Updated: 04/12/2021 by Computer Hope

Sometimes abbreviated as PW and PWD, a password is a set of secret characters or words used to authenticate access to and secure a digital system. Installing passwords help ensure that computers or data can only be accessed by those granted the right to view or access them.

What is considered a strong password?

A strong password is an effective password that would be difficult to break. The criteria for a suitable password is ten or more uppercase and lowercase characters (the more complex, the better). It also may include some special characters, like an exclamation mark (!), dollar sign ($), or percent symbol (%). Below is an example of a strong password containing uppercase and lowercase characters and several special characters.

[email protected]$

By contrast, a weak password is trivial to guess or brute force. Names, birth dates, phone numbers, and easily guessable words are considered weak passwords. Below is an example of a weak password, one that would leave your account vulnerable because it is easy to guess.


Why is it important to use a different password on every website?

If a website you visit gets hacked, and the hacker gains access to your account with a password you've used over several sites, it is likely they can access other sites you've visited. Therefore, having different passwords for all sites you visit makes it less likely you'll be hacked. However, even with these precautions, it's still possible and is still a good idea to change your passwords often.

How often should I change my password?

user account

When to change a password depends on the type of account the password is associated with. For example, a password for a user account on your computer is usually changed less often than a password for an online account.

User account on a computer

For a user account on your computer, like a Windows or macOS user account, you don't need to change the password that often. If multiple users have accounts on the same computer, consider changing your account's password once every three to six months. If you are the only user of the computer, you can likely change it once a year.


If your computer was hacked at some point, or you are concerned about your computer being hacked, consider changing your password more frequently.

User accounts associated with a business are often required to have a password change completed every 30 to 90 days for improved security. If your password is due for a change, you are usually prompted to change the password.

Online user account


Online accounts are more often the target of hackers, especially those related to financial institutions, social media, or online stores. To best protect those user accounts, consider changing your password every 60 to 90 days. For improved security, you may want to consider changing your password every 30 days.

For website accounts where limited or no personal information is stored, or are not associated with financial transactions, consider changing your password at least every 6 to 12 months.

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