How to Turn on Gmail Two-Factor Authentication

Enable Gmail 2FA

A woman typing at a laptop with a pen in her hand

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It's important to keep your Gmail account secure at all times, given the emails you receive there could have far reaching consequences. A password isn't enough to keep it 100% secure. Here's how to set up Gmail two-factor authentication, and why it's useful to arrange. 

Why Use Gmail Two-Factor Authentication?

Your email account contains a lot of valuable information. It's likely the account you use for everything, from your online banking to your social media accounts and potentially even work related issues. 

Keeping all that information in one place is useful for you, but potentially dangerous, too. If a hacker is able to bypass your password, they can gain access to a lot of important information as well as your identity.

Two-factor authentication requires you to have access to a physical device like your smartphone, as well as have your virtual password, making it much harder for anyone to access your email account. 

How Gmail Two-Factor Authentication Works 

Gmail two-factor authentication adds an extra layer of security by requiring you to have both your password and a special security key to access your Gmail account. Typically, this involves Google sending you a verification code that's unique to your account via text, voice call, or via the Google Authenticator app. Each code is only usable once and expires within minutes, so it's very secure.

How to Turn on Gmail 2-Step Verification

It only takes a few minutes to set up Gmail 2FA and it's pretty simple if you follow these steps.

  1. Go to your Gmail account at https://mail.google.com/

  2. Select your profile icon. 

    Gmail with the profile icon highlighted

    It should be whatever you've set in the past, such as a photo of your face or logo. 

  3. Select Google Account.

    Gmail with Google Account setting highlighted
  4. Select Security

    Google Account Settings with Security highlighted
  5. Select 2-Step Verification.

    If this option isn't visible to you, go to https://www.google.com/landing/2step/ and follow these steps for setting up Google two-factor authentication.

  6. Select Get Started.

    Google Account 2-step verification get started page
  7. Enter your password and select Next.

  8. Enter your phone number, choose whether to receive codes via text messages or phone call, then select Next.

    Google Account 2-Step Verification phone set up page

    If you want to use a different option, such as a physical security key or a Google prompt on your phone, select Choose another option, then select it from the list.

  9. Enter the verification code, then select Next.

    Google Account 2-step verification confirmation screen
  10. Select Turn On to activate Gmail 2-step authentication.

How to Turn off Gmail Two-Factor Authentication

We don't recommend disabling Gmail 2-step verification, but for those times when you need to, here's how. 

  1. Go to your Gmail account at https://mail.google.com/

  2. Select your profile icon. 

    Gmail with the profile icon highlighted
  3. Select Google Account.

    Gmail with Google Account setting highlighted
  4. Select Security.

    Google Account Settings with Security highlighted
  5. Scroll down to 2-Step Verification and select On.

    Google Account 2-step verification switched on and highlighted
  6. Log into your account.

    You may need to enter a verification code to do so.

  7. Select Turn Off.

    Google Account 2-step verification Turn Off dialog
  8. Select Turn Off in the dialog box to disable Gmail 2-step verification on this account.

    Google Account 2-step verification Turn Off dialog

How to Set up Alternate Verification Steps for Your Gmail Account

If you want to set up different forms of verification than a text message or voice call, there are ways of doing it. Here's how to change the second form of verification. 

  1. Go to your Gmail account at https://mail.google.com/

  2. Select your profile icon. 

    Gmail with the profile icon highlighted
  3. Select Google Account.

    Gmail with Google Account setting highlighted
  4. Select Security

    Google Account Settings with Security highlighted
  5. Scroll down to 2-Step Verification and select On.

    Google Account 2-step verification switched on and highlighted
  6. Scroll down to Set up alternative second step.

    Google Account 2-step verification alternate options

    You can also select Add Google Prompt here, if you wish to receive a prompt on your phone instead of verification codes.

  7. Choose from one-off printable backup codes, a Google prompt, or to install the Google Authenticator app to your phone. 

It's also possible to add a backup phone to the account, as well as request a physical security key that plugs into your computer's USB port.