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Getting W95 passwords to stick
technofile  by al fasoldt
Columns and commentaries in a life-long dance with technology 
Simple gray rule

Getting Windows 95 passwords to stick

Bit Player for March 30, 1997
This is an expanded version of the column that appears in print.

By Al Fasoldt

Copyright © 1997, Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 1997, The Syracuse Newspapers

Passwords don't seem to get along with Windows 95. After setting up the Internet connections on my monster Dell and my wife's sleek Aptiva and after getting on scores of letters from readers, I've become convinced that the biggest complaint Windows 95 users have about dialing into the Net is that your passwords aren't remembered.

I wish I had an easy fix. But I don't. That's because the code that handles passwords in Windows 95 is buggy. Nevertheless, I'll offer a few ways to solve the problem.

First, I'll try to explain where the problem comes from. Passwords are saved reliably in Windows 95 only if Windows 95 itself knows that someone with a password is logged on to the computer. Note that I said "the computer," not "the Internet." When Windows 95 starts up, every user can choose a password. (You don't ever need to choose a real password. All you need is a user name and a blank password.)

If this sounds like a mystery to you, you should open the Control Panel and double-click on the Passwords icon. You'll see the instructions on how to set up passwords and profiles. They are all fairly clear. (Click on the question-mark button and then click on any option for a brief explanation.)

Go ahead and set up a password if you don't have one already. Don't even worry about the potential bother of having to type in a user name and password each time Windows starts; Tweak UI, part of the Power Toys, will enter your name and password for you if you wish. (Look for a link to the Power Toys at

That may solve your problem. If it doesn't, your password list may be corrupted. You'll have to get rid of the old list and let Windows create a new one. Password lists are stored in the Windows folder with a .PWL filename extension. They're usually called "USERNAME.PWL" or "Rna.PWL." ("USERNAME" would be your user name, of course.)

Rename all .PWL files to .OLD (such as "Rna.OLD") and shut Windows down. When it starts up again, you'll have to reenter your user name and password as a new user. As I pointed out, you do NOT have to type in a password. Leave it blank, then go to the next field where Windows asks you to confirm the password and leave it blank again. (Just make sure you use the same user name and password, if any, that you had used before.)

If you've never been able to get the save-password function to work (if the Save Password box has always been grayed out), try the method I've explained above first. If that doesn't work, install the Client for Microsoft Networks. This is not the software for MSN, the Microsoft online service. It's software Windows needs to connect to other computers in certain ways. Installing it helps fix the bug in the password function. (It also adds come extra functionality to your standard dialup connections, so you'll probably want to keep it installed. But the main thing is to install it just to get the password-bug fixed.)

To do this, double click on the Network icon in the Control Panel, click on Add, choose Client, then choose Client for Microsoft Networks. Shut down and restart Windows. Take the advice given above on entering a user name and password when Windows comes back up.

Whether this method works or not, after you restart Windows, open the Network applet again and change the Primary Logon to "Windows Logon."

If this does not work, you need more help than I can give in this week's column. Choose this link ( for a page of help on which this column was based.

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