Two recent columns describing difficulties with the Windows 95 password system have evoked considerable reader response, making clear that many users have experienced similar frustrations.
What prompted the first column was an inability to get rid of the password request box when starting Windows 95. Individual users not wired to an office or other local area network may have no use for a password and thus no use for a dialog box that asks for one.
The first time you start Windows 95, it will ask you for a password. There is a “hint” in the dialog box telling you that if you do not enter a password, you will not see the box again. If you click the cancel button, or the “X” button, or press the escape key, however, you will get the box again and again.
What you must do is leave the password box blank, then click the “OK” button. That will get rid of the logon password box. Or at least it should. Some users, though, may find themselves unable to use the above procedure because, while they are still getting the logon box, they are past the “hint” that tells them if they leave it blank, it will go away.
Here is how to get back to that original logon option. Click the “Find” option on the Windows Start menu. Enter the wildcard filename .pwl. In the window below, at least one file with the extension “.pwl” should shortly appear in the Windows directory of your hard disk. Delete them, then restart your computer. That should get your original password request box back. Then follow the above procedure.
It should work, but it doesn’t always. In trying to solve this problem, with the help of a Microsoft tech support representative, we deleted the “.pwl” file, and restarted the computer. “You won’t see that password request again,” he said confidently. But sure enough, there it was again. He could not explain it, except to say that computer vendors sometimes modify Windows 95 slightly and that such modifications may have unintended consequences. Wonderful.
So, if the steps described above don’t work, try this: again get rid of all files with the extension “.pwl,” restart your computer, and when that password request appears, enter one. Any name will do, as long as you can remember it. Then open the “settings” window and click on the passwords icon. It should give you the option to change your password. Click on it. You should then see a box with three blanks, one for your current password, one for your new one and one to confirm the new one.
Enter your current password in the appropriate box and leave the other two blank. Click OK and restart your computer. The password request box should be gone forever. You may now find, however, that you have a different, but related problem if you are a dial-up network user.
There is a “Save Password” check box in the Windows 95 dial-up network utility. Click it, and it will save the password you use in logging on to your dial-up network. In some cases, however, the checkbox is not available, which means you must re-enter your password each time you dial in to your network or Internet service provider. This is a major nuisance for users of networks which assign their users convoluted computer-generated passwords which are difficult if not impossible to memorize.
If you have used the above procedure to eliminate the start-up password request and now find your system will not save your dial-up network password, try the following. In the Windows Control Panel, click the “Network” icon. Under the “Configuration” tab, you will find a list of “Installed Components.” Click the “Add” button, then the “Client” icon, then its “Add” button. Select “Microsoft” from the list, then click “OK.”
You may be prompted to insert a Windows startup disk or CD, but otherwise the addition of the Microsoft network client is automatic. Once it’s installed, you should find that the “Save Password” checkbox will be available. When you enter your password the first time with the box checked, it will not save your password until you log on to your network or Internet service provider. After that, your password should reappear as a series of asterisks each time you dial up.
In case you’re wondering, that start-up password request is primarly designed for those who use networked computers. It is designed to prevent unauthorized users from logging onto the network. If you fail to enter a password upon start-up, the computer will still start, but will not log onto the network.
T.R. Reid is Rocky Mountain bureau chief of the Washington Post. Brit Hume is managing editor of Fox News in Washington. You can reach them in care of the Washington Post Writers Group, 1150 15th St., Washington D.C. 20071-9200, or you can e-mail T.R. Reid at email@example.com, or Brit Hume at firstname.lastname@example.org.