Google Authenticator is a tool that allows you to easily, securely sign in to several services all across the web and devices. It basically provides a randomly generated code that will be reset every few seconds making sure that no one gets access to any of the accounts secured with Google Authenticator without your smartphone. So, there is no question about the security of this service. What happens if you lost access to your smartphone or you accidentally uninstalled the Authenticator app while cleaning up your device?
It will be a bit hard to get into the Authenticator after that. Especially if you do not have a smartphone with you. You won’t be able to sign in to any of the services connected with the Authenticator until you figure something out. In this article, we are going to provide you the steps you can try to get your access back to the Google Authenticator.
If you have a Secret Key Backup
During the 2FA (Two-factor authentication) setup, the Google Authenticator or the service you are activating the Authenticator for will provide you a secret key/QR code to recover your account in case you lose/damage your device. It is extremely important to save this key somewhere safe. If you do not have this key, it is very hard to restore Google Authenticator.
In case you happened to have this secret key backup with you, you can restore Google Authenticator by following these steps.
- Install the Authenticator app again.
- Open the app.
- Click on the “+” icon to add a new key.
- Now choose the Enter a Setup Key option.
- Fill the sections with the Setup Key you have.
- Click on the Add button.
If you entered it correctly, the Authenticator app will start showing the codes once again. You can try using it to sign in to the service with 2FA.
If you do not have a Secret Key Backup
Without the backup, it is quite difficult to get access to the 2FA-enabled services. Due to security reasons, Google is extremely strict about this. They do not sync the Authenticator details with your Google account like many of their other services. We are not sure why they are not allowing users to recover keys in such scenarios which can happen once in a while. But currently, there isn’t a way someone can restore access without a QR code or secret key.
You will probably have to contact the customer care support of each service you enabled the Google Authenticator for and prove your identity. As long as you are able to provide the required information they ask for, you won’t face any issues. Your accounts will be restored by removing the active 2FA from them. You might have to spend a little time on that emailing the support or chatting with them.
How to Recover Google Authenticator on Different Mobile Operating Systems
If you find yourself in a situation where you need to recover Google Authenticator on your mobile device. Don’t worry! The process may vary slightly depending on the operating system you’re using, but we’ve got you covered. Here’s a step-by-step guide for recovering Google Authenticator on different mobile operating systems:
- Open the Google Authenticator app on your Android device.
- Tap the three-dot menu icon in the top-right corner of the screen.
- Select “Settings” from the menu.
- Choose “Transfer accounts” or “Export accounts” (the wording may differ slightly depending on your device).
- Follow the prompts to create a QR code or transfer file that contains your account information.
- On your new device, install Google Authenticator and open the app.
- Tap the plus (+) icon to add a new account.
- Instead of scanning a QR code, select the option to manually enter an account.
- Enter the details manually, or use the transfer file/QR code to import the account.
- Verify that the account has been successfully added and is generating the correct codes.
- On your old iOS device, open the Google Authenticator app.
- Tap the gear icon in the bottom-right corner to access the settings.
- Select “Export Accounts.”
- Choose how you want to export the accounts: either by email or by scanning a QR code with another device.
- Follow the instructions provided to complete the export process.
- On your new iOS device, install Google Authenticator and open the app.
- Set up your Google Authenticator with your Google account or by manually entering the account details.
- If you exported the accounts via email, open the email on your new device and follow the instructions to import the accounts.
- Verify that the accounts are successfully imported and generate the correct codes.
How to Generate and Store Backup Codes for Google Authenticator?
To ensure that you have a backup option in case you lose access to your Google Authenticator app, it’s crucial to generate and store backup codes. These codes can be used to regain access to your accounts if you’re unable to use Google Authenticator. Here’s how you can generate and store backup codes:
- Visit the website or service where you have enabled Google Authenticator.
- Go to the account settings or security section, where two-factor authentication settings are located.
- Look for an option to generate backup codes. They may be labeled as “Backup Codes” or “Recovery Codes.”
- Click on the option to generate the codes. The website or service will typically provide a set of unique codes.
- Make a note of these codes in a secure place. You can write them down on a piece of paper or use a password manager to store them.
- Keep the backup codes in a safe location that is easily accessible to you but not prone to unauthorized access.
- Avoid storing the backup codes on your mobile device or in the same place as your Google Authenticator app. This ensures that you can still access the codes even if you lose your phone or encounter device issues.
Remember, each generated backup code can typically be used only once. Once you’ve used a backup code to regain access to your account, it becomes invalid, and you should generate a new set of codes.
Next time you use an Authenticator App
So, here is a very important piece of advice from us. If you plan to use an Authenticator app of any kind, including Google Authenticator, be sure to take a backup of the recovery keys they provide. Store it in a safe location that you can access in case you run into issues like this. It is better to not store them on your computer or cloud services. Instead, take a note somewhere safe. That way, even though the device gets into issues, you can always regain your Authenticator access.
There are also alternative Authentication apps available that store your information and allow you to switch devices easily. So, you may also go with them if you have a lot of services connected with the 2FA app like this.
According to us, it is also a good idea to not go for locking your services with an Authenticator app. They provide extreme security, that’s a fact. However, once you have to deal with such an issue, it is very hard to get your account back. Instead, you can use 2FA using SMS or email services that also provide a good amount of security and prevents any unauthorized access even though they have the password of your accounts.
As the security services are evolving and the features of these Authenticators are being enhanced, let’s hope that there will be a way that syncs your Authenticator data with your Google account for recovery.