We all have dozens and even hundreds of passwords to remember. Your Mac password, like a credit card PIN number, is one of the most important, so it can be a nightmare if you forget it. But it’s not the end of the world. There are a few easy ways you can reset your Mac password and make sure you don’t lose it ever again.
How to recover a forgotten Mac password
Secure experience is something you can’t emphasize enough while dealing with Apple devices. Hence the importance of a safe Mac password. While it could be easy to physically steal a computer, there’s little chance someone can mess with your data unless they know the password. So it’s wise to take a few precautionary measures to avoid losing it and make it easier to recover data.
Use Recovery Mode
Hope this is just a “what-if” for you, but let’s imagine it happened. You forgot Mac password and can’t access any of your accounts. There are no password hints and you can’t call it to mind, even though you’ve already tried to enter all pet names. For such cases, there’s a method to recover your password via Apple’s Recovery Mode.
To activate the Recovery Mode on an Intel-based Mac:
- Turn off your computer
- Hold the power button + Command R
- Wait for the loading bar to appear on the screen while your Mac boots to Recovery.
If you have an M1 Mac, the process is slightly different:
- Turn off your computer
- Press and hold the power button
- Click Options > Continue.
Here’s how to reset password on Mac from Recovery Mode:
- Access Utilities in the Apple menu
- Choose Terminal from the Utilities window
- Type “resetpassword” (in one word), and click Return
- Go to the main hard drive and choose your user account
- Lastly, change Mac password, create a hint to easily recollect it in future, and click Save. You’ll be able to use the new password after a restart.
Reset password with Apple ID
If you have an Apple ID tied to your user account on Mac, you can use it to reset password from the login window. The option should be available by default. Otherwise, you can enable it in System Preferences > Users & Groups > ‘Allow user to reset password using Apple ID.’
To make a go of this, click on the question mark next to the password field that you see on the login screen. Agree to the option to reset with Apple ID and enter wrong login credentials three times to be able to create the new password. Once you get to the reset screen, input a new password two times, create a hint, and save.
Change password from another account
Lucky you if you have more than one user account on your Mac. Or, if your mother/brother/girlfriend/dog ever uses your computer to log in to their personal accounts (yes, now you owe them a thank you). Here’s how to recover Mac password, using another account you have a password to:
- Log in to your alternative user account
- Go to System Preferences > Users & Groups > Lock icon
- Use the password for the account to unlock
- Select your account and click ‘Reset password’
- Fill in all the fields (type in a new password > verify > create a hint > save)
- Log out of the current account
- Go back to the login screen and type your new credentials.
Good news: You have a new password. Bad news: You still won’t be able to log in to your account if you don’t have the Keychain password and can’t create the new one. The thing is, to unlock all the features that require Mac password, you should be able to access Apple’s password management system, Keychain. Unless you remember the credentials, you’ll have to create a new password with an admin account. If the account you used isn’t registered as admin, you’ll have to go for the Recovery Mode option.
Get a hint for your password
If you forgot Apple password, you can recover it with a hint. This is, by far, the most painless way to win back your access. Therefore, we encourage you to create hints each time you choose a new password. It takes a few simple actions:
- Access System Preferences > Users & Groups
- Click on the Lock icon > user name
- Select the option to change password and add a phrase/word you associate with a newly created password in ‘Password Hint (recommended).’
One more important thing. To ensure your password hint shows up when you need it, you should allow your Mac to display hints. In the Users & Groups, click on Login Options and check the box next to “Show password hints.” Ready to go.
Resort to Target Disk Mode
If you’re in one of those desperate “forgot administrator name and password Mac” situations, remember you can always access the hard drive of your Mac via another computer and move any data you need to a new Mac. You can do it with Target Disk Mode:
- Shut down your computer and use a USB, USB-C, or Thunderbolt cable to connect it to another Mac (with macOS 11 and later, only Thunderbolt will work)
- Click on the power button while holding the T button and wait for the hard drive to appear on the screen
- Access the hard drive of your “locked” computer and move any data you need
- To eject the disk, simply move its icon to the Bin
- Shut down the Mac you used as a disk and disconnect it.
Note that the process is slightly different on M1 Macs:
- With your Mac connected and shut down, press and hold the power button until you see the startup options screen
- Click Options > Continue to boot into Recovery Mode
- From the Apple menu, choose Utilities > Share Disk
- Select the disk you want to share and click ‘Start sharing’
- On your second Mac, access Finder > Network (under Locations)
- In the Network window, double-click the Mac with a shared drive > Connect As > Guest > Connect.
- Now you’re ready to move the files.
Always protect your data
Resetting password could make your Mac vulnerable. Particularly, Recovery Mode is kind of a security hole: If someone can get access to your computer, it’s pretty easy to boot into recovery and reset password. To prevent this from happening you should encrypt the data on your hard drive with a built-in FileVault utility. Ensure you unlock Password Reset with Disk Utility and activate FileVault on your Mac.
To activate FileVault in the Apple System:
- Go to System Preferences
- Click on Security & Privacy > FileVault
- Unlock to enter your login and password
- Select “Turn on FileVault”
- Save Recovery key and password that you receive upon activating FileVault — you can use it for macintosh password reset!
Tip: Some tasks will require you to temporarily disable FileVault on Mac, so it’s very important that you turn it back on every time. With Pareto Security, you can run weekly security checks to see if all your vital security settings are on. Look for green checkmarks!
Find lost passwords using Keychain Access
In case you’ve lost one of your internet logins or don’t remember the password to your WiFi, you can recover it using your Mac’s native password manager — Keychain Access. Open it via Applications and use the search field in the top-right corner to filter for what you’re looking for. Check ‘Show Password’ and enter the Keychain Password to reveal it.
Although Keychain Access can be very useful in finding passwords you thought were lost forever, it’s rarely used intentionally due to its clunky interface and messy save-all password behavior. However, using a password manager nowadays in general is a must. And if you have to start somewhere, look no further than Secrets.
Store passwords using Secrets
Secrets is a simple but robust password manager that can become your central point of reference when looking for passwords, WiFi passcodes, secure notes, credit card numbers, and other personal information.
The app is supported by the industry-standard PGP encryption so none of your files will ever get exposed. And no, saving your passwords in the Notes app or on paper is not a good idea. Thankfully, Secrets is very easy to use.
- Install Secrets from Setapp
- Proceed through the setup guide
- To save your first password, click on the plus icon next to the search field and fill out all the necessary information.
Additionally, Secrets has an importing feature where you can download all your existing passwords from other managers or even as a simple .csv file. And moving forward, Secrets can be populated through a handy browser extension with a quick built-in password generator.
Taking all the necessary measures to stay safe online is a must. This includes having good password hints for your Mac, knowing how to navigate through the Recovery Mode, and, of course, reliable Mac security tools, such as Pareto Security and Secrets which are available with a free trial through Setapp, an app platform that powers up your workflow with dozens of tools under a single subscription.
Can I log into my Mac without a password?
Yes, you can log in without a password if you have Automatic Login enabled on your Mac: go to System Preferences > Users & Groups. Click the Lock to make changes and go to Login Options. Click ‘Automatic Login’ and choose the account you want to log into without a password. Confirm your intention by typing its password. Now, it’s password-free.
Note that Automatic Login is disabled in case the account uses iCloud to log in, or you have FileVault enabled on your Mac. Each of these helps ensure your Mac’s security, so we don’t recommend disabling password-protected login.
Tip for Apple Watch users: If you want to keep your Mac login secure but entering password is just too tiresome for you, set your Mac to unlock with Apple Watch: System Preferences > Security & Privacy > General > Use your Apple Watch to unlock apps and your Mac. From that moment on, if your Mac has Bluetooth and Wi-Fi on, and your Apple Watch is nearby, the Mac will unlock automatically!
Why can’t I change my password?
If you remember your old password, it’s usually pretty simple to change it via System Preferences > Users & Groups > your account > Change Password. If, however, you don’t remember the password and none of the recovery methods from this article work for you, consider erasing your Mac. You can find a full guide on safely erasing Mac without losing your data here.
Can someone else reset your Mac password?
“If I forgot my admin password Mac and can’t reset it, can someone else reset it?” Fair enough. The thing is, letting someone else easily access your Mac if they don’t know the password would be a terrible idea security-wise. The bad news is that if you have FileVault disabled, anyone can reset your password by running the resetpassword command in Terminal from Recovery Mode. So make sure you always stick with Apple’s security requirements, FileVault being one of the most important ones!