It has happened to me several times that I've become so used to typing in a password I can't consciously remember it and it's purely muscle memory. This is particularly true with complex passwords that don't follow a pattern. It's a problem because if I'm using a different keyboard or am in a different environment I forget the password. Is there anything that can be done to fix this? It's really annoying, it's like having tied shoe lace so many times I don't really think of the steps involved.

I do use a password manager and that's the password I forget.

  • Use some kind of program like lastpass is no option? You can type some letters on your cellphone with some "imaginable meaning" behind it, so for you to only know what that means... I hope i didn't confused you more. Commented Jan 15, 2014 at 19:48
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    I also use a Password Manager (Keepass) and I share the database between my laptop and my tablet. On my laptop, my fingers are hardcoded to the password, so I never need to think about what I'm typing. But for some reason, I always subvocalize (= saying your pass in your head) it while typing it. This helps me a lot in memorizing my passphrase. This way, I have no problems typing my pass on my tablet. PS: I also use a passfile for 2-factor auth
    – BlueCacti
    Commented Jan 15, 2014 at 23:37
  • if it doesn't happen very often, (ie you are not often away from your usual keyboard.) Why not invest in a cheap safe (You can get them for ~$30.) write it out on a piece of card, lock it up and keep the safe at home? Commented Jan 16, 2014 at 3:29
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    I have this happen to me too. I can usually kinda visualize a keyboard and motion it out a bit. Have you tried kinda mime-ing it out?
    – Fake Name
    Commented Jan 16, 2014 at 7:59

4 Answers 4


A method can be to subvocalize the password when you type it; that is, you go through the physiological motions of spelling it, letter by letter, except that you don't open your mouth or move your lips while doing so. You just fool your brain into thinking that it did it. The point here is to store an "extra copy" of the password in your brain: you will have it as "muscle memory" but also in your speech module.

(Subvocalizing can be an impediment -- some people cannot read without subvocalizing, and that makes them slow readers, which is inconvenient for studies which involves reading a lot, such as physicians and historians; this is not correlated with intelligence. However, in this case, controlled subvocalizing can help.)

Or simply write it down on a paper that you keep in your wallet; you already maintain strong physical security on your wallet. Even the famous Chuck Norris impersonator recommends it.

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    Ya but subvocilization doesn't work with strange characters, for example ~ and it's too long to say < and > and I always get the two mixed up
    – Celeritas
    Commented Jan 16, 2014 at 21:30

Why not use a Password Manager?

Pros and Cons exist when using a Password Manager, but it sounds like the pros might outweigh the cons in your situation.

Pros: Many of them will generate complex passwords for you, encrypt them with a cryptographic key generated from a master password, and save the ciphertext. Many are companies and if security issues exist it could cost them their reputation (and their jobs).

Cons: Some password managers are internet based and could have availability issues. Trusting them to do what they say they do. How do you know the next version of a password manager won't compromise the security of your passwords?

Some password manager examples are. - LastPass - KeePass - 1Password - Roboform - passpack - many others.

Shop around and see which one best suits your needs.

edit: If you are forgetting passwords to your password manager there is no hope for you. There are certain things in life that you must memorize, and a password is one of them. Password managers can help but they can't do everything. If there was a solution that allowed you to not remember a password ever then password managers would do it.

One thing you could do is risky. Choose a weak password for your password manager and use 2-factor authentication on password manager, which stores your secure password.

This is super risky though. If an attacker is able to guess your 2factor key, you would be in a lot of trouble (since they will definitely guess your weak password). They also might be able to revoke access to your second factor or use social engineer techniques on help-desk employees at a password manager company to compromise you. It should be noted that because of this, if you choose to use this solution, you had better use 2factor on all sites you can, along with the secure password.

This is super super super risky. I don't know why anyone would use a weak password to their password manager, but it is a solution to your problem.

  • He uses a password manager, but he keeps forgetting the password of that manager. I personally use KeePass. And ofc I use a strong passphrase to protect my passwords inside + a key file for 2-factor auth. A very secure password manager that is webbased, is Vasco's MyDigiPass.com!
    – BlueCacti
    Commented Jan 15, 2014 at 23:31
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    "A very secure password manager that is webbased does not exist." fix'd that for ya Commented Jan 16, 2014 at 6:14

Use a mnemonic to memorise the content of the password. For each character, choose a word, action, or idea that creates a kind of story, which human brains are good at remembering. That way if your muscle memory fails you, you can always fall back to figuring out the characters one by one, by following the story.

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    correct horse battery staple
    – valentinas
    Commented Jan 15, 2014 at 19:59
  • My password is "correct horse battery staple". Super secure, I'll never get pwned! Commented Jan 15, 2014 at 23:35
  • I do that using initial letters of words in favorite quotations. And I subvocalize the quotation as I type the letters. If I forget, I just check the source.
    – mirimir
    Commented Jan 16, 2014 at 2:42

One method that has not been mentioned to help you to remember passwords is a prompt. Best explained by an example.

My password for my stack exchange begins with '%£' which I know is my way of remembering 'SE', as in Stack Exchange.

Once I get the first few letters out of my memory the rest follows naturally.

This can be followed by a complex password. Having a somewhat predictable start to a password does not weaken it.

As an aside, the way different environments effect our ability to recall says a lot about how our memories are stored.

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