Google and Microsoft have each created a way for you to create an online “account” to tie their various services together. They’re confusing and a little frustrating sometimes. Let’s do a quick review.
Think about logging into your computer in the morning. Your computer knows your name and shows you a desktop that you’ve arranged, with the wallpaper that you’ve chosen. When you click on Documents or Pictures, you see your documents and pictures.
Google and Microsoft want you to have that experience online. When you’re signed into your Google Account or your Windows Live ID, you can find your documents in the online folders and your photos in the online galleries. Wherever you go in the Google or Microsoft services, you see your own stuff.
Setting up one of these accounts is free and easy – it’s just an email address and a password to identify you to the Google or Microsoft services. Your Google Account or Windows Live ID can be your current email address. If you prefer, you can choose a new name – email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org, for example. There’s no advantage to choosing a new name instead of your regular email address – it’s just one more thing to remember. (If you choose a new name, you can use it as an email address but that’s optional.)
If you have a single Google Account or Windows Live ID, you can instruct your computer to remember your login name and password. When you get Windows 7, you’ll be able to use a little program to tie your Windows Live ID even more closely to your Windows user account. (In addition to the online services, Microsoft hopes this will make it easier to manage file sharing permissions. We’ll see.)
Once that’s done, you’ll be greeted by name on many Google and Microsoft pages, and you’ll be able to navigate quickly among the services. Typically that’s all done on the top of the page.
There is only one important thing to remember: If possible only set up a single Windows Live ID and a single Google Account. If you are trying to juggle two or three sets of login credentials, you will lose all the advantages of that smooth integrated online experience, exactly as if you had to log off your computer and log in with a different name to start using a different program. Not to mention the obvious problem – remembering login names and passwords is simply impossible for most of us. Which leads directly to the other two bits of advice:
- If you’re setting up your Google Account or Windows Live ID, use your existing email address instead of creating a new Gmail or Hotmail address.
- Remember your password.
Many of you already have a Google Account and Windows Live ID. Get those credentials straight in your mind! You’ll be using them more and more in the next few years.