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Forgot your Mac password? Here’s what to do

Even with a really great Mac login password and clever password hint, it's possible to totally forget what it was. At that moment, you could be locked out of your Mac or MacBook. This situation can be particularly frustrating when deadlines approach or information stored on your Mac is needed.




15 minutes

What You Need

  • Mac or MacBook

After several wrong attempts at logging in to your Mac, a hint might appear. If the hint you left for yourself earlier doesn't jog your memory, the only solution is to reset the password. The good news is that there is more than one way for you to gain access to your Mac or MacBook, even if you can't remember your login password.

Here's what the MacBook Air's login screen looks like.

How to reset your Mac password with your Apple ID

If you've forgotten your Mac password, your Apple ID can usually provide a quick solution, letting you reset the login password. The user name and password for the Apple ID are the same as the one you used for your iCloud or Apple One account. If you can sign into Apple Music, Fitness+, or any of Apple's other services, you can reset your Mac password if it uses the same Apple ID.

Step 1: After several wrong attempts at signing in, your Mac might offer the option to reset the password with your Apple ID. If not, it will allow you to restart the Mac and show options for resetting the login password. If Apple ID is an option, choose it now and skip to step 3.

Your Mac will recognize that you've forgotten your login password.

Step 2: After restarting, your Mac will show one or more disk volumes to use. In most cases, you should choose Macintosh HD, the default name for your Mac's startup drive. If a volume called macOS Base System appears, disregard it since it's a small volume used internally by the operating system and doesn't contain any user data. If you've renamed your startup drive, select that volume.

Mac password reset let's you choose which drive to use.

Step 3: Enter your Apple ID and password and choose Next.

Use your Apple ID to reset your Mac password.

Step 4: If you have two-factor authentication on your Apple account, you'll need to enter a verification code, then select Verify.

Enter the verification code to authenticate that it's you.

Step 5: One or more Mac user accounts will appear and you should pick the one that needs the password reset, then choose Next.

Select a user to reset their password.

Step 6: The next step is to enter a new password, type it again to verify, and ideally provide a password hint that will help if you forget it again.

Enter a new password and password hint.

Step 7: At this point, your Mac password has been changed and your Mac will ask you to Restart so you can log in and use your Mac again.

Restart and use your new Mac password

How to change your Mac password with a FileVault recovery key

When you can't remember or even guess your Mac's login password, you can reset it if you have your FileVault recovery key written down somewhere. The default setting for a Mac is to use your iCloud account to encrypt your drive. However, there is an option to use a recovery key, which is a 24-character code that should be physically written down and kept safe. You use this code to reset your Mac's password.

Step 1: After a few tries, your Mac will recognize that you don't know your password and suggest restarting and resetting the login password. Find your FileVault recovery key and then choose that option to get started.

Your Mac will recognize that you've forgotten your login password.

Step 2: Select Macintosh HD or whatever you've named your startup drive, then choose Next.

Mac password reset let's you choose which drive to use

Step 3: The Mac will ask for your recovery key, which is the FileVault encryption key that you wrote down. Type in that 24-character code, then select Next to proceed.

Enter your saved FileVault recovery key.

Step 4: Select the user that forgot their login password if there is more than one user for this Mac.

Select a user to reset their password.

Step 5: Now you can type in a new password, enter it again to verify on the line below, then fill in a hint that will remind you of the password and choose Next.

forgot your mac password how to reset enter a new and hint

Step 6: Select Restart to sign in with your new Mac password.

Restart and use your new Mac password

When does a Mac require a password?

Your Mac admin password is often required when waking the computer up from sleep and almost always needed when restarting or powering up a Mac or MacBook even when Touch ID is available. You might need both your administrator name and password to log into your Mac if that option is selected in System Preferences but the default is to require only the password.

Can a Mac be set up so a password isn't needed?

While it is possible to disable the password and set a user account to automatic login, doing so requires FileVault to be off, which is a privacy risk. The password is still needed to make significant changes to your Mac. You should probably only disable the login password in a very secure environment.

How to disable or delay your Mac's automatic logout

While completely disabling your Mac's login password isn't a good idea, it might be okay to disable or delay the automatic logout that happens when your Mac goes to sleep. Here's how to make that adjustment.

If automatic logout is disabled, you'll need to manually log out, restart, or turn off your Mac to protect it from unauthorized access, so be careful if you decide to make this change.

Step 1: Open System Preferences and select the Security & Privacy pane.

Open the Security and Privacy pane of System Preferences.

Step 2: Choose the lock in the bottom-left to allow changes. You'll have to authenticate with Touch ID or your Mac password.

Authenticate with Touch ID or your password.

Step 3: To delay the time before logout, choose the menu to the right of Require password and pick the time that you'd like. You can even make automatic logout happen the moment your Mac goes to sleep by selecting immediately.

Select a new time before automatic log out from the menu.

Step 4: If you want to completely disable the automatic logout, uncheck the box to the left of Require password. A warning will appear and you must choose Turn Off Screen Lock to confirm it.

Choose Turn Screen Lock off to proceed.

Step 5: If iCloud Keychain is being used to store your passwords, another warning will appear letting you choose between switching off Keychain for this Mac or leaving it on despite the additional security risk.

Choose whether to use iCloud Keychain with Screen Lock off.

Can you reset your Mac's login password with another user account?

While it is possible to change your Mac's password if your computer has more than one admin account, that only works when running MacOS 11.0 (Big Sur) or earlier. Big Sur was released in 2020, MacOS 12.0 (Monterey) is the current version and MacOS 13.0 (Ventura) is coming in a few months. We do have a guide that describes how to use an administrator account to reset your Mac's login password when using an older version of MacOS.

MacOS is an operating system that's been around long enough to offer solutions for almost every sticky situation that might arise, including forgetting your login password. With a few tips and a few minutes of work, you can usually reset the password and sign in as if nothing ever happened.

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Alan Truly
Computing Writer
Alan is a Computing Writer living in Nova Scotia, Canada. A tech-enthusiast since his youth, Alan stays current on what is…
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