What Is Windows Credential Manager and How to Use It

Windows Credentials Manager Featured

Windows Credential Manager is a lesser-known feature of Windows. This is a built-in app that securely stores your user names and passwords, as well as other login details, all in one place. This guide explores how to access Windows Credential Manager and make the best use of it.

Good to know: is Windows Security not opening for you? Try these fixes.

What Is the Windows Credential Manager?

Credential Manager is a native Windows utility that saves authentication data used to access applications, websites, and network resources on your Windows PC. The app eliminates the need to manually enter login credentials every time you access a password-protected service by automatically filling in the login details for you.

The data stored by the Windows Credential Manager isn’t just credentials for accessing Windows-specific services, such as your Microsoft account or Outlook inbox. It also includes credentials for third-party programs and websites you access in your browser, such as user name and password combinations for Web-based email accounts, social media accounts, and online banking details.

How to Access and Use the Windows Credential Manager

There are various ways to access the Windows Credential Manager:

  1. Press the Windows key and type “Credential Manager” in the search bar at the top.
Typing "Credential Manager" in Windows Search.
  1. Click “Open” to open the “Best match.”
  2. Alternatively, use the Task Manager. Press Ctrl + Shift + Esc on your keyboard to open Task Manager.
  3. Click on “File” at the top and select “Run new task.”
Selecting "Run new task" in Task Manager.
  1. In the “Create new task” dialog box that pops up, type in control /name Microsoft.CredentialManager, then click “OK.”
Typing command in "Create new task" window.

FYI: learn how to back up and transfer Wi-Fi passwords from one Windows PC to another by checking out this tutorial.

1. Adding New Credentials

There are two categories of credentials in Credential Manager:

  • Web Credentials – this is where you’ll find any saved login credentials from websites you connect to through Microsoft products, including Internet Explorer and Edge.
  • Windows Credentials – holds login credentials for network resources and remote servers, such as network shares, remote desktop connections, and Windows Remote Management (WinRM). Windows Credentials are used only by Windows and its services to store login information.

It’s possible to manually add Windows Credentials to Credential Manager but not Web Credentials. There are three different types to choose from.

  1. Click on “Add a Windows credential.”
Adding "Windows credential" to Credential Manager.
  1. Add the Internet or network address, along with the user name and password. Press “OK” to save.
Typing user name and password for new Windows Credential.
  1. Alternatively, select “Add a generic credential.” These are used by some of the apps you install in Windows so that they can get authorization to use certain resources.
Clicking the "Add a generic credential" option in Credential Manager.
  1. Provide your details. This could be your typical user name/password pair plus a URL or IP address. Click “OK” to save.
Adding a new Generic credential in Credential Manager.
  1. Select “Add a certificate-based credential,” which is a bit more complex.
Adding a "Certificate-based credential" in Credential Manager.
  1. To add a certificate-based credential, install a certificate on your PC, then add it to the app by clicking on “Select certificate.” Certificate-based credentials provide an additional layer of security when transferring sensitive data by ensuring that communication is encrypted and the service being accessed is verified for legitimacy.
Certificate selection window in Credential Manager.

Tip: what is email encryption, and how does it work? We explain the term in our dedicated post.

2. Editing Existing Credentials

Editing your existing credentials is just as easy. Click on the credential you want to modify, click the “Edit” option, make the necessary changes, then click “OK.”

Editing credentials using the Windows Credential Manager.

3. Removing Unwanted Credentials

If you no longer want to keep your sensitive credentials stored in Credential Manager, you can discard them entirely. Select the credential you want to delete, select the “Remove” option, and confirm your selection by clicking “Yes.”

Removing credential from Windows Credential Manager.

Tip: backing up your data as a USB image can be a practical alternative for securing valuable information.

How to Back Up Your Credential Data

Backing up your credentials is always a good idea, especially if you use multiple devices or face a substantial risk of data loss. The good news is that you can round up the entire backup process in a snap.

  1. Click on the “Back up Credentials” option in the Credential Manager window.
Opting for "Back up Credentials" option in Windows Credential Manager.
  1. Select a directory on your drive to save the backup file by clicking the “Browse” button.
Browsing for location where to back up stored logon credentials via Credential  Manager.
  1. Press CTRL + ALT + Delete to proceed.
Backing up credentials on Secure Desktop.
  1. Enter and confirm the password to protect the backup file.
  2. Click “Next” to complete the backup.

Tip: need to view your saved Wi-Fi passwords in Windows? This guide can show you how.

Frequently Asked Questions

How safe is the Windows Credential Manager?

It’s relatively safe, as it uses industry-standard encryption techniques to protect the credentials. However, there are still widespread concerns about its safety, mostly because hackers have demonstrated the possibility of using an elevated process to access the stored data value in plain text. For this reason, some users may want to resort to third-party password managers.

How do I restore my backed-up credentials from another computer?

Restoring the credentials data you backed up on another computer is easy. Transfer the credential files from the backup location to the new computer, then import them into the Windows Credential Manager by clicking the “Restore Credentials” option next to “Back Up Credentials” in the Windows Credential Manager app on the new computer.

Image credit: Unsplash. All screenshots by Maxwell Timothy.

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