Tips For Resetting Lost Passwords

There are a number of ways to reset a password on Mac OS X. Some are grapical and at least one is command line only. Some require IT Support personel only due to the complexity, and other can be done by non IT persons. I have tried to rate each one on a 1 to 3 bases for how difficult or technical the soultion is. 1 is the easeist and 3 the hardest. Each soultion is serperately listed below.

Please note the Install DVD soultion will work for versions of OS X up to and including Snow Leopard, it will not work on Lion, a separate procedure is used for Lion. This is chiefly because Lion was the first version of OS X to ship as a download only. Instructions for Lion (not written) will be included under Taming Lion section.

Examine The Password Hint

When Snow Leopard was installed, it required on first startup, details of the first login. This login is automatically setup as an administrator, also included is a field called "Password Hint" this field is optional, but it is highly recommended that this gets filled in, as it acts as a reminder to what the password may of been, an example would be cats name. You must NOT use this hint to store the actual password, as this will enable anyone to gain access to your Mac.

The password Hint is shown when the password is entered incorrectly several times. However if you have set the system to automatically login, default setting for single user systems. Then this opputuneity won't arise. In Order view the password hint you need to access the user details. Start the System Preferences application, found on the apple  menu. Then click on Accounts, under the System Section.

Click on "Change Password" button (shown picture 1). This will show the password hint (shown picture 2). This may jog your memory to what the password is, but if it does not then you will need to reset the password using the OS X Boot / Install DVD

Finding the Account Name (1)

This is not a full soultion, but it may be needed for other processes. In order to reset the password at command level, you need the account name, this is not the displayed full name and will be unique. Before you start launch the Systems Preferences application, found on the apple  menu. Then click on Accounts, under the System Section.

  1. Click on the padlock bottom left of the window. Then authenticate using the logged in account.
  2. Select the account then right click and choose "Advanced Options". Note this can only be done after unlocking the padlock
  3. The account name is displayed on this screen, Do NOT change any other settings on this page, it can harm the ability to login.

Resetting Password using OS X Boot DVD

Reboot the Mac, again this option is under the apple  menu. Insert the OSX Boot DVD, and when the computer makes the Startup sound press and hold down the "C" button, hold this down until the rotating Wheel symbol appears. The system will start from DVD.

Ressetting Password using single user mode and the command shell (3)

Caution use of this method is advanced and serious harm can be rendered to the system, and it is technicaly chalaging, also note this method does not update the keychain. It is however a process of last resort.

  1. To bring the system into single user mode, it is nessacery to reboot the Mac, and when the apple logo appears, press and hold [Cmd + S] for a few seconds, until the screen is filled with white text. This is single user mode and the system is booted into Darwin, the UNIX backend for OS X. Interaction with the OS from this point on will be by command line only.
  2. Optional step - If the system has crashed latley then it is sensible to run a check on the file system