How to Set Up Two-Step Verification for Your Microsoft Account

Creating unique, strong passwords for online accounts is crucial. A strong password can thwart a cybercriminal’s attempt to hack into an account. However, a strong password might not be enough in some instances. If cybercriminals hack into a company and steal customers’ login information, they will be able to access the customers’ accounts. For this reason, it is a good idea to set up two-step verification for your online accounts when it is offered. With two-step verification, a second credential is needed to log in, such as a security code.

Microsoft gives you the option of using two-step verification, and many Microsoft devices and applications support it (e.g., Windows 10 Mobile phones, Office 365). You only have to enable two-step verification once in your Microsoft account to turn it on across those devices and applications.

Once set up, you need to provide the following details to log in: your email address, your password, and a security code. Microsoft sends you the security code, which will be different each time you sign in. You can choose to receive it via a phone call, text message, email (at an alternate address), or authenticator app on a smartphone. The supported authenticator apps are Google Authenticator (Android, iOS, and BlackBerry phones) and Microsoft’s Authenticator (Windows phones).

How to Enable Two-Step Verification

To set up two-step verification for your Microsoft account, follow these steps:

  1. Go to the security settings sign-in page and log in. You will be asked to enter a security code that Microsoft will send to you by phone or email.
  2. In the section titled "Security info helps keep your account secure", make sure you have both an email address and phone number listed. If one is missing, click the "Add security info" link and enter the necessary information.
  3. In the section titled "Two-step verification", select the "Set up two-step verification" option to start the setup wizard. The wizard will walk you through the process, which varies depending on how you want to receive the code (e.g., by email, by authenticator app).
  4. Click "Done" when you reach the end of the setup process. You might be asked to enter another security code like you did in step 1 to finish the setup. Microsoft will then send an email confirming that you turned on two-step verification.

The New Way to Log In

After you have enabled two-step verification, the way you log in changes. To log in to your Microsoft account or a Microsoft device or application that supports it, follow these steps:

  1. Enter your email address and password in the sign-in area.
  2. Provide your email address or the last four digits of your phone number to trigger the delivery of the security code. Alternatively, if you are using an authenticator app, launch it.
  3. Enter the security code in the sign-in area.

If you use a computer or phone often and you get tired of entering security codes, you can designate it as a trusted device. That way, you will not need to enter a security code each time you log in from that device.

What to Do If a Device or Application Does Not Support Two-Step Verification

Some applications (e.g., Office 2010, Windows Essentials) and devices (e.g., Xbox 360, Windows Phone 8 and earlier versions) do not support two-step verification. As a result, after you enable this security feature, you will get an "incorrect password" error message when you log in because they cannot prompt you to enter a security code. To avoid this error, you will need to create unique passwords to log in to these applications and devices. The App passwords and two-step verification web page walks you through this process.

Add Another Layer of Security by Enabling Two-Step Verification

Adding another layer of security to prevent unauthorized access to your Microsoft account can help protect it from hackers. Although enabling two-step verification on an individual basis is straightforward, you will want to enlist the help of your IT service provider if your business has subscriptions such as the Office 365 Business plan.