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IT Support - What is a Keychain Password?

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Support type: Mac: Keychains
Last updated: Jul 11, 2011
Topic ID: 3

Topic Summary

A Keychain in OS X is a file that stores passwords and login information for many programs including Entourage, Outlook, Safari, file servers, commonly used websites, wireless connections, Citrix connections, and many others. Below is some basic information about Keychains.

  1. The basic way a keychain works is there is one main password (the keychain password) that will secure the other saved passwords. Therefore, you only really need to remember one password - your keychain password.

  2. Keychain Access is a program that is used to manage your keychains. It is located in /Applications/Utilities/

  3. While you can create and use multiple keychains, we recommend that you use only one, the default keychain known as your login keychain.

  4. The login keychain has a unique property in that the password that secures your login keychain password is also your login password - the one you use to login to your computer and the same one you use to access your Outlook email account.

  5. Because SRJC requires you to change your campus password every six months, you must also change you login keychain password to match it whenever you change your campus password. Otherwise, you will receive dialog boxes asking you for your login keychain password. In these cases, the older passwords may work, but it is simply easier to change your login keychain to match your campus password.

  6. This is very easy to do if you use your campus Mac to change your password when you are on campus and connected to our network. Simply go to System Preferences in the Apple menu, click on Accounts, then Change Password. After you have changed your password, a dialog box will tell you that it will automatically change your login keychain for you.

  7. If you change you password in another place (On the web, via another computer on campus, etc.) then you can change your login keychain password separately via the program Keychain Access. After you have opened the program, click on the Edit Menu and choose Change Password for login keychain.

  8. If you forget your login keychain password, you will have to start over with a new keychain password. If you have stored passwords in your keychain and you have forgotten the main keychain password, you are out of luck in accessing those saved passwords. Most of the time, this isn't such a big deal unless you use it to save a lot of data.

  9. An advanced feature of keychain access is the ability to create a secure note that can be stored in your keychain.

  10. Starting in OS X 10.6, if your campus password and your login keychain password are out of sync (if, for example, you changed your password via the web or another computer), OS X will help you through resetting your login keychain or creating a new one.