A PIN is an additional security feature available in Windows 10 and Windows 8.1 to protect your user account and all the sensitive data inside it. When enabled, it can be entered instead of the password. Unlike a password, a PIN does not require the user to press the Enter key to sign in and it can be a short 4 digit number. Once you enter the correct PIN, you will be signed in to your Windows 10 account immediately. If you need to change your PIN complexity requirements, here is how it can be done in Windows 10.
The main difference between a PIN and a password is the device on which they can be used.
- While you can use your password to sign in to your Microsoft account from any device and any network, a PIN can only be used with one device where you created it. Think of it as a password for a local (non-Microsoft) account.
- When you are signing in with a password on a device which is online, it is transmitted to Microsoft's servers for verification. A PIN won't be sent anywhere and truly acts like a local password stored on your PC.
- If your device comes with a TPM module, the PIN will be protected and encrypted additionally thanks to the TPM hardware support. For example, it will protect against PIN brute-force attacks. After too many incorrect guesses, the device will become locked.
However, a PIN does not replace the password. To set up a PIN, it is necessary to have a password set for your user account.
Note: If you need to start the computer in Safe Mode, the PIN does not work.
To configure Minimum and Maximum PIN Length in Windows 10, do the following.
Before proceeding, ensure that your user account has administrative privileges. Now, follow the instructions below.
- Open the Registry Editor app.
- Go to the following Registry key.
See how to go to a Registry key with one click.
Note: If you don't have such a key in the Registry, just create it. In my case, I had to create the PassportForWork key, and then the PINComplexity key.
- On the right, create a new 32-Bit DWORD value "MinimumPINLength". Set it to to the desired value in decimals for minimum PIN length. The value data can be between 4 and 127.
Note: Even if you are running 64-bit Windows you must still create a 32-bit DWORD value.
- If you need to set the maximum PIN length, create a new 32-bit DWORD "MaximumPINLength" and enter a number between 4 and 127 in decimals as its value data.
- Restart Windows 10.
If you are running Windows 10 Pro, Enterprise, or Education edition, you can use the Local Group Policy Editor app to configure the options mentioned above with a GUI.
- Press Win + R keys together on your keyboard and type:
- Group Policy Editor will open. Go to Computer Configuration\Administrative Templates\System\PIN Complexity. Configure the PIN length requirements and you are done.