MacMost Now 18: A Look at the Keychain

Gary Rosenzweig shows the Keychain access application and how you can control which passwords are stored and how.

Video Transcript
Hi! This is Gary Rosenzweig with MacMost Now. Well, you probably use a lot of things on your mac that require passwords; from visiting different websites to using mail program for instance. Thing is, that if you notice you only put those passwords in once and then you never have to enter them in again. That's 'cause they're saved in something called the key chain. The key chain's one of those things that most users never actually look into but you can actually look at your key chain and see which passwords are stored there. Let's take a look. This is the key chain access application. You can find it in your applications utilities folder. Just open it up and it'll list everything in your key chain. So you can see here there's a few things on this machine. Right away we see a bunch of different, uh, passwords for an external hard drive. Uh, we see something for an application right here and we see some passwords for some email. Uh, we also see our dot mac account password. Now if you click on one of these, like say for this application, you'll come up with that little box that tells you the name of the application, what it is, and it tells you where it is. Uh, you can also click on here to show the password for that. Um, you can also get access control and you can change it for instance, to say, um, you know confirm before allowing access and ask for key chain password. What's gonna happen is when you first start up your computer after rebooting you'll notice that the first time you need a password for something it asks you for key chain access. And once it's opened up then any password in your key chain can be accessed without asking you again. But you can change that here. You can ask for key chain password for a specific item. Another thing that's useful back in the attributes here is using the show password. Say, if you for got a password for some sort of account you want to log on another machine This will enable you to retrieve that password. So there's a couple useful things already that you see you can do here. You can also arrange your key chain access, uh, so you can actually see things like passwords. You can also look at certificates, uh, security certificates for various things, um, you can look at, uh, say keys, uh, for various signatures, and you can even create secure notes for yourself to come back to later. So there's two things you might wanna do now that you know about the key chain. One is you might wanna go through and delete some passwords you don't really need that maybe you don't want anyone who can just sit at your computer to have access to because once you start your computer up, enter in the key chain password the first time a password is needed now anybody who sits there can actually access things that are password protected that are stored in your key chain. So you can delete somethings if you want. Another thing that you can do, is you can create a second key chain. Maybe for very specific things, like for instance log-on to certain, uh, external drives or certain applications. That type of thing. Save them in a separate key chain. When you log into one key chain that has a set of passwords you're not logged into the other. So this allows you to maybe let some people have access to some things and not to others. Again it all depends about how much you're concerned about security in these sorts for things. If you're one person with one computer then it probably really doesn't matter. Of course what you really should do if you have more than one person using a computer is establish different accounts for different people, but that's a topic for another show. In the mean time, another thing that you can use key chain for is if you're giving your computer to somebody, even temporarily, you may wanna go through and lock that key chain and start another one or throw away all the passwords in that key chain. Anyway, these are just some basic security tips and now that you know about key chain maybe you can start to use it and learn more about it. 'Till next time this is Gary Rosenzweig with MacMost Now.

Comments: 3 Responses to “MacMost Now 18: A Look at the Keychain”

    Daniel
    12/29/07 @ 6:17 pm

    A very basic but very cool tip!
    It’s so easy to forget about Keychains, thanks for the reminder.

    liz
    11/12/12 @ 1:18 pm

    grr.. I am pretty illiterate on my computer….grrr…why will my keychain not remember my password for my mail…at least once a day I have to enter my password, click (remember)..then I access my mail but another time I have to do it again…

      11/12/12 @ 3:02 pm

      Probably has nothing to do with Keychain or even the password. Email servers usually return a generic “wrong password” error when you cannot connect to them. So it is probably an issue with your email server, or your Internet connection.

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