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Recovering Lost Accounts: How to Recover Any Password

written by: Zachary P.•edited by: Bill Fulks•updated: 8/31/2010

How to reset your email password varies from one service to another, but many follow the same structure. Learn how to recognize the steps for any service, which services offer fewer (or extra) recovery options, and how to recover passwords for non-webmail email.

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    What to Do When You Lose Your Password

    There are many different email password services, some with different recovery techniques. Instructions on how to reset email passwords can vary depending on what email service you use, but many follow the same general format.

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    Webmail Services, Step by Step

    Today, many people use popular free services like Yahoo mail or Gmail to handle their email needs. Most of these services follow the same basic password recovery process.

    For most services, such as Gmail, Yahoo, or Hotmail, you will generally need to do the following:

    • Find the lost password link. Usually this will either be called some variation on “Forgot your password?” or “I can’t access my account.”
    • After this, you will (usually) be asked for the secondary email address that your account was linked to.
    • If you can not remember this address or if you’ve lost the password for it as well, most services will ask your security question. This is info you gave to the service when you first made your account, and usually answering it is enough to allow you to reset your password.
    • Note, however, that not all email services will work this way. For example, when signing up for a Hotmail account, you can either give an alternate email or a security question. It will not allow you to do both. Also note that some services offer additional options; for example Gmail lets you recover your password via SMS (text messaging), provided that you registered your phone number prior to losing your password.
    • If none of these options work, it is sometimes possible to recover your password by contacting the company directly.

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    Non-Webmail Services

    Some people do not use webmail, instead using an email client. While it is possible to use an email client in conjunction with a service like Gmail, many people who use clients tend to use email addresses provided by their Internet service provider (ISP). If you’ve lost a password for this account, you generally have two options.

    Resetting via the first option is very similar to resetting a webmail password. Simply go to your ISP’s website, and find the option for a forgotten or lost password. Follow the steps the site asks you to take, and you should be able to reset your password easily. If you do not know your ISP’s website address, try searching for their name with a search engine such as Google.

    The second option is slower, but it should always work. Simply call your ISP’s customer service department and explain the situation. Since you are a paying customer, they should have no trouble verifying your identity and resetting your password. Expect to be asked questions such as your name, address, phone number, and so on. Again, if you do not know your ISP’s phone number, try looking on their website or your most recent bill.

    Regardless of the service you use, knowing how to reset an email password is a useful skill and certain to make you popular with the less technically savvy members of your family.