Users often store ID and password information in their Web browsers and applications so they don’t have to constantly retype the information when they log in. This can be helpful to them, but annoying to a support tech—especially when walking into a situation where you need the password, but the user has forgotten it. How do you find out what that password is underneath the row of asterisks? That’s where Asterisk Key comes in handy.

What’s Asterisk Key?
Asterisk Key is a freeware utility from specializes in selling password recovery software to help you recover passwords from many different applications. Its main offering, Passware, combines password recovery utilities for over 25 applications, including:

  • Windows (all versions)
  • Microsoft Office, including Word, Excel, Outlook, and Access
  • Lotus Notes
  • Peachtree
  • WordPerfect
  • Quicken
  • QuickBooks

While most of the password recovery kits cost money, offers Asterisk Key as freeware. You can use it to uncover the hidden passwords under the asterisks of most login dialog boxes. This can come in handy when you’re taking over support from another support tech who doesn’t know the passwords, or when users have grown so accustomed to blindly logging on that they’ve forgotten the password.

Obtaining and installing Asterisk Key
You can get Asterisk Key directly from the Asterisk Key Web site. The file you’ll download, ariskkey.exe, is small—only 285 KB—so it will download quickly. Installing the program is easy too. Just run the file and follow the onscreen prompts. The only potential gotcha you’ll find is at the end of the installation, when the program asks if you want to subscribe to a password recovery newsletter.

Running Asterisk Key
If you didn’t tell the Setup program to run Asterisk Key at the end of the installation, you start the program by clicking Start | Programs | Passware | Asterisk Key. After Asterisk Key starts, switch to the program that has the stored password.

When the login screen appears, switch back to Asterisk Key and click Recover. As you can see in Figure A, Asterisk Key displays the password in its own window. It doesn’t uncover the password on the login screen itself.

Figure A
Asterisk Key reveals hidden passwords.