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The Complete Guide to Finding Long-Lost Passwords Hiding Anywhere

  |  Malaika Nicholas

Before I began using Dashlane, I used to stash my passwords everywhere, from random pieces of paper to the deepest corners of my computer to my sock drawer. As you can imagine, I had a difficult time keeping up with them. 

Fortunately, I’ve since learned from my bad password storage habits, and decided to share this simple guide to show you how to find all of your long-lost passwords. You’ll know where to look and exactly how to get them into your password manager.

1. Search your web browsers

Begin your search by combing through each of your web browsers for passwords you may have stored. There are two methods you can use to collect passwords from a web browser:

Let your password manager do it for you.

Dashlane can import passwords from your web browser quickly and easily.

  1. Open your Dashlane app.
  2. Select ‘File’ > ‘Import passwords’.
  3. Select the browser(s) you want to import from and follow Dashlane’s prompts.

Do it manually.

Don’t want to let Dashlane import passwords for you? You can track them down on your own. The procedure for importing from each browser is slightly different:

  • For Internet Explorer: 
    1. Open IE > Control Panel > Credential Manager > Manage Web Credentials.
    2. Next, expand each site you want to view and select ‘Show’.
    3. After you provide your Windows password, you will be able to view the credentials.
  • For Firefox:
    1. Open Firefox > Options > Options > Security > Saved Passwords.
    2. Once the database has launched, view all of your accounts in a list format.
    3. Select ‘Show Passwords’ to reveal the information you need.
  • For Chrome:
    1. Open Chrome > Settings > Show Advanced Settings > Manage Passwords.
    2. Click on each entry and select ‘Show’ to view the password.
  • For Safari:
    1. Open Safari > Preferences > Passwords.
    2. Select the ones you need and click the box labeled ‘Show passwords for selected websites’.
    3. Provide your account password at this time and follow the prompts.

2. Search for files on your computer’s hard drive

Do you keep passwords in a Word or Excel file on your computer? If you have such a file, you’re able to import all of those passwords to Dashlane using a .csv file or manually, if you choose.

I know where to find my password documents.

  1. Make sure your file extension is ‘.csv’. For help on how to import a CSV file, click here or download our CSV template here.
  2. Open your Dashlane app, select ‘File’ > ‘Import passwords’ > ‘Custom CSV file’.
  3. Once you’ve imported this file to Dashlane, consider permanently deleted it from your machine to prevent others from accessing it.

I’m not sure how to find my password documents.

If you don’t know the location or name of your file, you can search for the text inside the file on Windows desktop computers, as well as Mac. Once you locate your file(s), follow the instructions above for ‘I know where to find my password documents’.

Searching for files on Windows: 

  1. Use Windows Search and make sure ‘File Contents’ selected before entering keywords. NOTE: By default, this program won’t search all of the files on your computer. You’ll need to take these steps to ensure all relevant files are included in the search.
  2. Go to the ‘Control Panel’ and open ‘Indexing Options’. Can’t find it? Try searching “indexing” from within the Control Panel’s search bar.
  3. Select ‘Advanced’ > ‘File Types’.
  4. Choose the extensions of the file types you want to search. If the extensions you need are not on the list, add them.
  5. Mark the circle next to ‘Index Properties and File Contents’.
  6. Click the ‘Search’ tab and mark the circle next to ‘Always search file names and contents’.

After you have completed these steps, all of the file types you selected will be included in future searches.

Searching for files on Mac:

  1. Click on the magnifying glass found in the upper-right corner of your menu bar to open Spotlight.
  2. Type and enter your keywords into the search bar.
  3. Browse through results until you find what you need.

By default, Spotlight will search outside of your Mac. To disable this feature and search only the files contained on your computer, navigate to ‘System Preferences’ > ‘Spotlight’ > ‘Search Results’. Deselect the types of results you don’t want to see when you search.

3. Collect passwords from your mobile device

Before you invested in a password manager, you may have used the default Notes to keep your passwords with you on-the-go. 

If you used the Notes app on your iPhone, you can find specific files using your Spotlight search. Find it by swiping down on your Home screen and searching keywords.

However, Spotlight will only search Notes if you enable Notes in your Spotlight search Settings. To change your Spotlight, open ‘Settings’ > ‘General’ > ‘Spotlight Search’. Scroll through the list to locate ‘Notes’ and toggle it on.

4. Search through cloud-based services (Google Drive, Evernote, etc.)

Although it is far from secure, many people use cloud services to store and share their passwords. Some of the most common cloud storage toolsused for this purpose include Dropbox, Apple iCloud, and Google Drive. This is an extremely dangerous practice that has led to several data breaches in the past. For example, in 2016, Dropbox announced a data breach that affected approximately 68 million records. Likewise, hackers were recently able to exploit a flaw in iCloud’s security that allowed them to unlock any iPhone. Thus, these tools can’t be trusted to keep your passwords safe.

For Google Drive:

  1. Open Google Drive on your desktop or iOS device. Make sure you’re logged in. For Android devices, you can search using Google Now.
  2. Simply type your search terms or scroll through the list of documents.
  3. By default, Google Drive will search for your keyword in document titles, document contents, and images, including PDFs. However, this can sometimes provide too many results. If you want to search titles only, simply type “title:” followed immediately by your search terms.

Finding password documents in Google Drive

For Evernote:

  1. Log in to your Evernote account.
  2. Click the magnifying glass ‘Search’ icon on the left hand side.
  3. Enter keywords to look for passwords stored in your Evernote notebooks.

Finding password documents in Evernote

5. Search images and PDFs

If you used images or PDFs to store your passwords, finding them may be more difficult. However, thanks to optical character recognition (OCR), it isn’t impossible. OCR is a technology that allows programs to convert images of typed, printed or handwritten text into machine-encoded text. This technology can be used to search non-traditional sources of text, including PDFs. OCR is available in several programs, including Google Drive, Evernote, and OneNote.

6. Search your email inboxes

Your email inbox is a pot of gold for hackers! If you have shared your passwords with family, friends, or colleagues via email, copies of this information are still available for hackers to use. In addition, if you have received password reset emails from companies in which your password was included, your accounts are extremely vulnerable.

For Outlook (Windows):

  1. Double-click the message you want to open so that it appears in its own window.
  2. Press F4 or click ‘Find’ on the message toolbar.
  3. Select your search options.

The procedure for searching emails on Outlook is slightly different with a Mac. Instructions can be found here.

For Gmail:

  1. Type your search terms into the box found at the top of the page.
  2. Click the down arrow inside the search box to select your desired filters.
  3. Click the search icon.

For Hotmail:

  1. Type your search terms into the ‘search email’ field.
  2. For a more advanced search, click ‘Show advanced search’ and make use of the filters available.

For Yahoo Mail:

  1. Type your search terms into the ‘Search’ box found at the top of the page.
  2. You can filter your search using the menu found in front of the search box.

Regardless of the email provider you’re using, it’s easy to get bogged down in large numbers of search results. To make the process simpler, consider filtering your search by the subject line, name of the sender or another keyword, like “login” or “credential” instead of “password”. Most email providers also offer advanced search operators that can help you narrow down your results.

7. Search for passwords around your home

Over the years, you may have written down passwords on loose paper, in notebooks or on post-it notes. These papers can be located almost anywhere, but you need to find them in order to protect your security.

Check all of these common areas when searching for passwords in your home:

  • Workspaces: Check your work area at home and in your office. Look for passwords stuck on computer screens, tucked under computer monitors, stashed under keyboards and in piles of papers on your desk.
  • Kitchen area: Look for passwords on sticky notes or paper, especially under the magnets on your refrigerator.
  • Wireless routers: In many cases, your Wifi password will be visible on your wireless router. Don’t forget to add that credential to Dashlane’s Secure Notes for easy sharing, and then hide the Wifi credentials on your router so that others can’t see them.
  • Vaults or file boxes: Another popular place to store passwords is with your other sensitive information, like your social security card, tax documents, financial statements and medical records. Check these files carefully to find any passwords you may have tucked away.
  • The mail pile:  Some people write passwords down on old bills or empty envelopes. Be sure to check your mail pile for any credentials you may have misplaced.
  • Planners or notepads: If you’re known to keep a daily planner, notepad or calendar, you should flip through the pages to see if you may have jotted down any passwords there.

Once you have stored all of your handwritten passwords in Dashlane, be sure to shred the original documents to prevent breaches.

8. Think hard

The last place to check for passwords is your own brain. If you have any passwords stored in your memory that haven’t already been uploaded to Dashlane, add them manually using these simple instructions:

  1. Open your Dashlane app.
  2. Select ‘Passwords’ from the left-hand menu and ‘Add new’.
  3. Fill in the website, username, and password.
  4. Click ‘OK’ to save.

We all know exactly how difficult is to remember so many passwords. Luckily, after you complete this process, you’ll never have to struggle with memorizing or storing them ever again! Once you have gathered all your passwords using the steps above, it’s time to make sure they are all secure. 

Take the next step and your passwords in a personal password manager or business password manager today. 

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