How to create a picture password in Windows 8Tired of typing in a lengthy password each time you log into your Windows PC? The latest version of Windows boasts a clever innovation that makes logging into your system a little less tedious: the picture password.

The concept is simple: just pick an image or snapshot, then draw three gestures on the photo using either your finger (if you’re using a touchscreen PC or tablet) or your mouse.

In my case, I chose an old photo of a doll’s head set sitting on a wooden table (um, where did that come from?), then I picked my three gestures: a swipe along the doll’s jaw, a circle around his ear, and and line connecting two specks of paint in the top-left corner of the frame. (Needless to say, I’ve since changed my picture password.)

Once you’re done “recording” your gestures (circles, straight lines, and dots work best), you can lock your Windows 8 system with your new picture password—and the next time you log in to Windows, you can do so simply by retracing your gestures.

Of course, the trick is to come up with gestures that are a) easy to repeat but b) not so easy that any random passerby can crack your picture password.

What happens if someone does try to guess your picture password? Well, they’ll have to get it right pretty quickly.

After four or five failed attempts, you’ll be bounced to the standard login screen, and you won’t be able to try the picture password again until you logged in successfully with your usual Windows password.

Windows 8 picture password second try

Can’t duplicate your gestures? You may have to try something a little more simple—but not too simple, of course.

So, how do you set up a picture password in Windows 8? Easy:

  • Mouse to the top- or bottom-right corner of the screen (or, if you have a touchscreen Windows 8 PC or tablet, swipe in from the right side of the display), then click the gear-shaped Settings icon ( or “charm,” as Microsoft calls it).
  • Click or tap the “Change PC setting” link in the bottom corner of the screen, then select Users in the left column.
  • Under the “Sign-in options” section, click the “Create a picture password” button, then enter your Windows user password when the prompt appears.
  • Next, click the “Choose picture” button and pick a picture on your hard drive. Want to choose a photo from your Microsoft SkyDrive, or from the Bing search engine? Click Files in the top-left corner of the screen, then choose a new source (such as “Bing” or “SkyDrive”).
  • Got a picture ready? Click and drag the photo to position it the way you want, then click the “Use this picture” button.
  • Now it’s time to draw your three gestures on the photo. For the best results, stick with straight lines, dots, and circles. You’ll have to draw your gestures twice, and you may have to try, try again, to repeat your gestures to Windows’ satisfaction. Can’t get it right? Then click the “Start over” button and try some gestures that are a little easier.
  • Got it? Then click the Finish button.

Bonus tip

Don’t want to bother with a picture password? You can also create a four-digit PIN for signing into a Windows 8 system.

Windows 8 sign-in options

You can set up a picture password and a PIN at the same time, then choose one or the other on the Windows login screen.

Just go to the “PC settings” page, then click or tap the “Create a PIN” button.

Oh, and one more thing: you can both a picture password and a PIN active at the same time.

You can then choose which method to use for logging into your Windows account by clicking the “Sign-in options” link at the main password page, then clicking one of the three icons: the first for a picture password, the second for a PIN, and the third for a full, standard Windows password.

Looking for more Windows 8 tips? Click here!