Photo by Franck on Unsplash   

If you haven’t heard of passkeys yet, odds are good you’ll be hearing about them soon. They’re a new way to log in to apps and websites, and they hold the promise of a future without passwords.

Passkeys are great for a lot of reasons. They’re more secure than traditional passwords, and a lot more convenient since you don’t need to create or remember a password for all your different accounts.

But if you’re thinking of making the switch, don’t throw away that list of passwords yet.

We’re not going to get too detailed here, but it helps to think of passkeys sort of like a lock and key. The website or app holds the lock. Your device holds the key. In order for you to open the lock with the key, you need to prove your identity on that device. That’s done using biometrics (your fingerprint or face recognition) or with a PIN.

It’s seamless in theory, but let’s look at a couple of practical reasons to keep your passwords handy and up to date:

  1. You lose or break your key (that is, your phone or laptop). How do you bypass the lock on a website if you don’t have the key? 

Well, if you own more than one device and if your passkeys are synchronized across the cloud via Apple Keychain, Google, or your password keeper, you’re fine. Just sign in to your cloud service and your passkeys are ready to go.

But it’s a huge leap to assume that everyone has two or more devices. Lots of folks prefer to keep their digital life simple and use a single phone or tablet.

So what’s the fail-safe to get back into your account? You guessed it—the lowly password (or that list of backup codes you keep on file).

2. You decide to buy a new device and you’re switching from Apple to Android, or vice versa. Since you can’t yet sync your passkeys across platforms, you’d simply create a new passkey using your new device. But you can only do that if you know your password, because you’ll need to sign in to any websites or apps the old-fashioned way in order to set up the new passkey.

If it all seems confusing, you’re not alone. The rules are constantly changing as passkeys roll out, and even some of the experts offer conflicting advice. 

The bottom line is that safer, easier log-ins are on their way. Just don’t ditch that list of passwords yet.