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How to reset your Mac OS X password without an installer disc

How to reset your Mac OS X password without an installer disc

Let’s say you totally forgot the password to log on to your Mac. Or maybe you purchased a used Mac from someone else and they’ve got it locked down. There are numerous ways to reset a password with no OS X discs.

This tutorial may ruffle some feathers, but it addresses a topic that a ton of people ask about all the time. Yes, it’s startling to think that anyone could theoretically walk up to your computer and gain access within minutes. Before you go thinking that Mac OS X has a severe vulnerability that makes it less secure than other operating systems, think again. Anyone with physical access to your machine (whether it is Windows, Linux, or Mac) can eventually find a way in if they know what they’re doing. There are ways of bypassing nearly any security measure when a hacker is literally sitting right in front of your system.

The information here has previously been made available from many different sources online and is presented with the intention of helping people with legitimate reasons for resetting their Mac OS X password. A few of the methods floating around the Mac community have been compiled here in one easy-to-reference place. System admins responsible for supporting entire organizations and users who bought used Macs are the folks most likely to benefit from this.

Important Note:
This tutorial was written for Mac OS X 10.4, 10.5 and 10.6. Please check out the updated version of this post if you’re trying to reset the password on a Mac running 10.7 Lion or 10.8 Mountain Lion.

Reset 10.5 Leopard & 10.6 Snow Leopard password

  1. Power on or restart your Mac.
  2. At the chime (or grey screen if your chime is turned off), hold down Command+S on your keyboard to enter single-user mode.
  3. This step is optional, but it’s a good idea because it checks the consistency of the hard disk before moving on. At the prompt, type fsck -fy and press Enter/Return. Wait for the checks to complete before going to the next step.
  4. Type mount -uw / and press Enter.
  5. Type launchctl load /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/com.apple.DirectoryServices.plist and press Enter.
  6. Type ls /Users and press Enter. This lists all of the usernames on the computer – helpful if you don’t know or remember what these are.
  7. Type dscl . -passwd /Users/username password and replace “username” with one of the users displayed in the previous step. Replace “password” with a new password of your choice. Press Enter.
  8. Type reboot and press Enter.

Reset 10.4 Tiger password

  1. Power on or restart your Mac.
  2. At the chime (or grey screen if your chime is turned off), hold down Command+S on your keyboard to enter single-user mode.
  3. Type sh /etc/rc and press Enter/Return.
  4. Type passwd username and replace “username” with the short name of the user account for which you’d like to reset the password.
  5. Type your desired password and press Enter. It won’t show itself on the screen, so be careful what you type. You will most likely have to enter it again to confirm.
  6. Type reboot and press Enter.

Tricking your Mac into creating a new user account

  1. Power on or restart your Mac (should work for any Mac OS X system).
  2. At the chime (or grey screen if your chime is turned off), hold down Command+S on your keyboard to enter single-user mode.
  3. This step is optional, but it’s a good idea because it checks the consistency of the hard disk before moving on. At the prompt, type fsck -fy and press Enter/Return. Wait for the checks to complete before going to the next step.
  4. Type mount -uw / and press Enter.
  5. Type rm /var/db/.AppleSetupDone and press Enter.
  6. Type shutdown -h now and press Enter.

The third method of resetting your Mac’s password requires some additional explanation. Rather than simply changing the password like the previous two methods do, this one fools the operating system into believing it has never been started before. This means when you restart the machine, it will take you through the entire setup & registration process all over again. Do not worry, all of your pre-existing data is still available. Just continue with this process and do not choose the option to transfer or migrate information to the Mac.

Once you’re done, log in with your new admin account and go to System Preferences > Accounts. You may have to click on the lock icon in the lower-left corner before making changes here. You should see your original user account(s) in the left column. Try clicking on one of them to convert it to a standard user account (uncheck “Allow user to administer this computer”) and change the password. You should be able to successfully log in to that account now and access all of your files and programs. If you want, you can log back in with your new admin account and re-check the “Allow user to administer this computer” option in System Preferences to grant admin privileges to the original user again.

That should cover it! As always, remember messing with single-user mode and Terminal is risky and may lead to trouble if you make mistakes. Considering you’re already locked out of the computer, though, you’ll probably be willing to take your chances at this point.

One last thing… if you have a Keychain Access password, you will probably need to reset that as well. You can do this by selecting “login” under Keychains on the left and choosing Delete from the Edit menu. You’ll lose everything in the Keychain, but you’ll now be able to start fresh and add new ones.

394 Comments Have Been Posted (Leave Your Response)

New purchase: iMAC G5 A1076 Will not boot to 10.5 disk & Command + s does nothing
What can I do to reset the password????????

Confirmed success for 10.6 Snow Leopard on a macbook air.

[…] on pc. Macyourself – mac os tips & tricks, tutorials, , About macyourself. macyourself was established in july 2008 by founders (and apple enthusiasts) […]

Will using any of the above processes have any effect on the content of my macbook? I would hate to reset my password and find out that all of my content was erased and my macbook is set to factory settings.

I have snow leopard 10.6.8 and none of these options are working for me. the first one wont recognize the –luanchctl load /sys…plist– command. and the third option goes through the whole process as if everything is working. Then when I go to start the mac it boots to my regular desktop with no setup or registration process available. Any ideas?

I failed to mention, in the third option, when I enter the command [rm /var/db/.AppleSetupDone] it gives me an override message that reads [override rw——- root/wheel /var/db/.AppleSetupDone?]
Not sure what it’s asking me.

I have a 2007 iMac desktop computer and forgot my login pw how do I bypass it with a windows keyboard ?

I did the third method and after restart, my keyboard is frozen, I can’t type my network password. What do I do now?

I used method number 3 and I have a mac OS X iBook g4 and now when I turn it on , it just goes to a blue screen does that mean my mac is broken?

WOW!!! I was truly going BONKERS until I found this page. It saved me from going past bonkers :) THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!!!!!!!

Thank you!! I bought a junk ibookG4,but I didn’t know password.I’m able to update OSX and Office. Thank you very much!!

It worked, THANK YOU SOOOOOOOO MUCH, I’m on top of the world, you saved me. all those other websites are bogus. thanx again. Even though its an old eMac with MAC OSX 10.4 i can use the heck out of it now

Holy smoke, I can’t believe I got my iMac to work again. Method #3 worked fantastic. Can’t tell you how much this has helped me. Thanks a Zillion for posting such a great problem solver, especially for someone as inexperienced as I am with computer related issues.

i have a mac mini 10.6.6 tried option 1 and 3 using
1.Type sbin/mount -uw /. and press Enter. (sbin fix for read only)
2.Type rm /var/db/.AppleSetupDone and press Enter.
3.Type shutdown -h now and press Enter.
server sits on Welcome screen, nothing is happening, any ideas please…..as i don’t know unix

restore of AppleSetupDone, after failure of
step 2 No such file or directory
Type: touch /var/db/.AppleSetupDone

Just used on 10.5.8 and it worked. To avoid errors, I copied the instructions to a Word document, set the font to Courier, and turned on Show formating sympols (the paragraph icon) that assured me that I would not mistake spaces, L versus I and so on.

The third step worked perfectly. So glad I found this site.

YES! It worked! I used the last option since I havean iBook G4. Thank you!!

Worked! Thank You!

What if you don’t have the command button thingy?

I tried option 3. The startup loops upon trying to create a new username. Any fixes for this?

Thank you!!! This worked. I got into my computer with all my past photography work. You’re the best, so thankful!!

NOTHING HAPPENS WHEN I PRESS COMMAND AND THE S KEY… WHAT ELSE COULD I DO?
IM TYPING THE CORRECT PASSWORD AND ITS NOT RECOGNIZING IT.

It Worked! It worked!!!! I’m dancing with joy! Thank you! I’m so proud of myself!!!

mac os x 10.6.8

i have forgotten the password and nothing i have read online is working, please help, I have no install disk either.

thanks

Im trying option 1, but when i get to the launch part and press enter, it says socket is not connected. Help, please!

You are a life saver! Thank you!

*IMPORTANT UPDATE*

If you are having trouble making this work try deleting your keyhain preferences using Secure Delete.

Library/Keychains/login.keychain

Thank you so much it worked, I am in my computer. The first and second didn’t work but the last one did. After talking with Apple Support and telling me they would send a disk by next Friday and then to call back and they would help me. I found your solution and am now a happy person. Thank you for helping me.

i dit have a command button how do i do it? (not an apple keyboard obviously)

Posting most appreciated.

iBookG4 – 10.4
Received as someone’s ‘throw-away’ laptop?!? Previous user was a friend who forgot the password…mJane..maryjane420..something like that..(OK, NOW I know why they forgot!)

Followed the ‘trick into thinking it’s first boot up’ and I’m logged in with MY setup! and the other user..I was able to reset the password and nothing was deleted. Although everything was in the other user’s desktop/files..but it’s a NEW USER. that’s all. VERY HAPPY and being slow took 10+ mins but I’m glad you are all here…PURRR MY PRECIOUS iBOOK!

Hi – My iMac is working but some functionality seems to be on go-slow (espec iphoto). I am told that this is probs because i am still using Snow Leopard 10.6.8 and need to upgrade OS to El Capitan. But i have forgotten all passwords (thats why i never updated before). Do these instructions work? Even for a total non techy? I don’t want to wipe my 10,000 plus photos from my system!!

Thanks

I could totally kiss you right now

that is all

I tried the third option and for some reason it froze in the middle of the setup…Is it ok to start it all over again?

I have a Macbook Pro 3,1 OS X 10.6.8. I tried everything here that everyone said to try pertaing to my set up, as well as numerous other help pages that gave very similar (though not always precisely) the same directions. Like many on here, I got similar error messages, such as “socket not connected,” and also I can not get back to the log in page after I reboot. I repeat, I did all the fixes hear with very careful attention to spaces and so forth. I’m on the grapage with the endless looping that a number of others complained about. At this point, could someone please tell me how I can at least get back to where I started so I can at least see my log in page that told me my password was incorrect and gave me a hint (that didn’t help either–also didn’t give the option for Apple ID info)? I’ll just wait and take it into APPLE when I can get way the heck out there. I appreciate the write who posted this, as well as the people who made suggestions here too, but nothing worked. Please help me at least get back to where I started if you can. Thank you. Good luck everyone.

I did option 3 sounds as though I should have did option 1. after completing option 3 it wont let me register just keeps going back to the first of registration. PLEASE HELP A BROTHA FROM ANOTHA MOTHA

1st option worked fine for Leopard. Thanks although slightly concerning that it is that easy to change password

For everyone bitching that it doesn’t work – read the instructions properly! Make sure that you are typing it exactly as it is written, including spaces between punctuation etc. I appreciate if people are new to Mac or PCs in general, but the way to learn is to read up, and properly follow instructions.

Thanx!

I forgot the administer pass word of an imac I gave my dad many years ago. I wanted to get any files and images I may have forgotten off of the computer. You gave me the tool I could use when the computer would not read or recognize the install disk. THANK YOU! It worked!

Does this also work on the OS X Yosemite? The first or last method? And also if I do either of these methods will my files be lost or damaged?

thank you so much, you are a life saver

It says sorry when I’m done changing the password what does that mean?

Thank you SO much. I finally got Option 2 for Tiger to work. My mother passed away, and my daughters got her old laptop but without the install disks and with an incorrect password.

I tried option 3 several times, but it wouldn’t work. It kept saying something “illegal” after I entered the mount -uw/ code.

The trick to getting Option 2 to work for me was to enter the correct user name. Her computer has several versions of her name on it. The one that worked was the one listed in the Users folder off of the hard drive.

Thanks so much again!!!

This worked GREAT! Was on the phone with Apple and they were unable to help and then suddenly the call was disconnected. As I waited for a return call I researched my issue on google and found this page. I followed the directions to reset password for Snow Leopard and had success.

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