Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Identity crisis

Forgetting the password to an old Blogger blog (really, to its Google account) is not necessarily a big deal. Google's account-recovery tool can email you a reset.

Things get sticky, though, if you no longer have access to the email address associated with the account.

Not all is lost, however. Here is how I regained access to an old account of mine.

Blogger has been in business since 1999 (bought by Google in 2003). That's time enough for plenty of people to start and lose track of a blog.

If you set up a blog without a gmail account you can use any email address as your user name and contact. (Yes you can still do this, but it's harder today.)

Forgot your password? Mnemosyne, goddess of memory, by Rosetti. (Public-domain image.)
That's what I did when I started blogging in 2008. I did not even realize I'd set up a Google account or what that meant. I just knew I was blogging.

In 2010 I transferred the blog to another account with a gmail address. In 2011 my old email provider gave up the ghost. And in 2012 I tried to log into that old account for the first time in two and a half years.

I'd forgotten my password. The email account was gone and Google could not send me a reset.

I was locked out.

This was not such a problem for me. The old account had all the photos I'd uploaded to my blog in 2008 and 2009 but it would serve those older photos to my blog forever.

For many people, however, a lock out is serious. The Blogger Help Forum is full of people who want to resume or delete old blogs with forgotten passwords and dead email accounts.

If you are in this position, there may be help in the form of Google's account recovery page. This page deals with multiple problems and offers multiple paths to recovery besides an emailed reset.

It's enough to require a guide: fortunately, Brett Carver has written an excellent one.

I'm not going to try to improve on that except to say two things. First, read the guide carefully before you start, so you know what sort of information you will be expected to provide.

Second, I recovered my account in a way not included in Brett's guide, though his was still helpful to me.

Had I linked my account to a cell phone, or established "challenge" questions ("Who was your favorite teacher" sort of thing), Google would have let me reset the password without email.

Since I'd done none of these things, I needed to follow the path of "identity reset." Essentially this means providing details about my old account that only I would be expected to know, sufficient to prove my ownership of the account.

To improve my chances, I gathered all the information about my old account that I could. I was going to need to prove, for example, that I knew when I created the account and when I last accessed it.

I did not want to have to guess about these details, lest Google decide I was just fishing.

Fortunately I am an email pack rat and archive rather than delete such things as my "welcome to blogger" email from July of 2008. My gmail archive included the emails generated by blogger when I transferred the blog in February of 2010.

There was more information, and I wrote everything down.

I started the gmail account in late 2009. It had a password similar to that of my old account. I did not appear to have used the old account after February of 2010. The

Wait. "It had a password similar to that of my old account."

I'd completely forgotten that. This narrowed things down tremendously. Within minutes I was logged back in to my old account without using account recovery at all.

That's my alternative path to account recovery—research-driven recollection. I still give full credit to Brett, since following his guide gave me the clues I needed.

If you are stuck as I was, light a candle to Mnemosyne and try gathering all the pieces. You may need every scrap of information to use the recovery tool.

In the process you may uncover something that moves your missing password to your memory from your forgettery.


  1. Good post. I am in the same position and would try this out. Thank you.

  2. Thanks. This seems very helpful. I will attempt the process today. If I am unsuccessful, is there any way to actually get in touch with someone in authority at Google??

    1. Unless you are a paying customer, Google only provides support indirectly through its help forums.

      When it comes to account-identity issues, Google relies heavily on the user name and password to identify the account owner. There are few exceptions, for instance from next of kin after death.

      Otherwise there would be a lot of identity theft by spammers.

  3. Thank you so much... by thinking more about my blog and the timeframe I was using it, it triggered more thoughts and I did figure out my password without using the reset tool, which I see now that I am in the account again, it was never going to work anyway!! I never set it up to use that kind verification. I found a booklet that I used to write down passwords in and a variation of the password I thought I used was in there for something else, and tada!! I used that and I was back in!!

    1. That is exactly the sort of “Eureka” experiences that people sometimes have, if they are dogged enough. We ma think we leave no traces of our online histories behind but its usually not so. One fellow found his forgotten password--in the memory of a browser on his wife’s computer!

      Success is not guaranteed, but it’s surprising what you can remember, sometimes, if you try.

  4. Now let's see if I can find my old blog...

  5. This is good for you but I dont remember all my things and didnt access my gmail. So I want to manage my old blog but dont remember passwords and my old phone number