How to Delete and Reset Keychain on Mac

If you're a Mac user, you've likely encountered a pop-up asking, "Would you like to save this password?" That's your Apple Keychain at work. Much like the keychain you use daily, this Apple feature holds multiple keys - your usernames and passwords - and keeps them secure in the Mac’s Intel Chip Secure Enclave.

In essence, Keychain is an in-built system to store your login information securely. It can also save certificates, encryption keys, private notes, credit card details, and other sensitive data. Two types of Keychain exist: System Keychain, which keeps your data on a single device, and iCloud Keychain, which syncs data across all your Apple devices.

Keychain comes with numerous benefits, like suggesting complex passwords with a mix of numbers, symbols, and random characters, and allowing hassle-free online transactions without having to reach for your wallet. Given these perks, why might anyone want to delete their keychain?

When Keychain Doesn't Play Nice

Occasionally, Keychain might give you a hard time. One typical issue arises when you alter a password, but Keychain doesn't sync with this change. This could happen if you modify the password for your computer or tablet user account or when you make a new account or alter your password on your company’s system or server. This scenario might lead to your Mac asking for your login Keychain password or displaying an error message, "The system was unable to unlock your login keychain."

In the event of the latter, there should be a button labeled "Update Keychain Password." You can update your details here by entering both the old and new passwords. If you've forgotten the old password or can't recover it, you'll have to create a new login keychain. Note that this will reset your keychain, and you will lose all stored data and passwords in the previous keychain.

How to Delete and Reset Keychain on Mac:

  1. Open Keychain Access from the Utilities folder.
  2. Navigate to Preferences in the Keychain Access menu.
  3. Click on Reset My Default Keychain.
  4. Enter the new password to match your account's password.
  5. Log out of your device to return to the login screen.
  6. Log in using your new password.
  7. Upon logging back in, a prompt may ask, "Do you want to: Create a new keychain or update?" Choose "create new" on login.

When to Delete vs. Reorganize Your Mac Keychain

If you're being bombarded with login prompts and error messages related to Keychain, it might be time for a fresh start. But there might be instances when you'd prefer to delete or reset the device's keychain on your own, for instance, if you're exchanging a company computer or tablet for a new one, or if you're returning a company device.

In other scenarios, you might want to declutter your keychain or remove passwords for websites or accounts you no longer use. If you're sharing a computer, you might want to delete individual passwords to safeguard your accounts. In these cases, deleting or resetting the entire keychain might not be ideal.

How to Delete Individual Items in Your Mac Keychain:

  1. Open Keychain Access from the Utilities folder.
  2. Right-click the entry and left-click Delete.
  3. If asked for permission to modify the keychain, enter your password.
  4. Click Delete when asked, "Are you sure you want to delete [entry] from the System keychain?"

Forgetting your passwords is no fun, but being incessantly asked for a password is just as frustrating. Refreshing your Keychain passwords or deciding to delete Keychain and start anew should help resolve these issues.

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