Forgot your password? Recover any password on your Mac

While it’s safer to create long, complex passwords that you enter manually every single time, most of us are guilty of relying on autofill to complete password fields for us.

But, what if you try to log into your account, only to discover that the little ‘Password’ field is no longer being autocompleted automatically? Perhaps you deleted your web browser history or updated an app, and it’s unexpectedly wiped out one of your most frequently-used, saved passwords – and you no longer remember what that password was!

If you need to recover the password for an app, account, website, or even your home Wi-Fi network, and you’ve previously entered this password on your Mac, then there’s a chance that it’s stored in your Keychain. In this article, I’ll show you how to quickly and easily recover a forgotten password, using the Keychain application.

Recover any password, using Keychain

The secret to macOS’ autofill feature, is that all of your passwords are stored in the Keychain app. If autofill suddenly stops working and you need to re-enter a password manually, then you can often recover this password via Keychain. The only limitation is that you’ll need to enter your user account password, in order to retrieve any passwords from Keychain. If you can’t remember your user account login, then skip to the end of this article, where I walk you through the process of recovering this crucial piece of information.

To recover a password via Keychain:

  • Open a new ‘Finder’ window.
  • Navigate to ‘Applications/Utilities.’
  • Launch the ‘Keychain Access’ app.
  • In the left-hand menu, select ‘Passwords.’
  • In the ‘Search’ field, enter the app, website, or account that you need to recover the password for.
  • Double-click the most recent result.
  • In the subsequent window, select the ‘Show Password’ checkbox.

  • When prompted, enter your user account password, which is the password you’ll use to log into your Mac.
  • Click ‘Allow.’

The password for your selected app, website or account should now be displayed onscreen.

Recover your Wi-Fi password

Most modern routers come with a little card that slots into the router, and contains the password you’ll need in order to connect to that router. If you need to re-enter your Wi-Fi password, then this card has all the information you’ll need – but perhaps you’ve lost this card, or maybe you’re just feeling too lazy to get up and walk all the way over to your router, in order to retrieve it!

Assuming you entered this password at least once before, then you can recover your Wi-Fi password via the Keychain app:

  • Launch Keychain (Applications/Utilities/Keychain Access).
  • Select ‘Passwords’ in the left-hand menu.
  • Search for your Wi-Fi network. If you’re unsure about the network’s full name, then you’ll find a list of nearby Wi-Fi networks, by clicking the little ‘Wi-Fi’ icon in your Mac’s menu bar.
  • Select the ‘Show password’ checkbox.
  • Enter your user password.
  • Click ‘Allow.’ Keychain Access will then display your Wi-Fi password.

Forgot your user account password?

Recovering the user account password is slightly trickier!

When your Mac asks for your user account password, it’s worth entering an incorrect password three times, just to see whether macOS displays a password hint. If a password hint doesn’t appear, then it means you didn’t create one.

If your Mac contains multiple user accounts, then you can reset your password from any other account that has admin privileges:

  • If you haven’t already, log into the user account that you do know the password for (or get the account owner to log in for you).
  • Navigate to ‘System Preferences > Users & Groups.’
  • Click the little padlock icon, and enter the password for the current user account.
  • In the left-hand menu, select the account that you’ve forgotten the password for.
  • Select ‘Reset Password.
  • Enter the new password that you want to use.
  • Click ‘Change Password.’

You can now log into your user account, using this new password.

Before you go

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About the author

Jessica Thornsby

Jessica Thornsby is a technical writer based in Sheffield. She writes about Android, Java, Kotlin and all things Apple. She is the co-author of O'Reilly's "iWork: The Missing Manual," and the author of "Android UI Design," from Packt Publishing.

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