Password History Requirements

The password you typed does not meet the password policy requirements. Check the minimum password length, password complexity and password history requirements.

There’s a lot of stuff that can go wrong with your computer password. The error message above is just one example...

Ok, so that was the message I had to deal with when I tried to change my windows password back to my previous password. I knew that neither the password length, nor the password complexity were the issue, the policy requirements were bugging me because I simply wanted to re-use the same password I had been using *before* my current password.

Hm, so how do you go about this? Let’s see ...

There is of course the option of using the local security policy manager, but I prefer to use a simple elevated command prompt, because:

  1. In some occasions, when the local security policy manager trick doesn’t seem to work, the elevated command prompt still works
  2. It’s really very easy, so why make things complicated?

To open an elevated command prompt in Windows 7, simply click the Windows Start button and type “cmd” (without the quotes)

A list of resulting programs will come up and at the top, right underneath “programs”, you will see “cmd.exe”

Right-click on “cmd.exe” and select “Run as administrator”

The image below illustrates once more the steps above to open an elevated command prompt:

Password History Requirements

We now have an elevated command prompt open and we can use it to find out how many previously used passwords the system is currently set to remember. In order to do so, type

“net accounts” (without the quotes) and press ENTER.

As a result, you will see a number of password policy settings, such as the minimum and maximum password length, minimum and maximum password age, but also the “length of password history maintained”, which tells you how many previously used passwords the computer will remember in order to prevent you from re-using the same password again.

While there may be many reasons why you might want to enforce this policy (security reasons being among the most obvious), we are now in a hurry and we just want to go ahead and make sure that we can change our password into something that we’ve used before.

So, still in the elevated command prompt, we now type the command to change the system setting so that no password history is retained:

Type: “net accounts /uniquepw:0” (without the quotes) and press ENTER.

This will make sure that the system does not “remember” any of your previously used passwords, so that you can change your password back to one of your old passwords without hassle.

You can quickly check and re-use the command “net accounts” (no quotes) to examine the password policy settings and assess whether the length of password history maintained is now displayed as “none” in the output. (note: you can simply use the up-arrow key to quickly bring back your previously typed commands).

With the “password history maintained” setting now to “none”, you can now go ahead and change your password back into a password that you’ve used before.

Since we are still in the elevated command prompt, we can just as well use the command prompt to change the password.

At the prompt, type:

“net user yourusername yournewpassword” (without the quotes) where of course you replace yourusername with the name of the windows user you want to change the password for and yournewpassword with the new password that you want to use for that account.

If you are not sure about the exact spelling of the username that you are currently logged on with, you can type “username” (without the quotes) in the command prompt, and Windows will show you the username of the account that you are currently logged on with.

To conclude I might add that there might be many reasons why you would want to change your password back into one of your previously used passwords. It should be noted of course that, from a security standpoint, it is best practice to come up with new passwords all the time and that you should not recycle your old passwords. On top of that you should also pick “strong” passwords and avoid using your date of birth, name of spouse, the name of your cat or your car’s license plate number etc, but in reality, there might be circumstances where you just want to re-use an old password.

For instance, there was this one time, when I was on the road, and I needed a file from my computer at home. I was in a hurry, and I made a connection to my home computer via Remote Desktop Connection. Right at the time when I was trying to connect to my home computer, my wife was also doing something on the computer, and as soon as I established the connection via Remote Desktop Connection, she got the “computer locked, press ctrl-alt-delete” screen. My wife didn’t understand what was going on and immediately logged on again, causing my Remote Desktop Connection to disconnect. So I re-established my connection, which in turn gave my wife the “computer locked” screen again. So she logged back on again and this scenario was repeated several times.

As I continuously saw my Remote Desktop Connection sessions fall apart, I understood that someone at home must have been busy trying to do something on the computer. I tried to call home in order to explain that I needed access to the computer for a while, but I immediately got the telephone answering machine.

Don’t you just love technology?

I was in a rush, so I decided to quickly (and temporarily) change the password into something else, so that I could have my five minutes of undisturbed Remote Desktop Connection. My plan was to then change the password back to what it was, so my wife would be able to log on the computer locally and continue the task that she was trying to get done. But then I stumbled across the “The password you typed does not meet the password policy requirements. Check the minimum password length, password complexity and password history requirements.” message.

So I used the technique explained in this article in order to revert the password back to what it was, so that the other family members would be able to log on to the computer with the “normal” password.
In conclusion, it remains to be seen whether re-using old passwords is a good idea, but in the real world there are always circumstances where we might need a little extra flexibility, even when it comes to password security.

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