Whenever you respond to a prompt that essentially asks if you want Windows or Internet Explorer to remember your password, the operating system will then store your user credentials in an encrypted file scheme known as the Windows Vault. Having your credentials stored in this vault allows you to be able to automatically log on to a server/site without first being prompted to provide a username and password. For example, the vault can store credentials and then use them to automatically log you into online services such as Hotmail and OneDrive, Microsoft Office services such as Outlook Web Access for Exchange Server, plus Windows servers and Remote Desktop connections.
The GUI front end for this vault is called Credential Manager, and it's designed to allow you to easily view and manage your network-based logon credentials (i.e., usernames and passwords). In this article, I'll introduce you to the Windows 8.1's Credential Manager and explain how it works.
Accessing the Credential Manager
To begin, use the [Windows]+[W] keystroke to access the Search Settings page. Then, type Credential in the text box, and click Credential Manager in the results panel (Figure A).
You can use Search to launch Credential Manager.
In a moment, you'll see the Credential Manager user interface (Figure B). Windows 8.1's Credentials page allows you to manage Web Credentials and Windows Credentials separately. While the visual separation between the two isn't apparent, these credentials are actually on separate pages. Let's take a closer look.
Windows 8.1's Credential Manager contains two separate pages for Web Credentials and Windows Credentials.
The Web Credentials page (Figure C) shows all of the websites for which the Credential Manager stores account information. As you can see, I've blurred out all but two of the entries in my example.
The Web Credentials page.
When you expand an entry, you can see the contents not only include the username and password, but the website address and the name of the application that saved the address. The Roaming item indicates that this is not a local account.
You'll also notice that the password is hidden, and the item includes a Show link (Figure D).
The contents of an entry include all of the credential information.
When you click the Show button, you're prompted to enter your Windows logon password. After you click OK, you'll see your password is longer hidden in the entry (Figure E). You'll also notice that the link now shows Hide. You'll also discover that after you enter your Windows logon password, you'll be able to view all of the passwords for a short time. Then, after the time expires, you'll be prompted to enter your Windows logon password again.
After you enter your Windows logon password, you'll be able to see the passwords in the Web Credential entries.
In the Web Credentials section, you may find duplicate entries. As you look through these duplicate entries, chances are that you'll find that only one of them is the current and others contain old, incorrect, or expired credentials. If so, you should get rid of those entries. To do so, just click the Remove link, and click Yes when you're prompted to confirm the delete operation (Figure F).
You can delete old entries.
The Windows Credentials page (Figure G) shows all the network connections for which the Credential Manager stores account information. As you can see, I've blurred out all but two of the entries in my example.
Windows Credentials are a bit different than Web Credentials.
When you expand an entry (Figure H), you can see the contents not only include the username and password, but also the internet or network address of the system that this entry pertains to. The Persistence entry can be either Local computer or Enterprise and indicates how the connection is made.
Entries contain your username and password.
Windows Credentials won't allow you to see passwords, but you can change/edit them along with the username. To do so, click the Edit button at the bottom of the entry screen. When you do, you'll see the Edit Windows Credential page (Figure I).
Windows Credentials won't allow you to see passwords.
Back up and restore Windows Credentials
When you select Windows Credentials, you'll see links to the Back up Credentials and Restore Credentials operations. In addition to having a backup in case of accidental deletion or corruptions, this feature makes it easy to transfer a user's credentials from one system to another.
When you click the Back up Credentials link, you'll encounter a wizard that walks you through a process (Figure J), which includes pressing [Ctrl]+[Alt]+[Delete] to access a Secure Desktop, where you're prompted to password protect your credential backup file.
During the backup process, you'll enter the Secure Desktop and add a password to the credential backup file.
At a later time, when you perform the Restore process (Figure K), you need to access the Secure Desktop to enter the password before you can restore the credential backup file.
Before you can restore the credential backup file, you'll need to access the Secure Desktop to enter the password.
In most cases, credentials are automatically added to Credential Manager. However, you can manually add credentials by clicking the Add a Windows Credential link. For example, if you click Add a Windows Credential to set up a Remote Desktop Connection, you'll fill in the Add a Windows Credential window (Figure L).
You can manually add credentials by clicking the Add link in any of the categories and filling in the required fields in the dialog box.
What's your take?
Have you investigated the Credential Manager in Windows 8.1? What has been your experience with the tools? Share your opinion in the discussion thread below.
Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.