Mac OS X (10.6 and Before) - Resetting a Forgotten Account Password

This document explains how to reset a forgotten account password in Mac OS X for versions 10.6 and before.

Warning: Do not use the instructions in this document to reset the password for a FileVault protected account. Doing so may render the contents of the account inaccessible. Instead, follow these instructions provided by Apple.

Resetting the Password

To reset a Mac OS X account password, startup the computer using an Apple Software Restore disc (included with newer Macs) or a Mac OS X Install disc. It is best to use the same disc from which OS X was installed. Do not use a disc with a version of OS X other than the one installed on the computer or it may not work. For example, if you reset a password on a computer running Mac OS X 10.3 with an OS X 10.4 disc, you will not be able to log into the account.

Insert the disc, restart the computer, and hold the C key when you hear the startup sound. You can release the key when the gray Apple appears.

Gray Apple at startup

It is normal for the computer to take longer to startup from a CD or DVD. The disc will automatically start the OS X installer but you do not need to reinstall OS X. If you are prompted to select a language and you do not see the menu bar at the top of the screen, click the right arrow button to proceed to the next step.

Select language

The method of resetting passwords varies slightly depending on the version of OS X on the installation disc.

Mac OS X 10.2.x through 10.3.x:
Select Reset Password from the Installer menu.
Installer menu
Mac OS X 10.4.x and 10.5.x:
Choose Reset Password from the Utilities menu.
Utilities menu

The Reset Password window should look similar to this:

Reset Password window

  • Select the hard drive (e.g. Macintosh HD) at the top of the window.
  • Select the user account you wish to reset. Important: Do not select "System Administrator(root). This is a reference to the root user. Do not confuse it with a normal administrator account.
  • Enter the new password in the two boxes. In Mac OS X 10.4, you can also include a password hint.
  • Click the Save button.
  • Click OK on the message confirming the password has been reset.

Password reset confirmation

To close the password reset utility, select Quit Reset Password from the Reset Password menu.

Reset Password menu

Restart the computer by choosing Quit Installer from the Installer menu and click Restart or Quit when prompted.

Installer menu

Resetting the Keychain

Resetting an account password does not change the Keychain password. For security reasons, there is no way to reset a forgotten Keychain password and the contents of the keychain cannot be recovered. The Keychain must be deleted so a new one can be created and used.

From the Finder, click on the Go menu and select Home.

Go menu in Finder

In the window that appears, open the Library folder and drag the Keychains folder to the trash.

Restart the computer or log out and log back in. A new keychain will be created using the current account password.

KeywordsMacOS OS X osx Macintosh resetting lost password forgotten administrator fireball keychain login   Doc ID3853
OwnerJeff W.GroupDoIT Help Desk
Created2005-07-26 19:00:00Updated2023-03-30 18:30:25
SitesDoIT Help Desk
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