macOS is famed for its security, and at the heart of that is your account password: you need it to not only log in to your account but to make changes in System Preferences, install new apps and even delete important files. It’s safe to say that knowing your password is vital to the Mac experience, so what do you do if you’ve forgotten your Mac password? Thankfully, there are a few days to reset a Mac password, and we talk you through each right here.

It’s worth noting that this is separate to resetting an Apple ID, which we cover separately. 

Password hint

If you’re struggling to remember your password, why not take a look at your password hint? As long as you included one when you set up your account, of course. The hint should appear on the login screen after three incorrect attempts:

  1. On the login screen, click the account you’re locked out of. 
  2. Click the password field and hit the Enter key three times.
  3. You should see the password hint appear beneath the password field. 

If you didn’t set up a password hint, or if the hint you used is a little too cryptic for your liking, you’ll have to move on to the next method. Once you do eventually get back into the account, we’d recommend setting up a password hint to avoid this situation in future. You can do this by heading to System Preferences > Users & Groups > Login Options and clicking Change Password.

Use your Apple ID

When you first set up your user account, you’ll be prompted to log in with an Apple ID. This links your Mac to iCloud, allowing you to sync data including contacts, photos, videos, messages and more between your iPhone, iPad and Mac, and also works as a verification method during the password process to prove that you really are the owner of the account.

If you linked your account to your Apple ID, follow these steps:

  1. On the login screen, click the icon of the account you’d like to access.
  2. Hit the Enter key three times. 
  3. Click the Question mark next to the password field.
  4. Click the arrow next to ‘Reset it using your Apple ID’.
  5. Enter your Apple ID and password.
  6. Click next.
  7. Follow on-screen prompts to reset your password. 

Once successfully reset, you should be able to log back into your account without issue. 

Change the password from another account

Do you share your Mac with others - possibly other family members, flatmates or even hot-desking colleagues at work? If you have another admin account on your Mac, you can use that account to change your password. Of course, that requires the other person to either log in for you or hand over their login details so you can access it yourself. We’ll let you sort that part out…

Once you’re ready, follow these steps:

  1. Log in to an admin account. 
  2. Open System Preferences and click Users & Groups.
  3. Click the lock icon in the bottom-left if it’s locked, and enter the account password once again. 
  4. Click the account you’d like to access in the sidebar. 
  5. Click Reset Password.
  6. Fill in the New Password, Verify and Password Hint fields - the latter is optional, but highly recommended by us.
  7. Click Change Password to apply the settings.

You should now be able to log out of the admin account and successfully log back into your own Mac account. While you’ll be able to access all your apps and data, you won’t be able to access your keychain (saved passwords) without providing the original password for the account.

Obviously, you’ve forgotten the password, so you’ll have to click Create New Keychain and start from scratch. It may be frustrating, but it stops others from resetting your password and being able to log in to your account on a variety of sites and services.  

If you’re a bit of a lone wolf and only have a single account on your Mac, you’ll have to move on to our fourth, and final, workaround. 

Reset your password using Recovery Mode

Handily enough, Apple also includes a tool to replace a Mac password within its Recovery Mode. This should allow you to reset your Mac password as long as you don’t have FileVault encryption enabled - but more on that later. When you’re ready, follow these steps:

  1. Turn off your Mac.
  2. Press the Power button while holding Command + R.
  3. Continue to hold Command + R until you see an Apple logo appear.
  4. Select Disk Utility and click Continue.
  5. Click Utilities > Terminal.
  6. Enter resetpassword, all one word with lower-case letters, and then hit the Enter key.
  7. Select the volume containing the account - this is usually your main hard drive.
  8. Select the account you’d like to change.
  9. Enter the new password, re-enter it in the verification field and add a password hint.
  10. Click Save.
  11. You’ll see a pop-up informing you that although the password has changed, the Keychain Password remains unchanged. Click OK to dismiss this.
  12. Click the Apple icon, and click Shut Down.

You should then be able to boot up your Mac and log in to your account with your new password. As with the above method, this will lock you out of your Keychain, so when prompted, click Create New Keychain to start from scratch. 

How can I stop others from resetting my password?

Now that you’ve successfully changed your Mac password, you’ve probably realised just how easy it is to access somebody else’s Mac account and are now wondering “how can I protect myself?”. Well, the answer is pretty simple and you don’t have to pay a penny for it: FileVault.

FileVault, built into the core of macOS, encrypts the contents of your Mac and disables the Password Reset utility both in Recovery Mode and in the Users & Groups menu without a Recovery Key specific to your account. This is provided to you when you first set the encryption software up, and it’s worth writing this down and keeping it safe - you’ll be effectively locked out of your Mac and all its contents if you can’t remember the key when required. 

When ready, simply head to System Preferences > Security & Privacy > FileVault and enable the encryption tech. 

That’s about it for resetting a Mac password! For more handy tips and tricks, take a look at how to reset your Mac and how to clear the cache on iPhone and iPad too.