This is the second and last of my resuscitated informative pieces intended for a Company Intranet and found alone and unloved in a folder on the USB stick that holds all my scribblings. It does, before you ask, get backed up to various places from time to time – I’ve lost things before!
I hope it is of some use to those of you still working and possibly experiencing the issues covered without necessarily understanding why they are happening.
The view from the Service Desk #2 – Let me in!
Yes, another song title! This time you have to be old enough to remember 1974 and The Osmonds.
It should also be apparent that this is about User Accounts and Passwords and it is very important that the “Do’s” and Don’ts” that I am about to tell you are followed.
I am assuming for this purpose that you are having trouble with a networked computer at your place of work – if the problem is with the security of a personal PC that is a whole different thing and there may not be a simple solution!
By “having trouble” I mean that you have come to your desk in the morning, switched on the computer, entered your username and password as normal and either nothing happens or error messages appear! Either way, you cannot get to your nice desktop picture and start your work.
Here are some possible causes and their solutions that you can try for yourself before calling your hard-pressed helpdesk.
- Have you entered your username correctly? I know it sounds like a silly question but different companies have different formats for usernames and it is easy (especially if you have recently changed jobs) to unthinkingly type in a previous name.As an example I have been around quite a few different companies doing IT contract work and have had “AlfieLittle”, “AlfieL”, LittleA, LittleA2 (there had been another Little Alfie in the company a few years earlier) and sometimes a separate variation of some of those with “Admin” after the name. I often had to stop and think which one of those applied!
- Have you put in the correct password? Each of the user accounts I mentioned in the previous paragraph had a different password associated with it and I’m sure you can see that the scope for getting it wrong is huge! The trouble is that fingers, NOT brains, normally type passwords and you may need to concentrate for a while after you get a new one to enable your typing fingers to learn a new “reflex”. Even if you eventually realise and get the right password the damage may have been done in that most companies computer login accounts “lock out” after three incorrect attempts. Where they vary is in what happens next. Some require you to wait a set length of time (from 5 to 30 minutes is normal) while others are completely unforgiving and have to be unlocked manually by either I.T. or some trusted person in your locality who has been given instruction on how to do this. You won’t be the first to do this so there will be someone around who can tell you if such a “local champion” exists.
- If you are sure that you have the correct password for the associated username, are you typing what you think you are? Most of the time your username may be typed in UPPER or lower case letters without it making a scrap of difference but the password is another thing entirely. They are always case sensitive and if you have typed your name with the “caps lock” key switched on but have not turned it off again you may unknowingly be getting the password wrong. As you normally cannot see what you are typing in the password box the best way to check this is to type the password in the username box to see if what is appearing is what you are expecting. I once dealt with a situation where my caller had accidentally (?) changed his settings to the French keyboard and pressing the key with a particular letter printed on it was actually producing a totally different letter.
- Is it possible that your password has expired? Different companies have different password policies and one of the most variable is how long they last. I have experienced password durations of anywhere between 30 and 180 days but theoretically they could be either shorter or longer than that. However, more than 6 months becomes a security risk and less than 1 month means the IT Department needs to make lots of password resets when it should be doing something more useful! Usually (although this is often denied by people calling the Helpdesk) a little pop-up window appears on screen anything up to 2 weeks before the password is due to expire and if clicked on will immediately prompt you on how to change it. Many people leave this until the message says “…will expire in 1 day” which is, in fact too late! That message actually means that you are already in that last day and if you last changed your password at, say 10.00 on a particular day it will expire at 9.59 and 59 seconds at the end of the required number of days. It should still be possible to reset it yourself but regrettably many people don’t read what is actually showing on the screen and yell for Support on the assumption that it is the computer that is not behaving correctly.
- Are you a “temp” or a new employee? The username and password are how you access your computer account – the account itself can have various things set before you ever try to log in to it and one of those is an expiry date independent of any password rule. What sometimes happens with Contractors, Temporary staff or even full-timers with an initial probationary period is that the account is set up with a perfectly reasonable “end date”. Unfortunately then the Human Resources Department or some level of the person’s Line Management forgets to tell I.T. when that date ceases to apply for any reason and the account turns itself off as it was set to. If there is a possibility that this is what has happened it may be worth getting the person who should have done so earlier to contact IT before you do – I.T. almost certainly won’t be allowed to reactivate your account just on your say-so but if the proper authority precedes your call there should be no problem and your old name and password should still apply.
Once you have ruled out all of the above possibilities, taken the suggested steps and still cannot log in there is one more thing to do before you throw this in the lap of the I.T Department – check your network cable!
I worked in a place once where laptop wielding members of staff from other offices would frequently visit and, rather than muck about trying to obtain authority to be given the local Wi-Fi password, they would unplug the network cable from the PC on the desk they had temporarily taken over and make use of that. After checking emails or some such routine task they would then unplug the cable and whizz off to their meeting, leaving the loose cable to drop, unnoticed, down the back of the desk.
Next day, enter you, the regular user of the PC and off you go, logging in as usual. Nothing happens because unlike that of a laptop the login process on a desktop PC needs a connection to the Domain Controller server on the network to validate the details and, unknown to you, it doesn’t now have it! Plug the cable back in, restart the PC then seek out the offender and beat them about the head with an old keyboard!
[Alfie’s real name]
Service Desk Analyst