Easily Recover Lost Passwords (as in FREE)

Ever forget your favorite website’s passwords? How about that little used EZpass account you just received a statement for?  We all have.  Every cybersecurity expert will tell you “don’t write down your password!” and then tell us the password must be unique, have 15 characters, mixed case, 2 letters, 2 special characters and include a blood sample.  With the hundreds of websites asking for logins how do you remember them all? 

Keeping a little black book of passwords is risky and there are pricey software solutions that automatically capture and encrypt your logins and store it in the cloud. Both are workable options…but did you realize your Mac does this already? It’s baked into the operating system and its 100% FREE!?  Here is a primer on how to leverage Apple’s Keychain Access application to retrieve your lost passwords.

The Keychain is a part of your operating system that stores and retrieves encrypted information like logins, tokens, encryption certificates, etc for use by the OS in the background. It’s the magic sauce that lets all your Mac apps and browsers seamless communicate with services on the Internet.  Keychain uses strong 256bit AES encryption and synchs to iCloud across your devices. 

Recover Your Lost Password in three easy steps

Step 1: Open Keychain Access. 

First, navigate to the Utilities folder:

  1. Using Finder, open the Applications folder and then open the Utilities folder.
  2. Use the Finder menu “GO” and choose the Utilities folder.
  3. or Use a keyboard shortcut SHIFT + COMMAND + “U”
  4. Double Click the Keychain Access icon
Keychain Utility Folder
Keychain Utility Folder

This brings up the Keychain Access window. By default it opens the keychain for the logged in user.  A word of warning…don’t mess around with Keychain too much. It can really mess up your system if you delete system level items.  For now, make sure to select “Passwords” in the category column.

Keychain Main Screen
Keychain Main Screen

Step 2: Search for your lost password. 

In the upper right hand corner is our famous Apple Search bar. In that bar enter a search term to help you find your password. The site name, application name, login name…search is very flexible.  Press “return” to search. In my example below, I used Facebook:

Keychain Search
Keychain Search

You’ll notice that system, web, and Internet passwords are reorded.  You’ll need to look at the names to determine which password you wish to retrieve.  Once you find it, double-click the account name to bring up the Attributes of the login:

Keychain webform password screen
Keychain webform password screen

Step 3: retrieve your password

Almost there! Now. Click the “show password” check box. Your Mac will ask for your system login password (the one you use to log into your computer) to decrypt the password and display it. This is a safety feature to prevent someone with physical access to your computer from easily getting your passwords. 

Press OK and voila! Your password is now displayed and you can copy and paste it.

Keychain password revealed
Keychain password revealed

Pretty Simple, no?  It’s not the most elegant solution but it is absolutely FREE!

BONUS Tip.  You an do this on your iPad/iPhone too. Go to Settings -> Safari -> Passwords to retrieve passwords on the go!

BONUS BONUS Tip. You can also use Keychain Access to create and store encrypted notes to yourself.

Now go ahead, make your complex passwords, enable Two-Factor-Authentication and never fret over a lost password again! 

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