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Reset a Mac OS X Mavericks or Mountain Lion Password
Posted by UCS IT Support 4 on 13 January 2014 02:01 PM

Reset a Mac OS X Mavericks or Mountain Lion Password

Reset a Mac OS X Mavericks or Mountain Lion Password

Aug 24, 2011 - 47 Comments

One of several changes to newer versions of OS X is how resetting passwords is handled, previous versions of Mac OS X would have a password reset tool easily accessible from the Utilities menu but that isn’t available anymore, and for some added security you now must access a password reset tool through the command line in Recovery Mode. Don’t let the command line sound complicated though, because it’s really quite easy to use, and we’ll walk through the entire process for OS X Mavericks (10.9), Mountain Lion (10.8), and Lion (10.7).

Reset a Mac OS X Password

We’re actually going to cover two tricks, and they will work with or without internet access, and do not rely on any third party tools.

Method 1 – Reset a Lost Mac OS X Password with Recovery Mode

Important: You have to boot from a Recovery drive for this to work, andthe Mac must be running OS X 10.7, 10.8, and 10.9. New Macs include a native recovery mode option through a boot partition, but a recovery disk or boot drive made yourself will work as well.

  • Hold “Option” at boot and select the “Recovery” disk at the boot menu
  • Wait for “Mac OS X Utilities” menu to appear, indicating that you are booted into recovery mode
  • Click on the “Utilities” menu and select “Terminal”

Launch Terminal from Mac OS X Recovery Menu

    • Type the following:


  • Confirm the user account and then the password change and reboot Mac OS X as usual with your new password

This replaces the “Reset Password” menu item that used to be in place prior to OS X , which was around in Snow Leopard and before, and one of two original methods of resetting a forgotten password through more technical ways. Why the change to the Terminal method with newer versions of Mac OS? Probably for increased security, particularly now that recovery partitions are standard with Macs.

The above method is by far the easiest, but if it’s unavailable for some reason, you can choose this secondary trick.

Method 2 – Delete AppleSetupDone and Create a New Administrative Account

Much like prior versions of Mac OS X, the newest OS X releases share a more untraditional and technical approach to resetting a password for user accounts. In this case, you can still delete the AppleSetup file which forces the “Welcome to Mac OS X” setup assistant to run again, thus allowing you to create a new administrative account. You can then login to that new administrative account and reset your original account password, or just copy your old files over if that’s what you’d rather do.

From the Recovery Drive’s Terminal, type:

rm /var/db/.AppleSetupDone

Then reboot either through the menu item or by typing ‘reboot’ into the command line.

Follow the setup procedure as usual, create the new administrative account, and wait for Mac OS X to boot as usual into the new user account. You won’t see any of your familiar files or settings yet, and this is normal, because you have to reset the original password. Here’s how:

    • Open “System Preferences” and click on “Users & Groups”
    • Click on the lock icon in the lower left corner and authenticate, allowing you to make changes to user accounts
    • Select your original user account from the left side Users list, and then click on the “Reset Password” button on the right

Reset a Mac password from System Preferences

  • Enter and confirm the new password
  • Close out System Preferences and reboot

You can now login to the original user account with the new password you just set. Once logged into your original administrative account you can then return to User & Groups and delete the temporary admin account you created.

These two methods should work when booting from a Mavericks, Mountain Lion, or USB Lion install drive too, but whenever possible you will find it is much quicker to use the Recovery disk that is already active on all normal OS X installations.

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