Systems and Technologies

Change a forgotten Mac OS X account password

To change a forgotten account password in Mac OS X requires that you:

  1. Disable any Open Firmware password protection
  2. Start up from the Mac OS X install disc that most closely matches the version of Mac OS X on the computer.

If you do know the current password for an account but want to change it, it is preferable to use our instructions on how to Change your Mac OS X account password in System Preferences.

Once you have disabled any Open Firmware password on the computer, you can change account passwords.

  1. Start up the computer using the Mac OS X install disc. This is typically Disc 1 of a set of CDs, or a DVD that came with your computer.
  2. Select "Reset Password" from the Installer menu once the computer has finished starting up. This bypasses the Mac OS X installer program and takes you to the Reset Password utility.
  3. Select your normal startup hard disk from the list of disks. The selected disk will be highlighted with a white background. You can reset passwords on any disk connected to the computer, assuming it has Mac OS X installed.
    Note: If you are unsure of the name of your regular startup hard disk, it is probably named "Macintosh HD." It should be the icon that appears at the top right corner of your Desktop when you log into the computer.
  4. Choose an account from the pop-up list. This is the account whose password you will reset.
    Note: We do not recommend resetting the password of special accounts that appear in this list, such as "System Administrator" or "Application Server." Changing the passwords on these accounts can adversely affect the security of your computer.
  5. Enter a new password for the selected account. (See our Tips for securing computers for more information on creating strong passwords.)
  6. Re-enter the same new password to verify that it was typed correctly.
  7. Click the "Save" button to save the changed password.
  8. Choose "Quit Reset Password" from the Reset Password menu in the menu bar at the top of the screen. You will be returned to the Installer program.
  9. Select "Quit Installer" from the Installer menu.
  10. Press the "Quit" button in the dialog sheet that slides out. This will quit the installer program and use your normal startup hard disk when restarting the computer.

That's it! You've reset the password for the account you selected.

Note: The Password Reset utility on the Mac OS X install disc resets the account password, but not the Keychain password for that account. You will either need to change the account password again in System Preferences, or use the Keychain Access utility (found /Applications/Utilities/) to re-synchronize the passwords on your account and the Keychain.
Keywords: desktop computer, laptop computer, mac os x, system administration, troubleshooting
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