An essential Mac OS X Keychain guide

Troubleshooting and advanced Keychain Access tips

an essential mac os x keychain guide

Has your Mac suddenly started asking you for account and Wi-Fi passwords it never used to require? Is your Mail app asking you to enter the password relentlessly? Then there’s a good chance Apple’s password management system, Keychain Access, has a problem. But don’t panic -- we’ve got you covered.

Keychain Access

Wi-Fi, Mail, user names and more -- all these passwords are kept inside Keychain Access. Your system uses these and will require a password (usually your Mac account password) if you want to take a look at any of the passwords it holds. If you use iCloud Keychain these passwords are also made available across all of your approved devices, which is why your Keychain password matters so much.

keychain first aid

Step one: Keychain First Aid

If your keychain access password doesn’t function correctly then launch Keychain First Aid from the Keychain Access Menu (Option-Command-A). You’ll be asked for your user name and password. Tap Verify and the utility will take a look and make you aware of any problems found. Choose Repair and the problems will be addressed.

Step two: Reset Keychain Password

If First Aid is unable to repair your Keychain problem then you may need to reset your Keychain.

Launch the app and choose Preferences from the Keychain Access menu.

In the General tab, click ‘Reset My Default Keychain’.

You will be asked to login with your Mac account password

Enter a new Keychain password and restart your Mac.

Step three: Password control

If you change your account password, you may sometimes find the default keychain password has not changed. This means you will be asked for a keychain password each time an app wants authentication.

To fix:

Open Keychain Access and choose “Change Password for Keychain ‘login.'"

You’ll be asked to give your former password.

You will then be able to update it with the new password.

Recovering passwords

If you’ve forgotten a Wi-Fi, service or application password, launch Keychain Access and search for relevant keychain item (the name of your Wi-Fi network, for example. Double click the item and the information pane appears. At the bottom of the pane you will find the “Show password” checkbox. Check this and you will be prompted for your Keychain password. Enter this and you will be able to see the password for the network, service or application.

keychain secure notes

Secure Notes lets you keep notes, video and images safely inside your Mac

Added feature

You can create Secure Notes inside Keychain (File>New Secure Note Item). Give the note a name and type or paste the text, video and/or images you want kept safe. In order to access the content of this note you’ll need your account password.

Hint: Frequent user

If you make a lot of use of Keychain Access, you may want to use this tip.

Launch Keychain and open Preferences.

In the General Tab, check “Show keychain status in menu bar."

Now you will be able to lock or unlock the primary keychain, lock the screen without logging out and launch Keychain Utility and Security Preferences directly from the Menu bar. (Look for the small padlock icon on the right hand top side).

Hint: Secure

The login keychain is unlocked when you login. To auto-lock Keychain, select it and choose Edit>Change Settings for Keychain [your keychain name’]. Now you can set this keychain to close at an appropriate time – this is particularly useful for enterprise users who can store their enterprise login details in this more secure area (adding these to a new keychain, File>New Keychain, for extra security).

I hope this guide helps you get a little more from Keychain.

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