PIN or Password? Which Option Should I Choose?

Protecting an account, like most security matters, comes down to a trade-off between convenience and security. A PIN of 1234 is super convenient, but completely insecure. Likewise, a 100-digit PIN won’t be cracked for years, but it’s a bit inconvenient to enter. When used correctly, however, a solid PIN is a great compromise between the two values.

PINs Are Local

It’s important to note that when you set a PIN in Windows 10, it applies only to that device. Thus, if you set a PIN on your home PC and someone were to steal it, they couldn’t access your account unless they had physical access to your device. In addition, your PIN can’t sign into any of your Microsoft accounts like your password can.

Thus, using your Microsoft password to sign into your PC is more of a risk. If you have to type that password to log in every time, it might tempt you to make it simpler and weaker. Should someone steal your password, they could also log into your Outlook email, your Xbox account, or any number of other Microsoft services.

Use a PIN and a Strong Password

If you’ve used a password manager to set a secure password for your Microsoft account, it’s probably much too complex to type every time you log in. Logging in with a PIN solves this problem — you just need to make sure it’s a good one.
Our recommendation for most people is to set a strong password for your Microsoft account, and use a good PIN for signing into your computer. This keeps your email and other resources protected, while also allowing you to conveniently sign into your PC. There’s really no downside to setting a PIN. Don’t forget that you can boost the protection on your Microsoft account with two-factor authentication for even more security.

Those using a local account can also set a PIN, and the same rules apply. Since a local account only applies to your particular machine, a PIN is simply an alternate means of logging in. It doesn’t offer the benefits of obscuring your Microsoft account password.

Note that you can’t use your PIN when connecting to your PC via Remote Desktop, and you can’t enter a PIN to log in using Safe Mode. Be sure you still have your standard password handy.


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