Posey's Tips & Tricks

How To Fix Problems with Cached Credentials in Windows 11

While the fix might not be obvious, it should only take a few minutes to get back up and running.

One of the most underappreciated Windows features is the operating system's ability to cache network passwords. Just imagine, for instance, if you had to enter a password every single time you accessed a mapped network drive. Windows saves you from this massive inconvenience by asking you to enter the password once, and then as long as you select the option to save the credentials, you never have to enter the password again.

As great as this capability might be, things can and sometimes do go wrong. For example, if the password associated with a network share were to change, then the cached credentials would suddenly become invalid. I have also seen situations in which cached passwords just stop working for no apparent reason. When these types of problems occur, you can usually fix the problem with relative ease.

I recently dealt with a situation in which the cached password for my primary network drive (which I use countless times throughout the day) stopped working. Upon logging into my PC and attempting to access the drive, I received a message like the one shown in Figure 1.

[Click on image for larger view.] Figure 1. Windows asks for a password when you try to access a mapped network drive.

As you can see in the figure, Windows indicates that the password is incorrect and then prompts you to enter a new password. Windows also includes a checkbox that you can select in order to have Windows remember your credentials. Normally, selecting the checkbox and entering the correct password is sufficient to fix the problem. Occasionally however, you may have to delve into the operating system a bit.

That's what happened in my case. Entering a new password and selecting the checkbox fixed the problem for the duration of my session. Upon logging off or rebooting however, the problem would reemerge. So how might you fix something like this?

Interestingly, Windows 11 allows you to manage your machine's cached passwords through the legacy Control Panel. To access the credential cache, enter the Control command at the Windows Run prompt. When the Control Panel opens, click on User Accounts, followed by Credential Manager.

When the Credential Manager opens, you will initially see a screen like the one shown in Figure 2, asking if you want to manage Web credentials or Windows credentials. Choose the Windows Credentials option. At this point, you will see a screen similar to the one shown in Figure 3.

[Click on image for larger view.] Figure 2. Click on the Windows Credentials option.
[Click on image for larger view.] Figure 3. This is the screen used to managed cached credentials.

If you encounter a problem with a cached credential, the normal way to fix the problem is to select the credential that you are having trouble with. This causes an Edit link to appear. Click the Edit link, and then you will be taken to a screen that allows you to modify the username and password associated with the credential.

In my case, manually editing the credential did not fix the problem. That being the case, I opted instead to recreate the credential. To do so, I selected the credential and then instead of clicking on Edit, I clicked the Remove button to remove the credential from the cache. At that point, I double clicked on the mapped network drive. When prompted, as shown in Figure 1, I entered my username and password and selected the checkbox instructing Windows to add the credentials to the cache.

Based on what I have read about troubleshooting problems with cached credentials, there have been instances in which all of the credentials have been rendered invalid and simply resetting them or recreating them does not work. Because I have never experienced this problem myself, I don't know how to fix the problem. However, there is a workaround.

The workaround is to log into Windows and then completely empty the cache by removing all of the entries. From there, attach to the various networked resources that are used on a day to day basis. This causes the credentials associated with those resources to be added to the password cache. Since the cache becomes corrupt or invalidated at the end of each session, use the Back Up Credentials button to export the cache contents to a file. After the next logon, you can restore the backed up credentials rather than having to enter them all over again.

About the Author

Brien Posey is a 22-time Microsoft MVP with decades of IT experience. As a freelance writer, Posey has written thousands of articles and contributed to several dozen books on a wide variety of IT topics. Prior to going freelance, Posey was a CIO for a national chain of hospitals and health care facilities. He has also served as a network administrator for some of the country's largest insurance companies and for the Department of Defense at Fort Knox. In addition to his continued work in IT, Posey has spent the last several years actively training as a commercial scientist-astronaut candidate in preparation to fly on a mission to study polar mesospheric clouds from space. You can follow his spaceflight training on his Web site.


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