How to recover a forgotten Gmail password

As one of its oldest services, Gmail remains the cornerstone of Google’s online presence. So when you forget your Gmail password, and I don’t want to exaggerate things here, it means that you are an internet ghost stalking the corridors of your former life.

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Well, it’s not that bad. But you will need to change your password and access your account as soon as possible.

Gmail standard recovery procedure

Just do these steps

  • Head to the Gmail login page and click on the link “Forgot your password”.
  • Enter the last password that you remember. If you don’t remember one of them, tap “Try a different question”.
  • Enter the secondary email address you used when setting up your Gmail account to get a password reset email.

Gmail has several different ways to confirm your identity and recover (or reset) your password. Fortunately, they are all built into a cute little wizard that Gmail will walk you through step by step.

Getting started with the password recovery process is very easy: just click the “Forgot your password” link on the Gmail login page. You will then see a message asking you to enter the last password that you can remember. If you can remember a correct password and have a backup system set up, you will then be prompted to proceed in several ways. If you don’t remember any of them, tap Try a different question.

Update, 11/8/21: Google no longer requires you to enter any passwords you remember. Instead, Gmail will go directly to send a code to your recovery email address or ask you for more information to help restore your account.

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The next option will send a code to a recovery email, which instead assumes you have a secondary recovery email (which you set up again when you created your Gmail account in the first place). Using this option will send a six-digit code to your secondary email account (which doesn’t have to be Gmail) that will allow you to set up a new password and regain access to your account.

Check your mail on that secondary account to see the code, then enter it to unlock a new password generator. Newer accounts may also have a phone number backup option see below.

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If that doesn’t work — for example, you don’t have access to the account you originally set as backup as well — tap Try a different question again. We are now getting into older and less secure ways to protect the account, such as security questions like “What is your mother’s maiden name?. You should be able to answer at least one of these.

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At this point, create a new password and confirm it. Now you have access to your account again. Here’s a primer on how to choose a new password that is secure and easy to remember.

Secure your account

After you set up a new password, Google will prompt you to check the security settings associated with your Gmail account (and your larger Google account in general). We highly recommend adding an existing backup phone number and email, if you don’t already have one associated with your account. They will allow easy redemption with their 6-digit PIN delivered via email or text message.

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Although Gmail previously supported security questions, it no longer allows you to add any new questions, only delete access to old questions. This is a procedure that was put in place because security questions kind of suck at providing actual security. Your old device will still work as long as you don’t manually remove it from this page.

Once you’re properly logged into your Gmail account, head over to your Google Account Settings page by clicking your profile picture (it’s only the first letter of your first name if you haven’t set one) in the top-right corner, then “Arithmetic.”

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On this page, click on “Sign in to Google. Here you can check your recovery email and phone number again, see which devices were recently accessed to your account and from which sites. If anything seems off with the latter, someone might be trying to access your account for nefarious purposes.

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There are other options on the login page that you may want to explore. It is highly recommended to set up two-factor authentication, and if you are using that Gmail account on your smartphone, you can get an authentication prompt there instead of manually typing a password on the web.

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