A password generator is exactly what it sounds like: it's a program or website that comes up with random passwords that you can use for your online accounts. Some password generators will allow you to create passwords that, although random, will follow certain rules, such as:
Being a certain length
Having to include certain types of characters (i.e. letters/numbers/symbols)
Having to include a certain amount of a specific type of character
Having to include upper-case or lower-case letters only, or both (or neither)
You can use these options to create a password that strikes a balance between being strong and being easy to remember.
Generally, how safe a password generator is depends on how good its rules for coming up with passwords are, which may also depend on the settings that you choose. Since the passwords are generated at random, that's a good start.
However, your passwords may not be very secure if the password generator you use:
Doesn't make your passwords long enough
Doesn't use multiple types of characters (letter/number/symbol)
Doesn't use both upper-case and lower-case letters
Generates a password that has some recognizable pattern to it
Some password generators will have a feature that shows you the relative strength of each password that they generate. Still, it would be a good idea to remember the rules for strong passwords from our How to Make a Strong Password tutorial (here), and make sure that the passwords you get from a password generator follow most or all of them.
Also, be aware that while most password generators are safe (like the ones that we list in this article), some are fake and will actually store the passwords that they generate, letting their authors easily break into the accounts that you use these passwords for (if you decide to use them). Therefore, be sure to check for some sort of disclaimer that the password generator you're using will not record any password you create or send it somewhere over the Internet.
As an example of how a password generator works, we'll turn back to LastPass, the program that we used to demonstrate how password managers work. Like many password managers, LastPass has a secure password generator built right in.
First, we'll open up the function by clicking the LastPass icon in our web browser toolbar, then clicking Generate Secure Password.
LastPass will come up with a random password for us, but let's tweak our options a bit. Click Show Advanced Options.
Now, we can fiddle with the rules that LastPass uses to create our password. For example, let's reduce the password size to 10 (so it's a bit easier to remember), but let's allow it to include special characters, force it to include all types of characters that we allow, and force it to contain at least three numbers. Then, we'll click Generate.
Voila! LastPass has given us a new password that follows the rules that we specified. The green bar shows you how strong LastPass thinks this password is. If you'll notice, this password is even stronger than the first one LastPass gave us!
Now, you can click Copy to make a virtual copy of the password, which you can then Paste into a website's password fields when you're creating a new account.
As we mentioned, many password managers (see our What is a Password Manager article for more information about them) have password generators built right in. However, there are other websites that can generate secure passwords, such as:
Note that all of these are all trusted password generators that have been tested and approved by technology journalists and other experts (and not just us). Therefore, we highly recommend using one of them, or a password generator that comes with one of the password manager programs listed in our Best Password Managers article.
Remember not to just use any password generator that you find on the Internet, as some of them might actually be phishing scams that store the passwords that they generate for you. Then, the author can easily hack into an account that you use one of their passwords for.
Well, that's a brief overview of what password generators are and how to use them. Whether you want their help in creating your passwords or decide to build your passwords from scratch is up to you!
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