords, others require not-so-strong passwords. Many passwords are repeated over and over again but the silly things are so similar I never remember them. Now this isn’t exactly best practice, but if the risk of someone hacking into my account on the site is low, I don’t stress too much about what the password is. If you want to buy me a pretty outfit from birdsnest.com.au please feel free to log into the site and do so.