Password Types in macOS
The article was last updated in May 2020.
There is a number of different Mac passwords. Let's find out what they're needed for.
Also known as account password or Mac password.
Unsurprisingly, it's the one you use to log in to your Mac. If you share your Mac with others, they usually log in as another user with their own password. Guest users can log in without a password, but they aren’t allowed to make any changes on Mac.
If you’re the only user on your Mac, then your login password is the same as your admin password. Admin user is the most powerful user account with the privileges to add/remove other users and change system preferences.
Also known as login keychain password.
Each Mac comes with a built-in password manager called Keychain Access. It stores passwords for all your Mac apps (and is basically a lifesaver in case you tend to forget your Skype password, like many of us do).
To use Keychain Access, you need to remember only the login keychain password. If you are the admin user, it matches the one used to log in to your Mac. Otherwise, you’ll need to create a new login keychain password.
Passwords in iCloud Keychain
iCloud Keychain keeps your websites and Wi-Fi passwords synced across multiple devices, like your Mac, iPhone, and iPad. What’s more, every time you need to create a password, you can use iCloud Keychain to generate strong passwords and automatically fill them in.
Using iCloud Keychain requires an Apple ID. If you have one, navigate to Apple menu () > System Preferences > iCloud > Keychain, and follow the onscreen instructions to set up iCloud Keychain. If you don’t have an Apple ID, we are just about to explain what this is in the next paragraph!
Apple ID password
Also known as iCloud password or App Store password.
You need an Apple ID account to access all Apple services like iTunes Store, App Store, iCloud, FaceTime, etc. If you forget your login password, you can use Apple ID to recover it. To create your Apple ID account, or change your account password, visit the official Apple ID account page.
Also known as recovery key or FileVault password.
FileVault is the macOS built-in tool that encrypts data on the startup disk. This way, no one can access the files stored on your Mac without entering a special password.
To turn on FileVault, go to Apple menu () > System Preferences > Security & Privacy > FileVault. Next, click the lock at the bottom, enter your admin password, and select Turn On FileVault.
Once you enable FileVault, you can create a master password to enter FileVault-encrypted data. Also you’ll need a recovery key just in case you forget your master password. Learn how to set up the master password and the recovery key step by step.
Firmware password provides an additional security layer for your files. Setting this password prevents your Mac from starting up from a different hard disk, CD, or USB drive.
Losing firmware password can be disastrous or at least a big headache, so make sure you remember it.
To set up a firmware password, hold down Command (⌘) + R keys immediately after turning on your Mac. Release keys once you see the Apple logo. Now you should see the utilities window. Select Utilities > Firmware Password Utility from the menu bar and click Turn On Firmware Password.
Every additional macOS password levels up your Mac’s security. Remember to create strong passwords, and a password manager will help you never lose a password again. Stay tuned for the latest blog updates!