Creating Passwords With Keychain Access

You can use the Keychain Access app on your Mac to create secure random passwords for things that are not necessarily online. For instance, you can create random ATM pins or passwords for apps and other services. You can also store these passwords in your Keychain so you have a backup in a secure place in case you forget the password later on. Check out my book The Practical Guide to Mac Security at

Video Transcript / Captions
Closed captioning for this video is available on YouTube: Creating Passwords With Keychain Access.

Hi, this is Gary with On today's episode let's take a look at creating secure passwords for your Mac for things other than online passwords.

So last week I released a new short book available in iBooks and on Amazon called The Practical Guide To Mac Security. This is one of the tips that I give in that book.

Say you are on the web and you want to create a new password for something you are doing. So say I'm setting up a Facebook account for the first time. I click in the password field and I see that Safari suggests a password. I should use a password either from a Safari suggestion or another third party app like 1Password or LastPass because a randomly generated password is going to be much more secure than anything I could think up. So I can do that.

But what if I have to create a password for something that is not on the web. That's in an app or maybe in the real world not even on my Mac.

Well on your Mac those passwords are stored on your Keychain. You don't ever actually have to access the Keychain directly because you've got Safari doing that for you. But you can go to an app that you have on your Mac called Keychain Access. I'm going to search for it basically by using Spotlight here and run it. You can see I could find it here in my Application folder, I believe it is in the Utilities subfolder, but it is just easier to search for it like this.

I've got all sorts of things in here that Safari has saved as well as things other apps and different things have saved that used Keychain. But what if I want to use this to create something that isn't on my computer or is in an app that is not using Keychain.

Go to File, New Password Item, and create a new password here. Now the cool thing is that I can actually store this in my Keychain. Since I only have access to my Keychain when I'm logged into my Mac with my password this is secure. So I can just create something here and create a password for it.

But the best part of this is that I can just hit this little key button here and bring up the password assistant and generate a random secure password.

So the password assistant has a lot of different controls. You can set a type of password like something memorable. Something that is random but it has bits in it that will help your remember it. This is good for something where you can't use a reminder or something very easily. You have to memorize it. But you can also go to something like just some random Letters and Numbers, Numbers Only which is useful say if you have to generate a pin for your ATM card you can use this of course. It only goes to eight characters because anything less really isn't that secure. But you can take the first four or something like that. At least they are randomly generated.

You can go through all of these. It will tell you the quality of the password depending upon the length and what you have selected.

Once you have this you can easily copy and paste. Now if you want more suggestions you can click here and you can see it gives you a whole list of them. For instance if I want to use something memorable and for some reason I didn't like that I could just click here and choose the second one instead.

So let's create one here. I'm going to create something, let's say my ATM pin. I'm just going to call it that. I'm going to generate a Numbers Only password and just take the first four there. Then what will happen is that it will automatically place it here in the password field and I can now add it, I have to give it an account name so I will just call it My Bank, Add. You can see it adds it in here under the Passwords category here. Under login means that I have to be logged to be able to access this.

So I can always go in here, open this up, click Show Password, and it is going to ask me to enter in my login password. Then I can see my ATM pin. So it is a good way to store these things. Especially if you need to generate something randomly and then make sure you have it somewhere secure in case you forget it.

Check out my book, The Practical Guide To Mac Security. It has all sorts of good information about things like this. About different ways to protect your online accounts and your Mac with good passwords, protecting yourself from malware, protecting yourself from scams and tricks, and backing up you Mac and protecting it from other physical disasters. All sorts of other miscellaneous questions that people have about Mac security. It is only $2.99 in the iBooks store from Apple or also the Amazon store for Kindle.

Read more about the new book The Practical Guide to Mac Security.

Comments: 14 Responses to “Creating Passwords With Keychain Access”

    Gloria Messer
    4 years ago

    I never go on any site that requires me to sign into – not google, facebook, twitter or anything else. It is ridiculous to expect people to use passwords. I never remember them – especially when you need to keep updating them. And I do not want anyone on the internet to have access to my passwords. Iris technology needs to be enacted immediately.
    All humans are getting disgusted by passwords.

      4 years ago

      If you use the Keychain, then you don’t need to remember all of those passwords. Or, use 1Password or LastPass. There’s no need to remember those passwords, you are right. The solution for that already exists and many people use it. On Macs it is easy since Safari supports the Keychain. I talk about all of this in my book, btw.

    4 years ago

    I’ve read about Keychain in your book, and I’ve watched the video. Keychain and its Mac companions seem quite robust. Why might I want any other tool—1Password or LastPass, for example? What do they do better?

      4 years ago

      Cross-platform is the main thing. Keychain only works for you if you are 100% Apple. Also, I still use 1Password a lot because it has lots of extra little features, but nothing major.

    Steve Wolf
    4 years ago

    Informative video. Thanks Gary. One question. How do I use those Safari generated passwords on my Mac when I use the browser on my PC; eg. Internet Explorer?

      4 years ago

      You can’t. You’d either need to have your Mac nearby so you can look them up in Keychain Access. Or, use a third-party app like 1Password or LastPass if you are cross-platform. I use 1Password myself and have for years.

    Bob O'Neal
    4 years ago

    Does the Key Chain automatically sync across all my Apple devices?

      4 years ago

      Yes. Make sure you have it enabled in your iCloud settings. Then if you add something of your own, like a password or note, make sure you are adding it to your iCloud Keychain, not your login (local) keychain. Just tried it with a note and it synced to my other Mac in seconds.

    4 years ago

    I don’t use iCloud. Would 1Password still work OK on both Mac’s and PC’s?

    4 years ago

    Hi Gary
    I’m hesitating between 1Password and Apple Keychain. I’m not cross platform and I like simple things. However, I’m also looking for the best. Any suggestions?
    Thanks, Claude

      4 years ago

      I use both. It is so easy to use 1Password primarily, but then “accept” it every time Keychain wants to remember a web password.

    Ivan Jamieson
    4 years ago

    Hi Gary,
    I’m a little confused between the relationship of Keychain & Safari. If I open a new account with a web retailer Safari will suggest a password but not always. Should I ignore Safari & use Keychain to create a password as you describe?
    Thanks, Ivan

      4 years ago

      Safari uses Keychain to store the passwords. So those password suggestions and where they are stored when you use them (or one you assign) is the Keychain. Use the functionality in Safari when you are in Safari as it is there to make the process easier.

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