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Issue #689: October 4-10, 2020

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Q: I have a Dell Inspiron 3250 running Windows 10 Home. Per your weekly column, I created three user accounts, Administrator (local account), myself (local account) and my wife’s (outlook). When I first set my account up I was able to log in with a PIN but it no longer allows me to do that and requires a password only. I tried to re-enable the PIN logon through Control Panel>User Accounts>Sign in Options, but it doesn’t allow the option to change it even after providing the administrator password. My wife’s account allows the PIN and the Administrator account allows it, but I don’t use it on that account. Why is my account the only one that won’t let me log in with a PIN?

 – Anthony M.
Niceville, Florida

A:  I really can’t even begin to speculate on the “why” about which you inquired.  There is just no way of knowing the answer to that question.  Besides, I think it’s far more productive for us to focus on how to re-enable the PIN function in your account.  It’s possible that you might even learn the “why” along the way.

Before we begin, I want to first applaud you for trying to set things up in a way that’s secure, but still allows you a path to get in to perform maintenance.  Making changes on a computer should never be as easy as a simple double-click or calling up a configuration dialog, whether it’s installing new software, changing system configuration items, or updating drivers.  Changing the configuration of your computer should be a purposeful act, approached with caution and never done in haste.  That’s one reason I encourage you to maintain and use a separate Administrator account, and that this account be the only one with elevated privileges. 

With that in mind, the first thing I suggest you do is to log into the computer as the Administrator when you attempt to perform this fix, rather than simply enter the Administrator credentials in the User Account Control (UAC) dialog that appears when you make the attempt.  Don’t be surprised if you do this and still get the UAC dialog.  Accounts with Administrator privileges really only have the potential for elevated privileges to be switched on, and this requires a user response to a UAC dialog.  This was a choice Microsoft made after studies showed that far too many people had their accounts set up to run with elevated privileges at all times.  This made things very convenient for them, but also set the stage for anything that slipped past the system’s anti-malware software to automatically run with full privileges, often with zero notification to the operator.  Since Microsoft was taking the blame for “allowing” this to happen, despite their many warnings, they made this change to force security on people whether they wanted it or not.

Back to your issue, Anthony.  There is no real reason I can think of why one account should fail to work using the PIN function while others on the same computer work properly.  Solving the problem might be as simple as removing the PIN for that account and re-establishing it.  Again, for the greatest chance of success, do this while logged in as the Administrator. 

Windows being the complicated beast that it is, there are quite a few things that could be causing the issue.  Therefore, it seems only logical that there are many different things to try to attempt to break the logjam that’s blocking your PIN from working.  I found you a page online that has a number of things to try.  Visit TinyURL.com/IGTM-0689 to get started.  A little hint about the first one: the NGC folder is buried deep below the Windows folder.  It’s tough to find, so you might just want to run a Google search and ask, “Where is the NGC folder”.  A word of warning: deleting its contents will remove all PINs on your computer, so proceed at your own risk.  As always, I wish you luck!

 

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