Can’t Hack This! – Why I Keep a Password and Product Key Journal.

Photo by Ryutaro Tsukata on

A few months ago, one of my computers crashed. I wasn’t overly concerned as I store my critical files on an external drive. Unfortunately, I learned that one of my essential applications didn’t survive the crash — SAP Crystal Reports 2016.

I bought a license and thought I could download the files again through my account. Of course, I couldn’t be that lucky. My account correctly shows my purchase history; however, after clicking the link, an unexpected message appears on my screen:

Thank you for your interest. The solution that you have selected is not available anymore. If you need additional assistance or have any questions, please contact us.

Though I did attempt to contact them, I received no response from the SAP Store. A quick Google search led me to the SAP download page, where I found the version of Crystal Reports that should match with my purchase.

While installing the software, my heart sank – just a little – when asked to enter the product key. Fortunately, I have a habit of recording passwords and product key codes in a journal kept in a safe and secure location. As luck would have it, I wrote down the product key code for this purchase too!

The first time entering the product key was not successful. While my penmanship is usually quite good, distinguishing between O, the letter, and 0, the number is not. In a rush, the same is true for the letter S and the number 5.

After successfully deciphering my handwriting, the installation process continued without any issues. I ran the application and worked with several features to satisfy myself that all was working as it should be.

I can’t bear to think of how different this process would have been if I could not find my product key. I often wondered if writing every new password into my journal was worth it. This experience suggests that it is worth every penny.

One of the most significant advantages of all is this. You can’t hack a handwritten journal. It is challenging to defeat a journal that you can store in a safe and secure location. If it is lost or stolen, you have only yourself to blame.

If you are seriously injured or incapacitated where someone must access your online accounts for you, having a handwritten journal of all the key information makes it quick and easy. An offline journal prevents having to convince large corporations like Apple or Facebook to release the passwords to a device or account after the sudden passing of a partner or spouse.

Unless someone is aware that you have such a journal, no one will know to go looking for it. You should only share your journal with someone you can truly trust. In the most extreme cases, your journal may become a document that appears in a will, where restrictions are imposed on the recipient with regard to the journal’s content.

I started working with computers when IBM PCs were first introduced to the world and to the engineering department where I worked. Many of the software tools we enjoy today did not exist at that time. Learning to rely on yourself was the norm, and keeping a journal may be an extension of that.

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