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What Is Keychain Access on Your Mac & How to Use It?

Updated on Wednesday, May 11, 2022

iBoysoft author Amanda Wong

Written by

Amanda Wong
Professional tech editor

Approved by

Jessica Shee

Forget Keychain Passwords? You Can Reset It on Mac

Summary: This post tells you what the Keychain Access on Mac is, what it is used for, and how to view and change passwords in Keychain Access.

keychain access

Table of Contents:

You are asked to set accounts and passwords when you browse websites, register as a membership, log into your Apple ID for the first time, etc. It is indeed a challenge for you to remember a lot of different passwords. And sometimes, your memory may betray you, then a number of steps are needed to reset it, annoying! This is where Keychain Access comes in. This post will explain what it is and how to use it on your Mac.

What is Keychain Access?

Most websites require you to log into the account with the password before browsing the contents, and after you enter the information to sign in, it will ask whether you want the Mac to remember the account and the password. If you click on Save, what will happen to the password? Well, the password will be saved in the keychain, a macOS feature.

You can regard the keychain as the macOS built-in password manager. It saves the passwords to autofill the next time you visit the same websites. So you don't need to remember the passwords by yourself and the keychain will do it for you. And you can view all the saved passwords in the Keychain Access, the macOS application. It allows users to access and configure the contents of the keychain, lock or unlock the keychain, display system-stored passwords, manage root certificates, keys, and encrypted notes.

Thanks to the keychain feature, you will not bother to remember so many passwords. Therefore, you can set more complex passwords and multiple passwords for different accounts. In this way, it levels up the security of the information on your Mac.

How to access keychain on Mac?

If you want to view all the saved passwords in the keychain, you can access them in the Keychain Access. Just open the Finder > Applications > Utility > Keychain Access, or press the Command + Space keys to launch the Spotlight and search for the app. Then double click the icon of Keychain Access to get into the app interface.

keychain access interface

Within the app, you will see 4 default keychains:

  • login: the info of online accounts to log in
  • iCloud: credit card numbers and expiry dates, usernames and passwords, internet accounts, and more, and is accessible on your other Apple devices.
  • System: passwords, certificates, and keys for Wi-Fi networks you access
  • System Roots: just certificates

Besides, there are different categories including All Items, Passwords, Secure Notes, My Certificates, Keys, and Certificates.

How to turn on iCloud Keychain on your devices

With the iCloud Keychain turned on, you can update your password and other security information across your devices. It will auto-fill the information such as online accounts password and credit card passwords on your devices you with the same iCloud account signed into. Here's how:

Turn on iCloud Keychain on iPad/iPhone/iPod touch: Open Settings > Tap [your name], choose iCloud > Keychain and turn it on. Enter your password when asked.

Turn on iCloud Keychain on Mac: Click the Apple logo > System Preferences, choose Apple ID > iCloud, then check the box of Keychain. Enter your password when asked

What you can do in Keychain Access?

In the Keychain Access, you can view the information of a saved item, manage the saved passwords, create password-protected notes, and change settings for the keychain password. 

keychain access

  • To view a keychain item: select the target item and control-click it and choose Get Info to display the detailed information.
  • To edit a keychain item: locate the item you want to delete and control-click > Delete “item name”.
  • To add a keychain item: On the top menu bar, click on File, you can choose New Password Item, New Secure Note Item, and New Keychain to add.
  • To unlock keychain “login”: Control-click on the default login and choose Unlock keychain “login”.

If your Mac keeps asking for your keychain password

Such an issue is caused by the settings of the keychain in the Keychain Access app. If your computer is inactive for a while, the keychain will be locked automatically, and ask for your keychain password. Then you can lengthen the time of the keychain before it locks. Control-lick login on the left sidebar, and choose Change Settings for Keychain “login”, then enter your keychain password and set the length of time. 

login keychain settings

What if I forgot my keychain password?

The keychain password is the master password for your Mac's Keychain Access app. Your Mac may ask for this keychain password when you log into some websites and make changes in the Keychain Access. Usually, the keychain password is the same as the user password to log onto your computer. If you forget the keychain password, you can reset it in the Preferences of Keychain Access but you will lose all stored keychain items.  

reset default keychains