Windows 7 is more than ever integrated with the web and one of the key improvements to this experience is the prominence of Credential Manager also known as your Windows Vault. Its not new, you can currently access a similar feature in Windows Vista and XP today through the User Accounts dialog (Windows key + R > control userpasswords2 > Advanced (tab) > Manage Passwords).
Stored User Names and Passwords in Windows XP today
One of the things I love about Windows Vault in Windows 7 is; its easy to access from within the Control Panel and it features a pleasant interface for management and storage of credentials such as user names and passwords in vaults so you can automatically log on to computers or websites.
Credential Manager interface
The Credential Manager explorer stores a users collection of credentials that are either Windows based, Certificate based or Generic. Credentials are saved in special folders on your computer called vaults. Windows Vault makes it surprisingly easy to backup all the critical credentials in an encrypted file so you can easily restore on another Windows 7 based system. This takes the effort out of having to write down important user names and passwords and re-entering them on a new computer. As you can see in the above screenshot, Credential Manager is well thought out with different user information stored within appropriate categories.
Adding and Editing a Credential
You can find out more about each credential by expanding the chevron which will allow you to Edit or remove it from the Vault. The Backup and Restore experience is what I particularly like about Windows Vault, a simple wizard provides easy way to secure your credentials. Backing up the logon credentials that you have requested Windows to remember. Web browser credentials are not saved. Personally, I believe a checkbox should have been added here as an option. The next step in backing up requires invoking the CTRL+ALT-DELETE keyboard command. What does this is creates a sand boxed session preventing, malicious programs or keyboard loggers from stealing your information during the backup process.
Backing up my Usernames and Passwords
You will be asked to protect your Vault with a password that you must confirm. If you decide to restore your vault, its just as simple. Simply click the ‘Restore vault’ link in the Credential Manager explorer. Browse to where you stored the .crd file. Please note, I stored my vault on a partition, do not follow this procedure. You want to keep your vault data secure just in case something catastrophic were to happen to your PC. So always store on an external hard disk or thumb drive. After you have located your .crd file, select it and click open, click ‘Next’, you will be asked to invoke the CTRL+ALT-DELETE keyboard command, enter your password and that’s it.
Credential Manager in Windows 7 is a great example of some of the small improvements that the Windows Team has included to make experiences such as this a powerful one. Windows Vault makes it exceptionally to move personal data from computer to computer. If you are running the Windows 7 RC and have not checked out this small gem, here is your chance.
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