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Common PennKey Registration and Usage Problems

Several common PennKey registration and usage problems are addressed on this page. Additional PennKey-related questions are addressed in the FAQ.

Getting an Error 402 when entering information on the registration logon page.

This error indicates that some of your information (Setup Code, date of birth, or last four digits of your Social Security Number (SSN)) was entered incorrectly. Be sure to observe the following when you enter this information:

  • Setup Code - Setup Codes have seven characters and are case-sensitive. A Setup Code must be typed exactly as given.
  • Date of birth - Four digits are required for the year, e.g., "1980" not just "80."
  • SSN - Enter only the last four digits of your Social Security Number (SSN). The eight-digit number you received with your Setup Code letter is your PennID, not your SSN, which has nine digits. International students, faculty, and staff who don’t have a SSN should enter the last 4 digits of the nine-digit ID they were issued by the University.

If you are absolutely certain you are entering correct information, you may be mistyping your information.

  • Check that "caps lock" and the "num lock" are not turned on.
  • Some web browsers have "autocomplete" features which automatically capitalize the initial letter when filling out web forms. Be sure to disable this feature.

Getting an error message that says the password you entered is based on a dictionary word.

This is a common and frustrating problem. "Dictionary" does not simply mean a standard English language dictionary -- it also includes foreign language dictionaries and all kinds of specialized dictionaries that hackers use to crack passwords.

For example, the string "xyzzy" is found in a computer dictionary -- it's a term from an early computer game and has found its way into password cracking dictionaries, so it is not a suitable password

The following approach can be helpful in choosing a password: Make up a sentence that's meaningful to you. Then use the first letter of each word as a letter in your password; if you wish, add additional characters to make it more difficult to guess.

  • Start with the phrase such as Orange elephants invade Alaska; film at eleven.
  • Take the first letter of each word as your password: OeiAfae
    (This is an acceptable password; it follows the rules but is hard for someone to guess since it's essentially a random string of characters.)
  • To make the password even harder to guess, add punctuation, numbers, and other non-alphanumeric symbols: OeiA;f@11

Not being able to access a service using your PennKey.

You may be entering your PennKey and password incorrectly or there may be a problem with the service you are trying to access. To determine a course of action, do the following:

1. Be sure you are using the correct case when entering your PennKey and password.

  • PennKeys are all lowercase. If your PennKey is "smith" you must enter smith not SMITH or Smith.
  • Passwords are case-sensitive. You must enter your password exactly as you created it.
  • Some browsers have an auto-complete "feature" which capitalizes the first letter of anything entered in a Web form field. This can interfere with PennKey and password entry, so be sure to turn off this feature if it's on.
  • CAPS LOCK may have been "on" when you set your PennKey password. Type your PennKey in all lower case, but try typing your password with all CAPS to see if that works.

2. Try accessing the PennKey test page at to rule out problems with your PennKey.

3. If you can access the test page after entering your PennKey and password, the problem you are having with authentication to another service is related to that service, and you should contact the provider of the service directly. Contact information usually appears on the web page to which you are trying to authenticate.

4. If you can't access the test page after entering your PennKey and password, you will need to obtain a PennKey Setup Code and return to the PennKey registration application to reset your PennKey and password.



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