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How to Reset Your Forgotten Mac OS X Password

It happens to everyone at some point—you create a new password and don’t remember to save it somewhere, and then before you know it you’ve forgotten what it was. Here’s how to reset the password on your Mac OS X computer.

If you’ve got a Windows PC and you want to reset your password, you can do so easily with the Ubuntu Live CD or the System Rescue CD in just a couple of minutes. Or you could always crack your password if you wanted.

Luckily for us, OS X has some very simple tricks that can reset a forgotten password without going to a lot of trouble.

Method One: Using the Install Disk

The first method we will look at is the OS X Installation Disk, so grab yours and put it into the drive. Once you have booted off the disk you will need to choose your language, and then OS X will prepare the installation environment.

Then you will choose the Utilities menu and choose Reset Password.

Now you need to choose the volume with the account you need to change the password for, choose the account from the drop down, and generate your new password and password hint if you wish to use one.

Note: You may want to reset the ACLs while you are here since you have changed your password. Once you are done, you can save and restart the computer.

Now you can login to your OS X computer with your newly made password.

Method Two: Tricking OS X Into Running the First Boot

The other, and possibly easier way to get around a forgotten password requires booting into Single User Mode and removing a file that tells OS X that the first boot setup has run.

To boot into Single User Mode, you’ll need to reboot the computer while pressing and holding the Command and S keys after you hear the startup gong.

Once you have booted into Single User Mode you will need to mount the volume you need to get into. Most of the time this will just be your boot disk and can be mounted as “/”. This command will mount that for you:

sudo mount -uw /

Next we need to remove the file that tells OS X that its already done the setup:

rm -rf /var/db/.AppleSetupDone

Now we need to reboot using the very logical reboot command.

reboot

Once we boot back up it will be just like the first time you boot after install and you will see the Welcome screen, and just click through the first two screens.

When you reach the screen that asks if you already own a Mac, make sure to choose “Do not transfer my information now” since we’re not doing any migrating of data.

Once you reach the “Enter Your Apple ID” screen, you can press the Command and Q keys at the same time to get past the rest of the prompts. Click Skip when asked.

Now you will create a new Administrator account. You can choose to name it something you wish to keep or anything since you just need this account to get into the OS and to System Preferences.

Click through the next screens until you reach the Thank You screen, and we’re finally done with that part of the process. Click Go and you’ll be brought into the new account.

Once the new account has loaded you can now go to your System Preferences. We will want the Accounts pane.

Now select the account with the password you want to reset and click Reset Password…

Choose your new password, and password hint if you desire, and click Reset Password.

You can now logout and login to the account with the new password.

Chris is a Mac geek who still knows his way around Linux and Windows. He's always looking for a good way to translate geek to english.

  • Published 10/5/10

Comments (8)

  1. Hatryst

    Isn’t that easy? It’s better than Windows, after all ;)

  2. 2 Replies

    …And yet OSX fans will claim their operating system is 100% secure and better than Windows.
    I’d pose that OSX’s password is pointless as a safeguard in the event of theft, if all anyone needs to get access the information is to hold two keys on boot, type three lines at the command prompt, and reboot. (Referring to second option above.)

  3. Seth

    Is there a way to view a user’s password (assuming you are above that user, ie admin wants to view user’s password, etc)?

  4. Dakoon

    @ 2 Replies,

    The reason we say that is because it takes a person to change the password. You nifty Windows guys have hackers that do it for you…… :)

  5. Mr. BSD

    But over in the BSD world, it is as simple as boot into single user mode from the loader, and just do a simple passwd. We don’t try to hide from the fact that password are very easily recoverable. We rely on the fact that your amateur thief will be scared off by the scrolling-text boot process.

  6. Brandon Mawhorter

    Really nice tip. Many people know about the install disk way but I don’t think many people know about the single user mode. Thanks for the tip Chris!

  7. Jose

    Just remember that if you use FileVault (this is the feature that encrypts your home directory) you will need to also know your master password in order to access your home directory, and for this to work.

    As stated on the FileVault preference pane, “WARNING: Your files will be encrypted using your login password. If you forget your login password and you don’t know the master password, your data will be lost.

  8. MelB

    Ok, that looks easy, but is there a way to unlock a Pages document that you have forgotten the password for?

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