How to Secure Your Gmail Account With 2-Step Verification

Another layer of security ensures that only you can read your messages

Two-factor authentication (2FA) refers to two steps you must take to get into an online account after you enter your user name. The first step is entering your password. The second can be any number of things, including entering a unique code, plugging in a specific physical device, or responding to a prompt. Each online account uses its own method or methods.

Gmail's 2FA is called 2-Step Verification. The primary method used for 2-Step Verification is a Google Prompt. That is, when you go to sign in to Gmail, you enter your user name and password. Then Google (which controls Gmail) sends a prompt to your mobile device. You must respond to the prompt before you're allowed access to Gmail. You can choose a different method if you prefer. For example, you can opt to receive a text code that you enter before you're allowed to access Gmail.

When you use 2-Step Verification in Gmail, you give yourself an additional layer of protection from hackers. This is true even if your password is strong and you have malware protection in place.

Even if you activate 2-Step Verification, your Gmail account can still be hacked. If you need greater security for your email correspondence, there are a number of secure email options available to try. Just remember that no email application is completely secure.

Activate 2-Step Verification in Gmail

To use 2-Step Verification in Gmail, you must first activate it. To do so, follow the steps below.

  1. Sign in to your Gmail account.

  2. In the upper-right corner, select your avatar. From the menu, choose Google Account.

    Gmail inbox with account menu open
  3. A new tab with your Google account information opens. In the left rail, select Security.

    Gmail account settings
  4. Under Signing in to Google, select 2-Step Verification.

    Gmail account security settings
  5. The next screen explains 2-Step Verification. Select Get Started.

    Gmail start two-factor setup
  6. If you've already given Google information about your mobile devices, you'll see the devices listed. (If you haven't given Google this information, you'll be asked to provide it.) Select Try It Now to continue the process for getting set up to receive Google Prompts.

    If you prefer to use another method (physical device, text message, or voice call), select Choose another option and follow the instructions from there.

    Google 2-Step Verification screen
  7. Google sends a prompt to all the devices you had listed. To continue, select Yes in the prompt on your device.

    Google Prompt trial screen
  8. Google asks you to provide a backup method for accessing your Gmail account. If it's not already entered, provide your phone number. Choose Text message or Phone call. Select Send.

    Google 2-Step Verification backup option screen
  9. Google sends a code via the method you selected. Type the code you receive into the field. Select Next.

    Google 2-Step Verification confirmation
  10. Finally, Google prompts you to turn on 2-Step Verification. Select Turn On. Now you'll be prompted to use your second step each time you log on to Gmail.

    Google 2-Step Verification screen

Disable 2-Step Verification in Gmail

Tired of the second step? Here's how to disable it.

  1. Follow steps 1-4 above. If prompted, enter your Gmail password and select Next.

  2. Respond to whichever method of 2-Step Verification you have activated.

    Google 2-Step Verification screen
  3. At the top of the screen, select Turn Off.

    Google 2-Step Verification screen
  4. Google shows a warning message asking you to confirm that you really want to disable 2-Step Verification. If you're sure, select Turn Off.

    Gmail disable 2-step verification
  5. Google takes a moment to process the change and restore your security settings. Afterward, your settings return to the way they were before you enabled 2-Step Verification.