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I Know My Password Is Right, But I Can’t Sign In. What Do I Do?

What to consider when the system thinks otherwise.

Carefully typing your password

If your password won't work and your secret questions are different, it's pretty clear what's happened and what you need to do.
Hi, my password has been the same for the last 10 years and suddenly I get a message that says password incorrect, what the hell? After a few attempts, it blocked all attempts and the question it asks is not what I filled in when I signed up. It asks me for my first dog’s name and I know that I did not fill that in. What do I do, do I just go to Gmail as most of my friends did when Hotmail started with their nonsense?!

I hear this one frequently: “I know my password is correct and yet it doesn’t work.”

This isn’t “nonsense” at all. What you think is your password isn’t your password.

It’s pretty clear what’s happened, so I’ll refer you to a number of my previous articles that might apply.

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TL;DR:

But my password is correct!

If you’re absolutely certain you’re entering the right password and username and your password still is not accepted, then it’s no longer the correct password. Somehow the password was changed — most likely by someone else. You need to treat it as a hacked account and attempt to regain access. Then you need to secure your account to make sure this doesn’t happen again.

First, the obvious

Please don’t be offended — but take the time to make certain that you’re typing in the password you think you are. Perhaps type it into Notepad so you can see it, and then copy/paste it into the password field of the site or app.

CAPS LOCK is your enemy here, and it’s common to hear back from people who are somewhat embarrassed that it was the problem.

Also, please confirm that you’re typing the username or email address in properly. For example, if you type in the wrong email address as the user name, your correct password will not be the correct password for some other (or non-existent) account.

It’s (probably) a hack

If your typing is accurate and your user name is correct, the most likely scenario is that your account has been hacked.

Someone guessed or otherwise got your password and then changed it. Having done so, they also changed the recovery information — like your first dog’s name — associated with your account.

The password you’re convinced is correct is no longer the password to your account.

Hotmail (or Outlook.com, these days) is doing exactly the right thing: it’s telling you your password is incorrect because your password is incorrect.

What to do next

Your account is no longer your account. Your next step is to attempt to recover it. Email Hacked? 7 Things You Need to Do NOW covers the steps you need to take as soon as possible.

One of the more important points from that article is reiterated in Is Changing My Password Enough? The answer is no. Particularly since you’ve apparently had your recovery information changed, if you do regain access to your account, you need to review absolutely everything about it.

While I don’t have high hopes, if you’re having trouble, you can try reaching out to Microsoft’s Outlook.com customer service. How Do I Contact Outlook.com Customer Service? discusses your options.

And, for the record, I cannot help you directly. Would You Please Recover My Password? My Account Has Been Hacked or I’ve Forgotten It explains why, and reiterates what you need to do instead.

Prevention

Once you’ve either recovered your account or created a new one, focus on keeping this from happening again.

12 Steps to Keep from Getting Your Account Hacked has an important and complete list of steps you need to take to prevent account loss.

Internet Safety: 7 Steps to Keeping Your Computer Safe on the Internet includes a more global list of steps to take to keep yourself safe online.

I will say that the fact you used the same password for 10 years probably didn’t help. That can make it easier for a hacker. Especially if you use the same password on other accounts (very bad idea), now would be the time to change it everywhere else also.

Do this

Start by doing everything you can to prevent this from happening again. Having your email account hacked is a pain, and can result in quite a bit of inconvenience and data loss.

Then, consider using a different account with better support options. You get what you pay for with free services, particularly when it comes to customer service and account recovery. Are Free Email Services Worth It? discusses the risks you run when using free services.

Finally, subscribe to Confident Computing, my weekly newsletter, for more tips and advice to keep your accounts and everything else secure. Less frustration and more confidence, solutions, answers, and tips in your inbox every week.

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30 comments on “I Know My Password Is Right, But I Can’t Sign In. What Do I Do?”

  1. To prevent this from happening in the future if you have a Hotmail or other Outlook.com account, there is what almost amounts to a silver bullet. Set up a recovery code from Microsoft and with this code, you will be able to recover a hacked account or get into it if it has been locked for another reason. I say almost a silver bullet because I don’t think you’d be able to use it if the hacker has requested a new one but I think it’s unlikely a hacker would go that far.

    People badmouth Microsoft email accounts but this recovery code feature probably makes it the most bulletproof of all the freemail providers. Their bad reputation is mainly because of serious shortcomings in the past which they’ve rectified.

    Reply
    • The “recovery” program is the only reason you are able to log I to microsoft. Microsoft, Google Facebook, etc are all doing the same thing. With me it’s about synching all my devices and I won’t so they change my password and make it hard to get anything done. I’ve been battling these guys for over 10 years. E bay is the worst with all their analytics, and algorithms. they cause that a 5 minute listing turned a into over an hour looking up all the names, models, country of origin 5 times over, material, color, here’s the real laugh the “theme” which they make a requirement for me, I look at other listings and they have none of it! I will say that Microsoft is the easiest to deal with, of course they wrote the program. They take away my settings when I do something they don’t want me to and it gets wrote off as a virus. I had hundreds of giif these companies do not like thgabites of my family photos taken, never to return. They even delete programs I pay for. I paid for spybot and received 4 separate apps, which were very thorough. A week later all I have is the Microsoft shell that does nothing.

      Reply
  2. Is there a “not free” email service, that is not related to the CURRENT Internet service Provider (SP ?
    A main reason of using “free email services” is having to change ISP.

    Reply
  3. Poor article saying the user is wrong when I am correct. I had the account for a long period of time with the same password. Changed the password recently. The app is telling me the password is incorrect. I tried installing through another account and still tells me its wrong. I try to set up a new account just for the app and still tells me the account password is incorrect.

    Reply
    • I changed the password on my phone recently because of strange things happening. I write my password before I enter it. I have never made a mistake since I’ve been writing them up until about 6 months ago. Little by little it kept getting worse. Now it never accepts my password and I refuse to keep playing that childish game. It seems like a punishment some times, I visit a site that is not on their list of “allowed” web sites. Does this sound familiar?

      Reply
  4. Another thing to consider is that whatever you are trying to sign into has changed something on their end and you need to re-create your account.

    I had this happen the other day. I’ve been accessing weather(dot)com for longer than I can remember.
    The other day when I attempted to access it I was hit either disabling my ad blocker or signing in. Since I knew I had an account, I tried to sign in. no luck. After several attempts, I used the “forget password” link to reset my password. I was asked for my e-mail address so they could send me the reset link. I waited over an hour; no e-mail so I decided to recreate my account using my same e-mail address. Bingo! It work. If my account still was in their record, it probably would have said something about “that e-mail is in use”.
    So THEY deleted my account without my knowledge (this is not the first time TWC has done that!).

    Reply
  5. This is a rare cause but just happened to me. I tried to log on to my mortgage site that I’ve been using for about a year with no problem. The last time I tried I got the “wrong username or password” error message although I knew everything was correct from LastPass. Long story short, the company had changed website providers & didn’t carry over any customer login information. I was told by their customer support that I needed to reregister my account again with the new website. After that everything was okay. It would have been helpful if the company had notified their customers of the change.

    Reply
  6. My password works to log into my google account, but it doesn’t work to log into my computer. I am using an HP Chromebook. I can browse as a guest but can’t get into my computer. I know my password is correct. I suppose I could try variations on my password but how many tries do I get before I’m locked out completely?

    Reply
    • Make absolutely certain that the email address specified for logging in to your Chromebook is exactly correct. Also make sure the device is connected to Wi-Fi. If not, and there was a password change, you might need to use the previous password to sign in, then correct the Wi-Fi setup to work.

      Reply
  7. Dear Mr Leo
    Kindly note what ever is written is my case therefore is it possible for you to send me to change my password through your very good solving the problem to open my mail on a pc

    Reply
  8. I wish it were just an incorrect password issue in my case, but I can prove it’s not just an incorrect password issue. I can easily prove this by using the ISP’s webmail portals and successfully logging in with the exact same passwords that Apple “Internet Accounts” rejects on 1 Macbook Pro. This works when I’m typing or doing a copy/paste. Plus I have 4 other Apple Devices all using the same email setup and those have not been throwing up incorrect password screens – I just get the email. It’s clearly a problem with the Mail application or issues in iCloud just not accepting the passwords to email for just 1 of my devices. I suppose I’ll keep looking for a solution or call Apple for assitance.

    Reply
  9. It has absolutely happened to me that I knew for sure I had entered the correct password AND I also had saved the password on Google password manager and it turned out Google “remembered” the same password I did. Still didn’t work.

    So I clicked the “forgot password” and changed my password (i.e., the site emailed me with the link to do so) and the BRAND NEW password wouldn’t work. No, I didn’t type it incorrectly, and if THAT’s your answer, you’re simply wrong. And that site allowed me to make the password visible, so I could look at it and compare it to the password I had just set up before clicking “submit”.

    I.e., it’s a problem with the system, not with me typing the wrong password.

    Saying it doesn’t happen isn’t correct. It happens.

    Reply
  10. I can’t login on Facebook today using the same password I was using yesterday neither I can reset nor I can get any notifications about what’s happening

    Reply
  11. This article is not correct. Google loves to tell you that your password is wrong, when it is in fact correct. I have two factor authentication setup, and for some reason they don’t ask me what it is. Google is a massive pain with the password. I know for sure what it is, and they won’t log me in.

    Reply
    • That sounds like a conspiracy theory. Gmail has a billion and a half users. If what you said were true, we’d be getting hundreds of complaints from Ask Leo! readers. Google has no desire to harm their reputation by deliberately locking people out of their accounts.

      Reply
  12. I agree with Steve R. The exact same thing happened to me yesterday as well. I’ve been using the same passwords for a year now and Google will not auto-populate all of my saved passwords for some reason! Something is going on with the “Saved Password” feature. I’m not very techie so I’m not quite sure what to do. Please help!

    TX Darling

    Reply
  13. What this article does not take into consideration is that sites sometimes WANT you to change your password periodically. So they make it look as if you are entering the incorrect password because, essentially, they think it is out of date. It has happened to me on many occasions. I really wish they would just be up front, like some are, and tell you that instead of making it look as if the error is yours.

    Reply
  14. I know my password and my two step verification is also on and I know how much devices have logged in my account but it is not accepting my password I have changed it right now

    Reply

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