How to Access Password Protected Macs
Article by George Norman
On 24 Mar 2009
It does not happen often, but it happens none the less and it can be a great source of annoyance: you get a second hand Mac, but you cannot use it because it is password protected. You could of course contact the previous owner and get it from him, assuming that said owner is your older brother who decided to give you the Mac as a hand-me-down, but what if the owner is your late grandmother and you have no means of contacting her? You could dabble in the paranormal, but the results may not be up to your expectations, so here is a simpler method that you could employ.

Please note that the method presented below can be used to bypass the password protection on any Mac. This is great if you want to gain access to the device, but not if you want to keep people out. Luckily enough there are steps you can take to prevent this, but first let’s see how you can unlock a password protected Mac.


Follow these simple steps to unlock a Mac running Mac OS X 10.5:
- Get the installer disc and insert it in the media drive. Hold down “C” to boot from the disc.
- Select the language of your choice when presented with the option to choose a language.
- Continue until you are presented with the Welcome screen -> wait for the Menubar to appear -> access the Utilities menu and select Reset Password -> Select a User
- Change the Administrator password -> Save changes.

You will now be able to run the machine with Administrator rights, meaning that you can install apps, change the system preferences, and so on. Note that you will not be able to access keychain items such as web site passwords since only the administrator password has been reset, not the login keychain password.

Moving on, here is what you must do to prevent someone else from doing the exact same thing on your Mac:
- Since you have the Mac installer disc handy, use it to boot the machine once again.
- Welcome Screen -> Utilities Menu -> Firmware Password Utility -> Change -> Require Password to Change Firmware Settings -> Enable -> Enter Password -> Verify Password -> OK

You Mac is now protected with a Firmware password, meaning that when someone inserts the installer disc and presses C (just as you’ve done before), that person will be directed to the login screen, not the boot from disc option. If that person attempts to select the device from which the system should boot after the OS has loaded, he will be prompted for the password.

Tags: Apple, Mac OS X
About the author: George Norman
George is a news editor.
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