Systems and Technologies

Change your Mac OS X account password in System Preferences

If you have already started up the computer and logged into your account, you can change your password from the System Preferences application.

Changing the password this way requires that:

  • you are logged in with the account whose password will change
  • you know the current password for that account.

If you do not know the password for the account you are using, you can still reset it. See our instructions on how to Change a forgotten Mac OS X account password.

Note: If you start up your computer and reach the Desktop without entering a password, your computer is logging into your account (and entering your password) for you. This is the default behavior for the first account created on a Mac OS X system. If you add a second account, the computer will ask you if you want to continue doing that. For improved security, we recommend that you Disable automatic login in Mac OS X.

The following instructions focus on Mac OS X 10.3 "Panther." To change your account password in Panther:

  1. Open the System Preferences application. You can find System Preferences in the Apple menu. It is also located in the Dock by default (although its icon can be removed from the Dock).
  2. Click on the "Accounts" icon in the "System Preferences" window.
  3. Click on your account to highlight it in the list of accounts in the left side of the Accounts System Preferences window. If you are logged in with that account currently, it should be first in the list, under the heading "My Account."
    PantherSysPrefsAcctsSelectMe: Panther System Preferences Accounts select "My Account"
  4. Click on the "Password" tab. Your account's long and short names should be listed, along with fields for the password and password hint.
  5. Click once in the "Password" field and press any key on the keyboard. When you press a key, a sheet will slide down and ask you for your current password.
    PantherSysPrefsAcctsAuthorize: Panther System Preferences Accounts authorize password change
  6. Enter your current password in the "Current Password" field of the dialog sheet that slides down and then click "OK" to close the dialog.
    Note: If you do not remember your account's current password, you will need to reset it when starting up from your Mac OS X installation disc.
  7. Enter a new password in the "Password" field. (See our Tips for securing computers for more information on creating strong passwords.)
  8. Re-enter the same new password in the "Verify" field.
    Note: If the contents of the "Password" and "Verify" fields do not match, you will be warned and forced to make them the same.

    PantherSysPrefsAcctsPwVerify: Panther System Preferences Accounts verify password change
  9. Enter a password hint in the "Password Hint" field. If you cannot think of a phrase that will remind you -- and only you -- of your password, without giving away your password, then leave the field blank. Under no circumstances should you repeat your password in the hint field.
  10. Click on another account in the account list; this will save the password change you just made.
  11. Click "OK" on the dialog sheet that slides down. The dialog warns you that your Keychain password will be changed to match the new password you just entered. (The Keychain allows you to securely store frequently-used passwords for e-mail programs, Web sites, file servers, and so on.)
    PantherSysPrefsAcctsKeychain: Panther System Preferences Accounts Keychain password change

That's it! You've changed your password.

Once you have changed the password, you will note that it is represented by seven bullet characters. When browsed from the account list in the Accounts System Preferences, every account on the computer will look like it has the same password length. This prevents other people from trying to guess the length of a password and use that as a clue to breaking into an account.

Keywords: desktop computer, laptop computer, mac os x, system administration, troubleshooting
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