Forgot your password? How to reset the administrator password on your Mac

Have you ever forgotten your Mac administrator account password? That’s the first account you set up on your Mac. Apple’s setup utility walked you through the account creation process and then sent you using your Mac.

If you can’t remember your administrator password, you may have difficulty signing in to your account or performing various tasks that require an administrator password. Fortunately, you can reset the password of a user account, including any administrator account, using one of the following methods.

Use an existing manager account to reset another manager account

Resetting an administrator account isn’t difficult, as long as you have a second administrator account to use. In fact, we highly recommend that you have a second administrator account set up to troubleshoot various issues, including a forgotten password.

Of course, this assumes that you haven’t forgotten the password for the other administrator account. If you don’t remember that password either, you can try one of the other two methods described below.

  1. If you know the password for the second administrator account, sign in to that account.
  2. Start System Preferences , and select the User & Groups preference pane .
  3. Click the lock icon in the lower left corner of the preferences pane, and then provide the administrator password.
  4. In the left pane, select the administrator account whose password you want to reset.
  5. Click the Reset Password button on the right pane.
  6. In the sheet that is displayed, enter a new password for the account.
  7. Click the Reset Password button on the dropdown sheet.
  8. Resetting the password in this way creates a new keychain file for the user account. If you want to use the old keychain file, see the instructions below.

Using Apple ID to reset an administrator account

One of the features introduced with OS X Lion is the ability to use your Apple ID to reset your administrator account on your Mac. Actually, you can use this feature to reset the password of any type of user account, including an account. standard, a managed account or a shared account.

  1. Before you can use your Apple ID to reset an account password, the Apple ID must be associated with that account. You would have associated your Apple ID with your user account, either when you originally set up your Mac or when you added user accounts.
  2. After you enter your password incorrectly three times on the sign-in screen, you’ll see a message indicating your password (if you’ve set it), as well as the option to reset it with your Apple ID. Click the little button facing right next to the text …reset it with your Apple ID .
  3. Enter your Apple ID and password, and then click the Reset Password button .
  4. A warning message will appear telling you that resetting your password will cause a new keychain file to be created. Your keychain contains frequently used passwords; Creating a new keychain usually means you’ll need to reset passwords for some services you use, including email accounts and some websites you’ve set up for automatic login. Click the OK button to reset the password.
  5. Enter the new password, along with a password hint, and then click the Reset Password button.
  6. You will be connected and the Desktop will appear .

Resetting the administrator password using an installation DVD or recovery HD partition

Apple includes a utility to reset the administrator password on each installation DVD and Recovery HD partition. To use the Reset Password application, you’ll need to start your Mac using the Installation DVD or Recovery HD.

  1. Follow the instructions in the Mac Troubleshooting Guide – Reset User Account Permissions to restart your Mac using the appropriate means and run the Password Reset application . Once you have the application window open, come back here to continue.
  2. In the Reset Password window , select the drive that contains the user account you want to reset; it is usually the boot drive.
  3. Use the Select User Account dropdown menu to choose the account whose password needs to be reset.
  4. Enter the new password in the password and password confirmation fields.
  5. Enter a new password hint.
  6. Click the Save button .
  7. A warning message will appear telling you that the keychain password has not been reset and that you will need to change it to match the new password you entered. Click the OK button .
  8. Quit the Reset Password app .
  9. Exit Terminal .
  10. Exit OS X Utilities.
  11. In the dialog that opens asking if you really want to quit OS X Utilities, click the Restart button .

Your administrator password has been reset.

First login with new password

The first time you log in after changing the administrator password, a dialog box will appear indicating that the system was unable to unlock the login keychain.

  • There are three ways to continue. If you remember your old login password, you can click the Update Keychain Password button . Of course, it’s unlikely that you’ll suddenly remember the password, so you’ll have to use one of the other two options.
  • The second option is to create a new keychain that will use your new password. This option creates a nearly empty keychain file that is accessed using your new password. This option resets the keychain, so you’ll need to provide passwords for various services, such as Mail and websites that require usernames and passwords. Click the Create New Keychain button .
  • The last option is to do nothing with the keychain system. You can finish the login process by clicking the Continue Login button , which will take you to the desktop. This is a temporary fix; the next time you log in, you will be presented with the same keychain dialog.

It might seem like a big deal if your original login keychain is locked with the original password and you’re forced to not only create a new keychain, but also reset all the account IDs and passwords you’ve created over time with your Mac.

But actually, having your key fob locked is a pretty good security measure. After all, you wouldn’t want someone to sit down at your Mac and use one of the methods we’ve outlined here to reset your administrator account. If resetting your administrator account also resets your keychain files, anyone can access the login information you use with many services, including banking, credit cards, and investments, and all other websites where you have accounts. They can also start sending and receiving messages using your email account, or use Messages to impersonate you.

It might seem like a huge hassle having to recreate all your old login information, but it sure beats the alternative.

How to avoid the login problem with the keychain

One thing you can do is use a secure third-party password service as a place to store your login information for various services. It’s not a replacement for Mac Keychain, but a secure store for you to keep your information safe, which you can access using a different and hopefully not forgotten password.

1Password is great, but there are plenty of others to choose from, including LastPass, Dashlane, and mSecure. If you want to find more password management options, open the Mac App Store and search for the phrase “password.” If any of the apps sound interesting to you, be sure to check the manufacturer’s website; they often include demos that aren’t available in the Mac App Store.