How to clear your password for Microsoft online services like Outlook.com and Xbox Live

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    Brett Pearce / CNET

    Now that Microsoft has allowed you to clear your passwords for Outlook.com, Xbox Live, and other online accounts, consider the jump. Issuing your logins can improve security and convenience.

    Clearing your password can improve security, if only because you don’t have to rely on your memory to access your accounts. We all have too many passwords to remember and that means we often recycle them across multiple websites. You know what that means: a data breach can open several of your accounts. (You can use a password manager to minimize the work, but it can be difficult to use.)

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    Passwordless login also means that a hacker cannot steal a password if a website is breached. Passwordless logins can thwart phishing attacks, which also use fake websites to steal login information.

    Microsoft’s post-password push comes in the middle of a major modernization attempt. The company will roll out new Surface products On Wednesday. Next month, Microsoft will release Windows 11 and Office 2021.

    A constellation of improvements enables a password-free login: biometrics such as fingerprint and face recognition; increasing use of authenticator apps from Microsoft, Google, Okta and others; and a central activation standard called FIDO, Fast Identity Online, which is supported by all browsers and operating systems. FIDO’s capabilities include enabling the most secure login lock option, hardware security keys.

    Microsoft is one of the biggest advocates of the login reform, which is why 200 million of us have enabled passwordless login so far. Now it encourages us to take the next step by removing the password as well. This may seem extreme, but there is a good chance that as technology spreads, you will see more passwordless options.

    “Together, the insights from these previous users will help establish best practices for other companies that want to follow suit,” said Andrew Shikiar, executive director of the FIDO Alliance. “Almost every top bank and service provider I’ve spoken to has FIDO absolutely on their roadmap, working through the technical considerations and user experience required to successfully protect their customers as well.”

    How to create your Microsoft password:

    Install and set up Microsoft Authenticator on your phone. The app works on Android-based smartphones and iPhones. Once installed, launch it and link it to your Microsoft online account:

    Download links for Microsoft Authenticator

    Download link for Microsoft Authenticator

    Screenshot by Stephen Shankland / CNET

    Open your Microsoft account settings page in a browser (https://account.microsoft.com/) and log in there as well. Open the “Security” section:

    Microsoft account page

    Screenshot by Stephen Shankland / CNET

    Open the “Advanced Security Options” section:

    Microsoft Account Enhanced Security

    Screenshot by Stephen Shankland / CNET

    Scroll down to the “Additional Security” section and select “Enable” for “Passwordless Account”. You can also dive into the “Learn More If It’s Right For You” section if you are concerned about the implications.

    Enable passwordless login to Microsoft

    Screenshot by Stephen Shankland / CNET

    You’ll be prompted to set up passwordless access, and then a request for approval in the Microsoft Authenticator app on your phone:

    Passwordless approval process for Microsoft accounts

    Screenshots by Stephen Shankland / CNET

    And that’s it. Your password is gone:

    Microsoft account password removed

    Screenshot by Stephen Shankland / CNET

    If you want to restore it, you can re-enable it through the same Advanced Security Options process:

    Reactivate the password for the Microsoft account

    Screenshot by Stephen Shankland / CNET

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