You’ve undoubtedly noticed that you’re not routinely nagged for a password when you use your Mac’s email client, nor do you have to enter passwords for many of the networks you use. And the reason is because those passwords are stored by the Mac OS in keychains—protected repositories for this kind of data.

In this video I show you how to use Keychain Access to recover passwords you can no longer recall. In addition, I demonstrate how to repair a corrupt keychain, which can lead to websites not opening as you expect and constant calls for you to enter email passwords.

Download Macworld Video #173

• Format: MPEG-4/H.264

• Resolution: 480 x 272 (iPhone & iPod compatible)

• Size: 3MB

• Length: 2 minutes, 44 seconds

Show Notes

In the video I incorrectly state that the keychain is tied to your administrator's account. This is incorrect. It's tied to your account's login password. Not all users are administrators, of course. Regrets for the error.

To subscribe to the Macworld Video stream via iTunes, click here.

You can also see a complete archive of all our videos on Macworld’s YouTube channel. Subscribe to that channels and you will be notified whenever we post a new video.

Or just point your favorite podcast-savvy RSS reader to:

Show transcript

Hi, I’m Macworld senior editor, Chris Breen here with your Macworld weekly video tip. Today we’re going to look at Keychain Access and what you can do with it and it can do for you.

Keychain Access is, among other things, the place where the Mac OS stores things like network, email, and some Web passwords. If you forget one of these passwords, you can sometimes recover it within Keychain Access. It works like this.

Keychain Access can be found in the Utilities folder within your Applications folder. To quickly call it up, just press Command-Space, type Keychain in Spotlight’s Search field, and press the Return key.

In the resulting Keychain Access window you’ll see the Keychains entry along the left side of the window and the entries that belong to the selected keychain on the right. Unless you’ve changed Keychain Access’ behavior, you’ll find the vast majority of your entires in the Login keychain.

To recover a password, just locate the keychain entry associated with that password—in this case we’ll use a Gmail account—and double-click on it. In the window that appears enable the Show Password option. You’ll then be prompted for the password associated with your administrator’s account. Enter it and click Allow. The password will appear in the Show Password field.

Click on the Access Control tab and you’ll see any applications that automatically use the password without requiring that you enter it. If you’d prefer that one of these applications no longer automatically use the password, just select it and click the Minus button. When you next use that application or access the affected network device or website, you’ll be prompted to enter your password and choose to allow it once or always allow.

Note that this Login keychain is very specifically tied to your login password. If you lose that password, you’re out of luck. The keychain and everything in it remains locked.

Another useful thing to do with Keychain Access is to check your keychain’s health. If you find that you can no longer automatically log into websites that you previously could or you’re constantly hectored for an email account’s password, your keychain may be corrupt.

To check it, select Keychain First Aid from the Keychain menu. Enter your administrator’s name and password, select Verify, and click Start. If you see any red entries, your keychain is bollixed up in one way or another. Enable Repair and click Start and everything should be hunky dory.

And there you have it, two useful things you can do with Keychain Access. Thanks for watching.

Note: When you purchase something after clicking links in our articles, we may earn a small commission. Read our affiliate link policy for more details.
Shop Tech Products at Amazon