It is not necessary to log in before viewing or editing pages. It does provide additional features, and is generally recommended. If you do not wish to have your IP address known then you should log in. It is quick and simple to create a personal user account.
Creating a user account means that you supply a username (your real name or a nickname) and a password. The system will reject a username that is already in use. A user account is created only once. You are then "logged in". The next time you log in, you supply your username again and demonstrate with the password that you are the same person. (Do not share your password with other people; this can allow them to misuse your account, which could lead to it being blocked.)
User accounts created recently will be "unified" (that is, accessible from all Wikimedia projects). An older, non-unified account can be unified at Special:MergeAccount; unified users can use that page to check the status of their unified account. Preferences are currently set independently on each wiki. See m:Single login.
Why log in?
You don't have to log in to read Wikipedia. You don't even have to log in to edit most of Wikipedia (there are some exceptions).
However, it's still a good idea to log in, for these reasons:
- Other users will be able to recognise you by your username when you make changes to pages. As a "name" an IP address is somewhat clumsy. Also, if you use computers at different locations (home, office, internet cafe, etc.) you have a different IP-address in each case; even in the same location, depending on the Internet connection, the IP-address may be different each time. Therefore a username is better to maintain an identity.
- You will have your own user page where you can write a bit about yourself, and a user talk page which you can use to communicate with other users.
- You will also be able to make user subpages, as an add-on to your user page.
- You will be able to mark an edit as minor, which avoids inconvenience for other users.
- You will be able to keep track of changes to pages you are interested in using a watchlist.
- If you choose to give an email address, other users will be able to contact you by email. This feature is anonymous — the user who emails you will not know your email address. You don't have to give your email address if you don't want to.
- You will be able to rename pages.
- You will be able to set your own preferences, to change things such as:
Creating an account
To create an account, select Log in (top right of page) then click create an account. You will need to provide a username and password, as well as answer a visual "captcha" test. Users with text, speech, or legacy browsers will be unable to create an account if they cannot view this captcha image. If you are unable to view captchas, you can request for an account to be created for you at Wikipedia:Request an account.
You may also be unable to create an account if it contains certain symbols (particularly the '@' symbol, as well as certain non-Latin characters) or words, or if it is too similar to that of an existing user. In that case, you will also have to request an account. If your IP address has account creation blocked, you can either request to be unblocked or request an account
How to log in
First, make sure that your browser accepts cookies. Some browsers can accept or reject cookies from individual sites; users of these should configure the browser to accept cookies from each wiki you plan to edit, such as wikipedia.org.
Click on the Log in link at the top right of the page. You will then be prompted to enter your username and password. If you have not logged in before, you will need to use the link provided to create an account.
You may give your email address if you like. Other users will be able to send email to the address, but they won't be able to find out what the address is.
If you click the box Remember me, you will not have to give your password again when you access MediaWiki wiki from the same computer. This feature will only work if your password was not generated by the Mediawiki software. So change your password please. Please note that the cookies containing username and password automatically expire 30 days after login (unless you log out manually).
Logging in and setting preferences were previously done separately on each wiki. It is now possible to use the same username, password and e-mail address across all Wikimedia wikis, without needing to register an account on each wiki. For more details, see m:Help:Unified login.
Login issues and problems
If you find yourself unable to log in, you may have one of the problems addressed in the following paragraphs. If none of them seem to apply, ask for help at the help desk.
- The login link is obscured
- If you cannot click on the login link, for instance because it is obscured by other text, use this direct link to the login page. It may be helpful to add the page to your browser's bookmarks/favourites. (This problem may occur on certain browsers when using a large minimum font size.)
- My username and password are refused
- Both usernames and passwords are case-sensitive on Wikipedia. Did you remember to type in the right capitalization? For example, if you registered under MyUserName, you will not be able to log in as Myusername (notice the subtle difference in spelling). The same goes for your password. The only exception is the first character of the username, which is capital by default.
- Did you register to this particular wiki?
- If you have registered under one of Wikipedia's other languages (such as es.wikipedia.org) or projects (like en.wikibooks.org), you will have to recreate a username for this version of Wikipedia unless you have merged the accounts via unified login.
- I get logged out just after logging in
- There are a few possible causes of this problem:
- If you appear to have logged in, but as soon as you try to look at a page after 'Log in successful', you appear logged out again, it is very likely to be a cookie problem. See this brief tutorial on how to enable cookies for your browser.
- Make sure your computer's date and time are set correctly; if they are not, cookies may expire before they are supposed to. Note that some firewall and ad-blocking software may interfere with the cookie that Wikipedia uses to keep a person logged in.
- Some ISPs use transparent proxies which cause problems logging in. Try using the secure server to bypass the proxy. This happens most often with some satellite ISPs (particularly HughesNet/DirecWay/DirecPC).
- Occasionally, a user may find him/herself "automatically" logged out between beginning an edit and saving it, or when switching between multiple wiki pages open in multiple windows or tabs. This can be a result of your browser's cookie, cache, or firewall settings, but sometimes, especially during heavy server load, the system can "glitch" and your login information will be lost, resulting in a logout.
- Other causes
- If you are absolutely sure that the login information you have entered is correct, then someone else may have compromised your account. In this case, your account may not be recoverable unless you can prove that the account is yours. In rare cases, your account may have been renamed or usurped, especially if it has few or no edits. You can see if your account has been renamed by viewing the user rename log and search for your username prefixed with the phrase "User:" in the "Title" field.
- I get a message that my IP address has been autoblocked
- Follow the instructions listed on screen on how to request an unblock or send an email to the unblock-en-i mailing list.
What if I forget the username?
If you have forgotten your username, these steps may help you recover it:
- Depending on your browser settings, you may find that the log in page redisplays the last username that was used on that computer.
- If you have received any emails from Wikipedia, these will include the username.
- If you can remember the names of any of Wikipedia pages that you edited while logged in, the username will be listed as part of the page history of those pages.
- If you can remember the first part of the name, this search page may help you remember the rest of it.
If none of these steps are successful you will have to start again with a new account. Wikipedia administrators will not be able to help you work out your username from your email address or your IP address.
What if I forget the password?
If you previously entered an e-mail address when signing up for the account or in your Preferences, you can enter your username on the login screen and click 'E-mail new password', which will send a temporary password to your e-mail address that will allow you to retrieve your account. You can change it after you log in.
If you did not enter an e-mail address, or if the stored address is no longer accessible, you will be unable to regain access to your account, and thus will have to create a new account under a different username. After doing this, if a user page and user talk page were created for the old account, it is advisable to make them redirect to the equivalent pages for the new account. (To carry the content and history of these pages over to the new location, you can use the "move" function—contact an administrator if assistance is needed.)
How to set preferences
Click on the My preferences link at the top right of the page for various options, including:
- Changing your password.
- Changing the skin, which changes the way that the web pages look.
Your user page and user talk page
As a logged in user, you will be able to create your own user page and user talk page. When you are logged in, you will see your username displayed at the top right of the page. Click on this to get to your user page, which you can edit in the same way as any other wiki page.
Most users write a little bit about themselves and their interests on their user page.
You also have a User talk page. You can access this by clicking on the Talk link next to your username at the top right of the page. Other people may write messages in your user talk page by editing it, and you can respond. See Help:Talk page for more.
You can log out any time by clicking on the Log out link at the top right of the page. And after it, you will become using an IP to read Wikipedia. To prevent the browser from remembering your username and suggesting it to the next user of the computer, remember to delete the Wikipedia cookies in your browser's privacy settings. Especially if you are using a public computer, you may want to delete all of the browser's recent history (Ctrl+Shift+Del in Firefox).
Editing while logged out
Occasionally an established editor will edit while logged out. While not usually an egregious issue, there can be some concerns about attribution and privacy.
- If you made an edit without logging in, you cannot go back and directly tie that edit to your account. If your desire to account for the edit overrides your desire for anonymity, you can log in, make a dummy edit, and add a note in the edit summary about the previous edit.
- If you make a comment on a talk page without logging in, then your signature will include your IP address. You can log in and edit the comment by replacing the signature; be aware that the WikiScanner tool will retrieve these actions from the database and record them at the Poor Man's Checkuser, thus connecting your username and IP address.
- If you feel that the connection between the IP address and your username is an issue, then you can request that the edit be removed; see Wikipedia:Oversight#Policy and Wikipedia:Requests for oversight.
Keeping your account secure
Users, especially administrators, should keep their accounts secure. If someone accesses your account and causes malicious damage, your reputation could be in trouble! Below are some tips on keeping your account secure:
- Never give your Wikipedia password to anyone, not even users claiming to be sysop and staff!
- Only enter your password on a Wikimedia site. Beware of fake sites. The domain name should end with wikipedia.org or wikimedia.org.
- Keep your computer up-to-date with the latest anti-virus and anti-spyware software.
- Your password should be easy to remember, but hard to guess.
- If you decide to log on using a public computer, remember to log out when done.
- Be careful when running user scripts. Some scripts can be programmed to steal cookies and thus compromise accounts.
- Consider committing to your identity by adding a cryptographic hash to your user page to prove that you are really the person behind your username.