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Windows 8 will offer picture passwords

Personalised images and drawing gestures will replace traditional log-ons

Microsoft has revealed Windows 8 will allow consumers to log on to their PCs with picture passwords.

The next iteration of the operating system, which is currently available to download as a developer preview and looks set to be released sometime next year, allows users to select an image from their picture collection, rather than just from a default selection provided by Microsoft, and indicate a specific set of gestures they want to draw on it, such as circling a person's head or tracing a link to join two points of the picture up, as a secure way to sign-in. Microsoft places a grid over the image, on which users can draw their images to create the password.

"When we started the process of designing picture password, we knew that we wanted a sign-in method that was fast, fluid, and personal to each and every user of Windows 8, but still had a robust security promise," said Zach Pace, a program manager, in a blog.

"You get to decide the content of the picture and the portions that are important to you. Plus, you get to see a picture that is important to you just like many people do on their phone lock screen."

Furthermore, Microsoft says Windows logs the direction you draw the gestures in, for example whether you create a circle in a clockwise or anticlockwise direction.

"So, someone trying to reproduce your picture password needs to not only know the parts of the image you highlighted and the order you did it in, but also the direction and start and end points of the circles and lines that you drew," added Pace.

"Through our research and refinement of both the experience and the concept, we believe we've hit on a method of signing in that's secure but also a lot of fun to use. We love picture password and the additional personal flavour it brings to Windows 8, and we hope you do too!"

Described as a "reimagining of Windows from the chipset to the experience" the new OS features a dual interface aimed at both PC and tablet/touchscreen users. The traditional Windows desktop is joined by the new Metro interface, which borrows heavily from the interface Microsoft created for Windows Phone 7 and features a series of tiles that offer access to applications and can also contain live data that can be updated. Pressing the Start menu allows users to switch between the two different interfaces.

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