Q. Hi Kim. I recently got an iPad Mini and a friend of mine told me I should create a stronger passcode than the 4-digit PIN I use now. How do I do that?
-Terri of Minneapolis, MN, listens to my national radio show on KTCN 1130 AM.
A. That's an excellent question, Terri. First, I'm glad you took the time to create a 4-digit passcode to keep out snoops. A lot of users don't even bother. Second, I'm glad you have a good friend looking out for your security!
Users who create 4-digit passcodes such as 0000 and 1234 might as well turn the security feature off. Lazy PINs are easily cracked when gadgets fall into the wrong hands.
Think about it: Your iPad probably stores as much personal information as your home computer, sometimes more. You don't want to leave it exposed.
On the other hand, you don't want to spend 4 minutes tapping out a complex password every time the gadget goes to sleep. iOS allows up to 37 characters for a complex passcode!
So the trick is to make a longer and stronger passcode that will thwart a bad guy - but is also easy for you to remember and enter on a virtual keyboard.
To set up a more complex password on iOS gadgets, tap Settings>>General>>Passcode Lock.
If you've already created a 4-digit PIN, enter it and tap Turn Passcode Off. Enter your PIN again for confirmation. Toggle Simple Password to Off to enable the complex passcode option.
Enter your new code, tap the Next button, and enter your passcode again to confirm. Tap Done and you're - well - done.
Now, what makes a secure passcode?
A lot of iOS users aren't aware that they can create a long numeric PIN. When you're presented with the alphabet keyboard to make the password, switch to the numeric keyboard and enter your code.
Even a 5- or 6-digit PIN is exponentially safer than a 4-digit code - as long as it's not 123456. From then on, the Lock Screen will show you the numeric keypad when it asks for your passcode.
For ultimate safety, I recommend a password that's a combination of letters, numbers and symbols. Aim for at least eight characters.
The trick I use to make a password memorable but unbreakable is to think of a short phrase or a song lyric that has meaning for you. Then, replace some of the letters with symbols and numbers. (The numeric keyboard has variety of common symbols. Tap the symbols key to the left of the Period key for more.)
A "to" in your phrase can become a 2, for example. An "S" can be a dollar sign. I go over this easy method in more detail in this tip.
There are a couple more settings in Passcode Lock that need your attention.
Right above where you turned off Simple Passcode, there's a button that lets you set how quickly the password is required after the gadget goes to sleep. The most secure setting, of course, is Immediately.
There's another option called Erase Data. When turned on, this option erases all your data after 10 failed passcode attempts. If you turn this on, be sure you're backing up your data!
The Find My iPhone app and iCloud also allows you to wipe your data remotely in case your gadget gets lost or stolen.
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iPads and iPhones are great gadgets. Here are a few more tips to get the most out of them.