What the heck is Windows Vault in Windows 7?

3/11 - I have pulled the “features I don’t know anything about” series and edited this post to reflect this.

King of Swiss Army Knives...With Windows 7 just half-a-dozen weeks away from being in release candidacy stages, you would think people would have a good idea of what the operating system does and doesn’t do. Yeah right. While digging through the operating system, I stumbled across a handful of features that I, and others didn’t know about. Windows Vault is one of those features.

Windows Vault

Windows Vault hub page

At first glance, the Windows Vault appears to be a snazzy new feature to allow users to store a bunch of passwords to commonly used websites and doodads and have them Just Work(tm) when using those various services.

With wanting to save my password for Facebook in mind, I visited the Windows Vault and determined I don’t want to add a Windows Credential or some type of Certificate-Based Credential (e.g. smart-card). I click Add a Generic Credential and was presented with a piece of UI asking me for my username and password. Along with these usual suspects, however, I was asked for something that seemed alien to me – A Resource. In a panic, I scanned the UI for a help button but there was none to be found. It was just me, all alone, with these boxes.

Add a Generic Credential spoke

Understanding the literal meaning of the word resource, I attempted to input quite a few values in here – URLs with and without http://, file paths, IPs, and even my favorite Ben & Jerry ice cream flavor – Nothing worked.

After fumbling around some more, I discovered Online IDs which populated my credential list with all sorts of meaningless information. Things like WindowsLive:(token):name=rafæl@withinwindows.com; serviceuri=windows_default_cred_slc and my Windows Live ID account.

Stored User Names and Passwords in Windows VistaIn discussion with Paul Thurrott, we came to the conclusion this fancy new Windows Vault stuff was merely the never-used Stored Names and Passwords feature from Windows Vista, painted over with some heavy lipstick and given a weird brand name.

Questions in my head: Why would one bring such a internal component driven feature closer to surface? How would a normal user use this feature? Were drugs involved?