How to recover & view passwords stored in your Keychain file

OS X (and well written applications) stores many of your various passwords for web sites, servers, and wireless networks in a Keychain file. These stored passwords are only viewable if you know the computer’s login password. This is true in most cases, as it is possible (and much more secure) to have more than one keychain, so your bank password doesn’t unlock itself just by logging into your computer. If you have you forgotten a password to a website, email account, or other password, chances are that your password can be easily retrieved

Open Keychain


You’ll find this program in your Utilities folder, which is inside of the Applications folder. From the Finder, use the Go menu for fast access.

Keychain Access main window


Once Keychain Access opens, scroll through the list of keys until you find the one that you’re looking for. Double click that entry.

Stored credentials screen


Once the details screen shows up, note the Show password section. Checking the box presents the next screen.

Login password entry


Once you are presented with this screen enter your login password and click Allow. The login password is the password you use to log into your account if you log out or reboot, or if the computer asks you for a password most any other time.

* As far as I can tell, there is no difference between the “Always Allow” and “Allow.” “Always Allow” doesn’t seem to do anything more than the regular “Allow” button.

Tap into the Keychain

OS X includes its own reasonably capable password manager: Keychain. Your keychain stores user names, passwords, and other private data in a securely encrypted file. By unlocking your keychain, you gain access to all the passwords inside it, so you have to remember only one.

The Keychain Access application (located in Applications/Utilities) lets you add, remove, view, and edit all your passwords. Your keychain directly supports the Finder, Apple Mail, Apple Safari, and numerous other programs. However, not all applications can use your keychain—Mozilla Firefox, for example, has its own proprietary password manager that other programs can’t share.

Keychain is great for simple user names and passwords, but it’s less effective when it comes to storing and using other types of data, such as credit card numbers. In many cases, the only way to use such data is to manually copy and paste it between Keychain Access and another application, which is inconvenient at best. For password-management needs that go beyond what Keychain can offer, your best bet is a third-party password manager.

via Manage your passwords | Business Center | Working Mac | Macworld.

Backing up Keychain Data

Keychains store all of your password and personal information on your computer. The keychain is secure and powerful when used properly, and with a minor amount of customization, can be extremely secure (that will be covered in a later post, however).

Keychains are located in your ~/Library/Keychains/ folder. To get to this file in the Finder, choose Home from the Go menu. Open the Library folder, then open the Keychains folder.

Tip: Before you back up your keychains, use Keychain First Aid to repair any issues.

* To back up: Make copies of your keychain files in a different location by Option-dragging each file to a desired location. Do not remove the originals. You can also use the Finder to create an archive as described in the Safari Bookmarks section, above.

* To restore:
1. In the Finder, from the Go menu, choose Utilities.
2. Open Keychain Access.
3. From the Edit menu, choose Keychain List. A dialog appears, listing all keychain files.
4. Deselect the keychains that you wish to restore, then click OK.
5. Quit Keychain Access.
6. Move your keychain back up files back to ~/Library/Keychains/.
7. Open Keychain Access again.
8. From the Edit menu, choose Keychain List.
9. Select the keychains that you wish to use, then click OK.

Thanks for the tip, Apple!