How to secure and protect your Microsoft Account

Follow these steps to make sure your Microsoft Account is safe and protected.

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Image: nicescene, Getty Images/iStockphoto

There are a variety reasons why you might use a Microsoft Account. You might use a Microsoft Account to sign in to your Windows 10 PCs and devices. You may use a Microsoft Account to access Microsoft Office, Skype, and other Microsoft products and subscriptions. You can use a Microsoft Account to sign into various Microsoft services such as Xbox Live. And you may use a Microsoft Account to establish your payment options with Microsoft. For all those reasons and more, you want to make sure your Microsoft Account credentials don't fall into the wrong hands. How can you best secure and protect your account? Follow these steps.

SEE: Secure your data with two-factor authentication (free PDF) (TechRepublic) 

To get started, browse to your Microsoft Account site and click the Sign In button to log in. Enter your email address and your password. At the home page, click the tab for Security. The first thing you might want to do is change your password if you feel your current one is not strong or secure enough. At the Security page, click the option to Change My Password (Figure A).

Figure A

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Type your current password. Enter and then re-enter a new password. Click Save (Figure B).

Figure B

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Back at the Security page, click the option to Update My Info (Figure C).

Figure C

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At the next page, you can add an alternate email address or a phone number that Microsoft will use to phone or text you if it needs to verify your identity when a change is made to your account. Click the link to Add Security Info. Choose an email address or phone number and type the email address or phone number. With a phone number, choose the contact method—Text or Call. Click Next (Figure D). Enter the verification code sent to you by Microsoft and then click Next.

Figure D

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Next, return to the Security page or click the Security tab at the top. Click the option to View My Activity (Figure E).

Figure E

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You can review all of the recent sign ins with your Microsoft Account. If any sign in looks suspicious, or you believe your account may have been compromised, click the down arrow for that sign in to review the details. If you feel it's necessary, click the link to Secure Your Account, and Microsoft will prompt you to change your password and review your account security (Figure F).

Figure F

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At the Security page, click the Explore link for More Security Options (Figure G).

Figure G

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This page offers several services and options to help secure your account. One effective option is to use the Microsoft Authenticator app or another app for two-step authentication. To do this, click the link to Set Up Identity Verification App (Figure H).

Figure H

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At the next screen for Microsoft Authenticator, click the link to Get It Now. Follow the next screen to get the app for your iOS device, Android device, or Apple Watch. After you set up the app, the next time you sign in to your Microsoft Account, you can use the Authenticator app to confirm a code or approval notification sent to your phone or email address instead of having to enter your password (Figure I).

Figure I

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Finally, return to the page for Additional Security Options. Two of the best bets for securing your account are having a strong password and using two-factor authentication, though you may want to review and consider other options listed on this page, such as two-step verification for specific apps and devices, Windows Hello authentication via your face or fingerprint, and a recovery code in case you ever lose access to your security information.

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