Mac Doesn’t Have Admin Account in macOS Monterey or Big Sur? Here’s a Fix

Mar 25, 2022 - 13 Comments

Change user account to admin account in macOS Monterey

All Mac computers need an administrator account to be able to function properly and perform certain tasks, ranging from installing certain software, to changing some system preferences. A variety of situations can arise causing a Mac to lose an administrator account, often if a user attempted to add a new admin account or new user account to the Mac, or rename an existing users account.

Whatever the case, if the Mac does not have an administrator account available, here’s how you can add an admin account to macOS in macOS Monterey, Big Sur, and earlier.

Missing Mac Admin Account? Create a New Admin Account in macOS

This process will involve booting into Recovery Mode to remove a setup file from the Mac, which allows the macOS setup assistant to run again, thereby allowing you to create a new admin account on the Mac. This works with macOS Monterey and Big Sur, and earlier, for both M1 and Intel Macs.

  1. Boot the Mac into Recovery Mode by restarting the Mac and holding down Command+R (Intel Macs) or the Power button (M1 Macs)
    • For M1 Macs, choose “Options” at the boot menu that appears
  2. At the macOS Utilities screen, open Disk Utility
  3. Select “Macintosh HD – Data” from the side bar and choose to “Mount” the Data drive
  4. Exit out of Disk Utility
  5. Pull down the ‘Utilities’ menu and choose “Terminal”
  6. Enter the following command into the Terminal:
  7. cd /Volumes/Macintosh HD/var/db/

  8. Next enter the following command exactly as shown:
  9. rm .AppleSetupDone

  10. Restart the Mac and go through the Setup Assistant procedure as if the Mac was new to create a new admin user account on the Mac, this will be an administrator account

You’ll now have created a new admin account which is fresh and completely different user account than your standard user account. The standard user account and all user data still exists, assuming this was done properly.

You can either use this admin user account to authenticate as needed with administrator requests and logins, or you can modify the original user account to become an admin account again. We’ll cover that next.

How to Set Standard User Account to be Admin Account in macOS

Want to restore your original Mac user account to be an admin account again? That’s easy:

  1. Boot into the newly created admin account, then pull down the  Apple menu and choose “System Preferences”
  2. Go to “Users & Groups” and click the padlock icon to be able to modify user accounts
  3. Select the original user account that you want to modify to Admin account privileges
  4. Check the box for “Allow user to administer this computer”
  5. Change user account to admin account in macOS Monterey

  6. Restart the Mac again, this time logging into the original user account which now has upgraded privileges to be an administrator user account again

If you feel so inclined, you can then delete the temporarily created admin user account from the Mac, or leave it be and have it available as a backup admin account, or even the only admin account.

There are other options available if you end up in a situation where the admin account becomes a standard user account, for example you can go about
converting a standard user account to admin account via command line, which is more appropriate for advanced users.

Have you run into this issue where an admin account becomes downgraded to a standard user account? Did the above solution fix this problem for you by creating a new admin account and then giving admin access to the original user account? Did you find another solution? Let us know your experiences in the comments.

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

13 Comments

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  1. Ryan says:

    I’m trying this on Monterey. Both Macintosh HD and Macintosh HD – Data only have the “Unmount” option. No option to mount. Subsequently, none of the rest of the steps (including the suggested edits above) work.

  2. Joe says:

    This worked for me under Big Sur

    cd “/Volumes/Macintosh HD/var/db/.AppleSetupDone”

  3. Ryan says:

    We found a different solution, same principle. After mounting the volumes via Disk Utility the .AppleSetupDone file was located in private/var/db

    cd /Volumes/””/private/var/db

    rm .AppleSetupDone

    • Richard says:

      In macOS, var is a shortcut/alias/link to private/var, which means they are in fact, in the same place.

    • KiLLaB says:

      Working for Monterey and Big Sur (if your drive is named Macintosh HD):

      cd /Volumes/Macintosh\ HD/private/var/db

      Then:

      rm .AppleSetupDone

  4. JJJ says:

    Thank you, Paul! In addition to your steps and the correction by “whut” (to add the quotation marks to step 6) really just saved me after hours of attempting to get this done!! You’re like the only correct response online for the Big Sur fix— thank you thank you!

  5. Pete says:

    If you get ‘file not found’ or it does not run setup when you reboot…

    Make sure all your hard disks are mounted (step 3) in my case this was ‘Macintosh HD – Data’ AND ‘Macintosh HD’ otherwise it won’t find the .AppleSetupDone file so it won’t remove it and when you reboot it won’t run setup but just login to your standard user account again.

    To ‘mount’ select each hard drive and click ‘mount’ (second icon from top right I think)

    Hope that helps

  6. Ray says:

    Your proposed solution does not work. When I type in the new code and hit “enter” the response is “no such file or directory”

  7. whut says:

    Thanks for these instructions. This worked for me except with one crucial change in step #6. The command should be exactly the following including the quotation marks:

    cd /Volumes/”Macintosh HD”/var/db/

  8. Brandon says:

    This fix does not work and after contacting Apple help they confirmed the suggested fix is not the solution. The commands suggested are not accepted after installing big sur and did not help in allowing/restoring admin account. It was a waste of time.

    • Paul says:

      What solution did you find to restore a missing admin account? And what was the solution that Apple suggested?

      This method works to create an admin account on a Mac, not sure why you are having issues with it especially given your lack of detail, but it sounds like you got it resolved using another method?

  9. Joey says:

    How does the new admin account get the secure token on a T2 Mac?

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