Using a notebook to manage passwords

You're considering writing down passwords in a paper notebook.

This used to be a reasonable way to manage passwords. Before we had computers.

Here is why using a notebook to manage passwords is not a good idea.

Can you have unlimited number of passwords?

Orange notebookNot a good password management tool

You are not likely to run out of pages to write new passwords on. Even a smaller notebook should be big enough to hold all your passwords for many years.

You may run into problems when updating passwords. From time to time you have to create a new password to replace the old one. Some websites force you to update passwords on a regular basis.

You could cross out the current password and write a new password next to it. If you leave a little extra room around each record (website, username, password) you will have enough space for updates later on.

Are passwords always at your fingertips?

Since all passwords are in one notebook, as long as you have the notebook you will have the passwords. Carrying it around along with your laptop may not be convenient, but it is possible.

Are passwords stored in a reliable way?

Wrinkled piece of paper on top of a notebookWrinkled passwords are hard to read

You have to be gentle and take good care of your paper notebook if you want it to last. Keeping it safe and protecting it from external damage is a priority.

Paper is not very durable. It can get wrinkled or wet, and over time it can wear out and become less readable and writable.

Are passwords easy to find?

While all passwords are in one notebook, you still have to search for the right one by flipping the pages back and forth. You could index them in alphabetical order by website name to make it a little more manageable.

Still, it is annoying to look for the correct password every time you need to use it.

Are passwords easy to use?

You have to read the passwords from the notebook and type them manually on your computer. It is easy to make a mistake and mistype a letter or two.

You may also need to hold the notebook open on the page on which the password is written. This can be awkward, especially if you usually type with two hands and now have to use one just to hold the notebook open.

Are passwords backed up?

A stack of notebooksBacking up paper notebooks is time consuming

There is no automated way to back up passwords stored in a notebook.

You need to maintain another notebook, and keep both of them up to date manually. Every time you make a change in one, you have to update the other.

This means that both the primary and backup notebook have to be close to each other.

Your backup should be far away from the primary. Otherwise if there is a local accident, you will lose both the primary and backup copy of your data. In this case you will lose both notebooks and with them all your passwords.

Is this password management technique secure?

This is not a secure way to manage passwords. Passwords are not encrypted (scrambled so only you can read them) and anyone who gets a hold of your notebook, even for a moment, can steal your passwords.

You could lock it in a safe, which would make it more secure. But that is inconvenient. Are you really going to, every time you need a password, get up, open the safe, find the password, type it into a computer and lock the notebook in the safe again?

And what if you have to go somewhere? Are you going to take the safe with you?

The takeaway

Don't use a notebook to manage passwords. Use a password manager instead.