Copy Keychain Logins & Passwords from One Mac to Another

Jul 5, 2012 - 12 Comments

Copy Keychain login and passwords between Macs

Most Mac users are best served by using the easy Migration Assistant tool to copy all files, folders, preferences, and login data from one computer to another. This isn’t always an option though, perhaps because a hard drive is failing, or maybe you just prefer to manually migrate only very specific data from an old Mac to a new one. Aimed at advanced users, this article will focus on transferring all passwords and login information you have stored on one Mac to another Mac, effectively transferring all crucial login data that is handled by Keychain.

Transfer Keychain Data Between Macs

  1. From the OS X Finder of the Mac containing the original keychain file, hit Command+Shift+G to bring up Go To Folder and enter the following path:
  2. ~/Library/Keychains/

  3. Copy the ser “login.keychain” file to the new Mac, do this with AirDrop, Ethernet, USB, etc
  4. On the new Mac, hit Command+Spacebar to open Spotlight and type “Keychain Access” then hit return, this launches the Keychain manager app
  5. Pull down the “File” menu and select “Add Keychain” and browse to the keychain file you copied to the new Mac, selecting Add to import the stored keychain data to the new Mac

With the keychain data imported, all of the stored logins and passwords from the old Mac should be imported into the new Mac and ready to use. You can test it by going to a web page or app where password data is typically stored and verifying that it is automatically entered.

If you have problems with OS X not remembering passwords after importing the old keychain, use the Repair feature in Keychain Access to get everything back to normal.

If you are performing the keychain transfer from a Mac that can’t be booted, locate the file directly by navigating to:


Changing USERNAME to the user name of the individual who owns the keychain file.

Finally, if you used external media like a USB drive to transfer the keychain file, you will probably want to go manually delete that since it’s never a good idea to have login information floating around.

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Posted by: William Pearson in Mac OS X, Tips & Tricks


» Comments RSS Feed

  1. vna says:

    If you are starting with a brand new Mac I would highly recommend Migration Assistant, it’s hands off and flawless.

    • EjK says:

      I total agree with vna. I had to sell my old mac before my new one came. At the last minute I did a backup using time machine and wiped my old mac and shipped it off. Days later when my new mac came I restored using Migration Assistant with my time machine backup and it was like I never left. Flawless. Try doing that with a PC. Not happening.

      • Eric says:

        Sometimes Migration Assistant is not an option, especially when jumping several revs of the OS, like say going from Tiger to Mountain Lion. This is helpful information. Trust me on this.

        • Johannes says:

          I agree also you get plenty free space and leave all other system issues behind.
          I just downgraded from 10.10(buggy and losing support for drag and drop in many places) to 10.9 and now I have issues here and there.

          I will probably reformat transferring “Application Support” selected files from “Preferences”, “Keychains”, “QuickLook” and “PreferencePanes” Library folders.
          Then you get only what you need and a bunch of space :).

          I’v been doing this since Tiger and it keeps your system as fast as out of the box.

          Some apps that fill your system with burdens like Adobe’s will need to be reinstalled though.

  2. Marco says:

    Here is a solution to sync keychains between macs. Called Keychain2Go

    • Christopher says:

      LIFESAVER! What a great App! Transferred all my UN/PW info saved from older 2010 MacBook Pro to my new SSD MacBook Pro within seconds. Migration Assistant wasn’t really an option for me because there were tons of stuff I really didn’t want to transfer and clutter up drive space. I’ve been transferring only files and programs needed. Time Machine back up was also WAY TOO big and again, trying to avoid clutter of files I hadn’t opened in a long time. This App is awesome!

  3. Jes says:

    Thanks for this information!!!
    Attempted to delete an imported keychain and could not find the Library folder under my user path. Went to view – show view options – clicked on show Library folder as it was by default hidden.

  4. GT says:

    Does anyone have any idea how I can recover my keychain from backup? My hard disk had to be replaced and my backup isn’t showing Keychains in the backup when I type the path ‘~/Library/Keychains/’ – only brings up the Keychain on the new hard drive.

    In fact, my backup doesn’t show a Library folder at all in the same location as it appears on the new hard drive.

    Help would be really appreciated – too many Safari passwords to remember/replace otherwise.


    • ptuhan says:

      Restore your Mac from the Time Machine backup and Keychain would go with it to the new Hard Drive. The contents of Time Machine volumes are not meant to be user accessible beyond Time Machine, the ~/Library/Keychains/ folder is your root hard drives personal user home library, that’s why you aren’t seeing the backup there.

  5. Russ says:

    I just did a clean install on my ’11 MBP. I did things the old fashion way and manually copied the files/folders/etc. that I wanted to keep. I copied the entire KeyChain folder from Mac1. When I go to import the “login.keychain” and click “add”, the box disappears but nothing gets imported… the app is Unlocked. Is there anything I am missing or need todo? Much Thanks

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