In a previous guide I talked about the fact that your Microsoft account is not exactly safe, just like your Google account or your Apple ID are not. There are many people who will want to access your personal data and use it to their advantage. To keep yourself safe from harm, the best solution is to enable two-step verification so that there's another protection layer on top of your password. Here's how it is done.
NOTE: In order to enable two-step verification for your Microsoft account, you need to have a smartphone with Windows Phone, Android, iOS or Blackberry and a special Authenticator app installed on it. If you don't own a smartphone with one of these platforms, then it is best that you do not enable two-step verification.
How to Access Your Microsoft Account Security Information
Log in with your Microsoft account details, at https://login.live.com. Then, click or tap Security info.
Here you will see a long list of security information and settings.
How to Enable Two-Step Verification for Your Microsoft Account
To enable two-step verification, go to the section with the same name and click or tap "Set up two-step verification".
The "Set up two-step verification" wizard is now started. Please read the information displayed about the steps you are about to perform.
As you will learn from the instructions displayed, you will need to set up an authenticator app on your smartphone:
- On Android, you can use the Google Authenticator.
- On iOS you can use the Google Authenticator.
- On Windows Phone you can use Microsoft's Authenticator.
How come you can use the Google Authenticator app for two-step verification on Microsoft's services? Because there's a standard for this type of security apps and both Google and Microsoft use this standard. Therefore, it doesn't matter who developed the Authenticator app. Once you install the app on your smartphone, click Next. Use the Authenticator app on your smartphone to scan the bar code shown. This instructs the app to create an entry for your Microsoft account, store it on your smartphone and generate the login codes you will need after two-step verification is enabled. To confirm everything's fine, type the code generated by the Authenticator app and click or tap Pair.
To help you out, here's a screenshot of what a code will look like after you scan the bar code, in Windows Phone. On Android and iOS you will see similar information being displayed.
If everything went well, you are informed that, if you use a Windows Phone device, you need to replace the Microsoft account password on your phone with an app password. Then, you are given instructions on how to do this.
If you have a Windows Phone device, follow the instructions and then click or tap Next. If you don't have a Windows Phone click or tap Next. Now you are informed that other apps and devices will need an app password too. Your Xbox, Outlook desktop application, Office and the applications from the Windows Essentials package will need an app password too.
When done reading, click or tap Finish. Two-step verification is now enabled for your Microsoft account and all the Microsoft services and devices where you are using this account.
Where to Generate App Passwords
After you press Finish, you are taken to the Security info section where you enabled two-step verification. Here you see a new set of sections and configuration options. One of them is named App passwords and you will use it to generate app passwords for Microsoft applications, services and devices.
We will cover the generation of app passwords in a separate tutorial.
I hope you found this guide useful. If you have any issues about using and securing your Microsoft account, don't hesitate to use the comments form below. Also, if you tried to set up two-step verification without having a smartphone and an Authenticator app, let us know if it worked and how.