Find lost passwords for Wi-Fi, websites and more on your Mac

If you have forgotten passwords on the Apple Mac, this method using Keychain Access can be used to retrieve them.

When connecting to Wi-Fi and browsing the web, macOS and Safari automatically log you into places so you don’t have to. This may cause you to forget login details, so here’s how to find them.

You don’t need to login to your home Wi-Fi or work Wi-Fi when the Mac is started because the password is remembered and it just connects automatically. Never having to type in a password makes it easy to forget and you may one day need it.

Take your MacBook to a friend’s house or a work computer to another office and there is a different Wi-Fi network with a different password. You can ask someone for the password and enter it of course, but suppose you are the one being asked. You may have forgotten the password because you entered it months ago.

Websites and web services can suffer from the same problem. You sign up and sign in and from then on you do don’t need the password because it is stored on your Mac. If someone asks for the password, you may not remember it.

Passwords are easily forgotten, especially long and complex ones, which they should be. So how do you find the password for something that the Mac has stored and automatically enters?

Here is how to use Keychain Access to discover passwords you have forgotten.

1 Open Keychain Access

Open Keychain Access on the Apple Mac

Click the Go menu and select Utilities, or if you have added the Applications folder to the Dock, click it and select Utilities. Click Keychain Access.

2 See all Keychain items

View all login items in Keychain Access on the Apple Mac

When Keychain access opens, select Login at the top and All Items in the Category list below. The details of every login is listed on the right. Some of the items may not make sense, but among them are the login details for Wi-Fi and websites.

3 Filter or sort the Keychain items

Sort or filter the items in Keychain access to find the one your want

It can be hard to find the item you want and one way to make it easier is to click the Kind column header. Look for Internet password, Airport network password, and network password.

An alternative method of finding the item you want is to type a keyword into the Search box in the top right corner. I entered ‘bt” because I wanted to find the password for my BT Home Hub.

4 Show the menu

Ctrl+click items in Keychain Access for a context menu

Ctrl+click an item in the list to display a menu. There is an option to copy the password to the clipboard and you could paste this into something like TextEdit to see it. However, I will click Get Info instead.

5 View the attributes

The information box for an item in Keychain Access on the Apple Mac

A window appears containing the name, kind, account and so on. You should recognise this as the wireless router you connect to or the internet account you access. Click the checkbox next to Show password.

6 Access for admins

Enter an administrator password to access system items in macOS

The passwords are locked and can only be viewed by entering an administrator account password. Type it in and click OK.

7 See the forgotten password

See hidden passwords in Keychain Access in macOS

The Show password box not contains the password in plain text.

Finding login details like passwords is possible with Keychain Access, but finding the right item in a long list of items that mean little is the hardest part. It can be done though.

 

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