How to Reset a macOS Sierra Password

Jan 31, 2017 - 26 Comments

Resetting a macOS Sierra password

Need to reset the password on macOS Sierra? Maybe you forgot your primary admin user account password or maybe you’re working on someone elses Mac and you need to gain access to it. We’ll show you the easiest way to reset the password on a macOS Sierra based computer.


To be clear, this allows you to reset any password for any user on a MacOS Sierra computer, including for the admin account. Before beginning, keep in mind that internet connected Macs running Sierra and other prior versions of Mac OS can also reset a password by using an Apple ID after incorrectly entering a password a few times, which may be a better approach for some users. For earlier MacOS versions you can also follow these tips for handling a forgotten Mac password meaning you’re not out of luck if you don’t have Sierra or a modern Mac OS release.

Resetting a macOS Sierra Password

This is the simplest way to reset a password on a MacOS Sierra computer:

  1. Reboot the Mac, as soon as the screen turns back on or you hear the boot chime sound, start holding down COMMAND + R keys concurrently to boot into Recovery mode
  2. At the “MacOS Utilities” screen, pull down the “Utilities” menu and choose “Terminal”
  3. Resetting admin password in macOS

  4. When Terminal loads, type the following exactly:
  5. resetpassword
    Resetting an admin password in MacOS

  6. Hit the return key to launch the Reset Password tool, then choose the user account or admin account you want to reset the password for
  7. The Reset password tool for MacOS

  8. Enter a new password, confirm the new password, set a password hint (recommended) and then click on “Next” to set the new password for the account in question
  9. Setting the new password

  10. Choose to “Restart” the Mac and when the Mac boots up, use the newly reset password to login to the computer
  11. Restart the Mac with the newly reset password

That’s all there is to it, the password will have been reset to MacOS for the user account you chose.

While this is fairly advanced, it’s also relatively easy. If the ease of this concerns you at all, you can make things more secure and prevent the easy password resetting by setting a firmware password on the Mac, but do be forewarned that if you forget the firmware password it can be a much more significant ordeal. Using and enabling FileVault for disk encryption can also be beneficial to users who are generally concerned about data security and privacy.

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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in Mac OS X, Tips & Tricks, Troubleshooting

26 Comments

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  1. Ron Southerland says:

    There’s a typo in step 3 above. It says:

    ‘When Terminal loads, type the following exactly:
    restpassword’

    The illustration immediately below that shows the correct input: ‘resetpassword’

    • Paul says:

      Thanks for catching that, who doesn’t love autocorrect huh? Argh!

      Indeed it is ‘resetpassword’ with no spaces.

      • DCJ001 says:

        I disabled autocorrect shortly after I purchased my first iOS device, and I have not used it since because it cannot be trusted.

  2. Matt W says:

    “Type the following exactly”? Shouldn’t it match the image? Is it “resetpassword” or is it “restpassword”?

  3. emefbe says:

    I don’t get it….what’s keeping anyone from doing this to ANY Mac?

    • David says:

      1,000% with you… that’s the most crazy thing I have read in years… so 99% of macOS machines are NOT secure… ???

      Is that right Paul… ? Crazy… If so, thanks for No Security Apple!!

      Thx
      David

    • Jeff Smith says:

      If I remember correctly this gets you logged in to the Mac, but the keychain gets reset.

      So basically you only have access to local files and disks that are not encrypted.

      • joel says:

        When you first open the account, you’re given the option to create a new keychain. The old keychain will remain unless you deleted, but will not function without original password.if you have iCloud Keychain passwords are still recoverable. and yes, if you don’t have file vault enabled, I can get into your user account. Even if you don’t have a recovery partition, I can use the recovery partition from an external drive and still have terminal access.

      • Corey says:

        Also if you set a firmware password you will be prompted to enter the firmware password before you get to the recovery partition.

        In step 2 you can see where the firmware password utility is located.

    • DCJ001 says:

      A firmware password is preventing anyone/everyone from doing this on my Mac.

  4. Pavlos says:

    This method does not work if you have the disk vault encrypted.

  5. Bob says:

    You STILL have to go in and reset the Kaychain password too. Open Keychain access, to to preferences and reset it then restart your Mac…. done ! :)

  6. S Cann says:

    This method does not work if an account was originally created with reference to an Apple ID. Using Sierra 10.12.2 and .3.

    It does work for newly created accounts, however, if I try to change the password of an account created with an El Capitan or earlier using an AppleID, the Apple ID password is required before the password can be changed.

  7. Jack Bourne says:

    OK, I night be being dumb here but if getting into my MAC is as easy as this article suggests, I’m kind of freaked out.

    So. I have an Account password set and guest access is disabled and I also have Filevault running.

    Is this article effectively telling me that anybody could steal my MAC and follow the instructions here to reset my account password and then the machine is all theirs with complete access to my Filevault encrypted data?

  8. Dun says:

    Two years ago I left my laptop to be repaired at a 3rd party shop and when I got it back my password was reset to ‘password’. Now I understand why. Thankfully all the wifey nudes are encrypted ;)

    I’ve been using file vault for a year, and I hope that there is no easy bypass for that.

  9. J-L says:

    Thanks for publishing this. I have always thought my Mac was secure and that the disk vault was icing on the cake for some super paranoid security types (that I presume comes at a speed disadvantage when unencrypting).

    Once somebody resets the main admin password then they also have access to every password that is stored in Safari. Very disappointing to see that there basically is no security for the average user who does not subscribe to a website such as this to learn more.

  10. John says:

    This is very disturbing. Unclear to me what access this gives a person. Also, if the computer password and apple password are the same then any body can walk up to my computer and reset the password and have access to everything if files are not encrypted? This really does need some clarification.

  11. Polo says:

    That is it? Means that anybody can access my Mac by changing the password just like that?

  12. Toby says:

    This is why I use both a Firmware password and FileVault. I travel 2/3rds of the year and cannot let my data loose if I leave the computer in a hotel room or taxi cab.

    Using a Firmware password and FileVault are both simple and easy to use. Keep the passwords safely stored in 1Password incase you have a stroke.

  13. Paul says:

    How to fix mac book pro flashing question mark

  14. POLO says:

    FileVault from protect you after password change. The perpetrator will be able to see all your files. FileVault only helps you if they want to access your HD outside of your Mac

  15. Dubdvd says:

    Hi there I’ve done this to see if it really worked and now my Os won’t boot it crashes as it gets to the seirra desktop I think this is because I had my password set to automatically log in if restarting my system so be for warned

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