Forum Question: Someone Changed the Screen Password – How Do I Get Back In To My iMac?

So a year ago we wiped my old iMac, and reset it for my 10 y.o. daughter. We have told her repeatedly about keeping passwords secret, but girls being girls they tell eachother anyway.
Long story short, we can’t open the iMac because the onscreen password has been changed and n-one knows how (it must have been the fairies?). We know our daughters screensaver password, but it isn’t being accepted (and yes, we’ve tried every vari@t!0n).
So… how do we bypass this to re-open it? Without resetting the computer and wiping all the data (and losing all the photos of her friends and her dog)? If we can reset the password we won’t be telling her, she’ll have to get one of her parents to log her on since clearly she’s not responsible enough.

Comments: 10 Responses to “Someone Changed the Screen Password – How Do I Get Back In To My iMac?”

    10/31/12 @ 6:42 am

    Is that the ONLY account on that Mac? If so, there’s not much you can do.
    If there is another admin account, you can log into that and then go into System Preferences, Users & Groups and change the password on that other account.
    That’s you should set up computers for your kids — create your own admin account. Then create theirs as a standard (or parental controls) account. Even if you only ever use your admin account in a case like this, it is worth doing it this way.
    If hers was the only account, then you’ve got a problem. If you have an older Mac (Snow Leopard or earlier) you can boot from the install DVD and there is a method for getting at the account from there.
    But I’ll assume you are using at least Lion on Mountain Lion. In that case, I’m not sure there is a way to do it. You can try some of the hacker methods of getting in (search for “mac forgot password user account”) and see if they work. But you could be looking at just needing to restore the entire Mac, erasing everything and starting from scratch.
    You could take it to an expert and have them try to hack in if there is critical data that you can’t live without.
    Of course a complete reset might not be that bad if you have a Time Machine backup.

    Louis Choquel
    10/31/12 @ 7:09 am

    Tocomplete Gary’s response, here’s a tip: if you have another mac, say a laptop, connect the two using Firewire, reboot the blocked iMac with the “T” key pressed so that it boots in target hard disk mode, and mounts on the second mac’s Finder.

    Now you can get to all the files on the iMac’s hard drive, I think…

      10/31/12 @ 8:36 am

      You could on older Macs if it wasn’t secured properly. But you shouldn’t be able to get to the files from Macs running Lion or newer. Of course this is the kind of thing most people would probably go to an expert for — unless you have the xtra Mac, the cable, and the expertise to do it yourself.

    Michael A.
    10/31/12 @ 9:37 am

    You can reset the password from “single user mode”, at least in Snow Leopard and earlier; I wouldn’t know if this still works in Lion or Mountain Lion but it’s worth a try, and I wouldn’t consider it a “hacker” method. The short version is (1) reboot holding down Command-S. You’ll get a text-only screen with root access. (2) use the “passwd ” command to change the password for your daughter’s account.

    Long version:

      Michael A.
      10/31/12 @ 10:00 am

      Here’s another link that actually has you use the ‘passwd’ command and not the more elaborate ‘dscl’ command from the link I posted before.

      It also mentions how to find the ‘short user name’ for your account if you don’t know it (ls /Users).

      According to Apple, single user mode still works in Lion, so it’s very likely this method of resetting passwords still works too. I imaginge File Vault may complicate things, and this doesn’t reset your keychain password.

    10/31/12 @ 10:00 pm

    Thanks for the great responses everyone, I’ll try them tonight (I’m down under here, different timezones). The irony was that I used to be the admin on her computer but we made it hers exclusively so she would feel it was ‘hers’ ie responsible. Lesson learned!
    (and she may have to learn one too, if I have to start from scratch. Luckily I have her photos from the last back up a month ago).

    11/1/12 @ 2:37 am

    okay, nothing worked
    I am upgraded to Lion , so that may be the reason. I’ve given all your tips and links a good shot, but no luck.

    I’ll leave it til tomorrow for any last suggestions, then I’ll reset the whole machine.

    11/1/12 @ 3:27 am

    If you have a backup, where’s the problem? Just reset the whole machine and restore from timemachine‚Ķ Thats the beauty of timemachine and the bonus of having a mac :P I would use gary’s advice though and set up an admin account – that way you can limit other key issues like installing new programs downloaded off of the Internet and the use of Internet filters. Good luck :)

    11/1/12 @ 4:17 am

    someone on Facebook suggested another link, which was a similar solution to one given above. The code is ever so slightly different and… it worked for me/my computer! I was able to open a new administrator account, and then I reset my daughters password and put some parental controls on so she can’t change the password again.
    So, if anyone else has this problem and none of the above solutions/links help, then try this one:

    Michael A.
    11/1/12 @ 9:10 am

    That’s great news Nick. Let me see if I understand; I think you’re saying you followed the second procedure on the page you linked to (the one titled “Without a Mac OS install disk”, since you said you’re running Lion), and then on reboot you got the Welcome assistant which enabled you to create a new account the same way you setup an account on a new install?

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