Enforcing Strong Passwords on a Windows XP System

You hear the message over and over, yet many users still choose to ignore it – configuring a “strong” password is critical to system security. Quite simply, most users will default to a very basic password (which is typically very easy to guess or crack) if you allow them to do so. While XP will allow “weak” passwords by default, it is possible to configure a minimum password length, or force users to use a combination of both alpha and numeric characters in their password with a couple of simple registry tweaks.

To configure a requirement for alphanumeric passwords, open Regedit and browse to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Policies\Network and HKEY_CURRENT_USER\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Policies\
Network key. Create new REG_DWORD values called AlphanumPwds in each and give them a value of 0 (disabled) or 1 (enabled). To configure a minimum password length, create a REG_BINARY value called MinPwdLen and then configure a value for how many characters long a password must be at a minimum. For example, 06 (6 characters) is often considered a reasonable minimum for home users, although a higher number like 08 is usually a better choice. Users may have trouble remembering longer passwords, so keep that in mind.

Author: Dan DiNicolo

Dan DiNicolo is a freelance author, consultant, trainer, and the managing editor of 2000Trainers.com. He is the author of the CCNA Study Guide found on this site, as well as many books including the PC Magazine titles Windows XP Security Solutions and Windows Vista Security Solutions. Click here to contact Dan.