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Issue #668: May 10-16, 2020

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Q: I’ve followed your column for several years while living in Okaloosa County, and still follow it from time-to-time now that I live in Leon County. Thank you for your research and perspectives!

I have joined my staff in working from home and began addressing email and scheduling through RDP. It did not work well as our IT firm created virtual instances for each remote login that resulted in horrendously slow performance.

In looking for a better solution, I created a second Outlook profile for my email and calendar on my home computer (used the CTRL key while clicking on Outlook, then created second profile). In doing so, I inadvertently selected “use organizational controls” when I created the second account. As a result, I am now required to change the PIN on my personal computer every 45 days, and now must use a six-digit PIN instead of my previous four-digits.

I would like to revert back to a four-digit PIN with no requirement to change. I am using Windows 10 Home and therefore cannot make group policy changes.  Is there any way to undo a problem that was a result of unchecking a single dialog box in MS Outlook?

– Rick O.
Tallahassee, Florida

A: Thanks for being a loyal long-time reader, Rick.  As I often remind my readers, no matter where you live, the column is always available at (not .com!).  If you’d rather read it in print, feel free to bug the staff of your local newspaper and ask them to contact me to be put on the column’s distribution list.  It won’t cost them a dime for all this great content.

I don’t often get to answer questions where the asker already seems to know the answer.  You put your finger right on it when you mentioned group policy changes.  Before I help you do an end-run around the built-in shortcomings of Windows 10 Home Edition (Thanks, Bill!) I sense a teachable moment for the rest of my readers.

A Group Policy is a method of implementing centralized configuration and control in Windows.  It’s really intended for computers that are administered by IT professionals, like those in a typical business environment.  A tool called the Group Policy Editor categorizes policies and lets the administrator easily make changes across an entire organization.  The wizards at Microsoft probably figured that home users would have no use for such functions, and decided not to package the editor with the Home Edition.  Silly wizards.

So, Rick, the problem becomes either how to force Group Policy Editor to run on your PC, or find another way to make the equivalent changes that the editor would make if you could run it.  You can actually do both.  For many Group Policies, the value is simply stored in the Windows Registry.  Happily for you, the PIN complexity is one of those.

All of my usual warnings of doom and destruction due to careless use of the Registry Editor apply here.  If anybody needs me to explain why, write in, and I’ll devote a future column to it.  Also, look before you leap, and skip any of the following steps if the key already exists in your system’s registry.  So, start Registry Editor by hitting [WinKey+R] and typing “Regedit” in the “Run…” box.  Click “Yes” on the User Account Control prompt, and/or provide Administrator credentials.  In the left-hand navigation tree, find HKLM \SOFTWARE \Policies \Microsoft\.  Look for a subkey named “PassportForWork”.    If it doesn’t exist, right-click on Microsoft in the navigation tree, and select “New->Key”.  Name it “PassportForWork” noting the camel case capitalization.  Now right-click on the newly created key and again select “New->Key.” This time name it “PINComplexity”.  Highlight the new key and right-click in the blank space in the right-hand pane.  Choose “New->DWORD (32-bit) Value.” Name the new value “MaximumPINLength”.  Also create one named “MinimumPINLength”.  These two entries can contain any value from 4 to 127.  To deal with constantly having to change your PIN, create a value named “Expiration”.  This value is in days, and it can be set to anything between 1 and 730.  All these values do exactly what their name implies, so don’t get cute or careless and try to make minimum greater than maximum, or you might find yourself locked out.  Close Regedit and reboot to implement the changes.

If you’d rather do all that through the Policy Editor, you actually can get it running even if all you have is the lowly Home Edition of Windows 10.  As you might expect, this is a significant configuration change, so the actions require an account with Administrator privilege.  The steps are also substantially more complex than I can fit into this little column, so here’s a link to a web page that explains it step-by-step:  Good luck!

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