Apple stores your passwords and other secure credentials in a keychain: a locked, encrypted container. These keychains are used across Apple devices, including Macs, iPhones, and iPads. Think of the keychain as a secure vault and Keychain Access as the door to the vault. Your administrator password provides the key to unlock the vault using Keychain Access, just like a key in a lock. Most of the time you won’t need to access the Keychain to view your saved password, but when you do, you can follow the below instructions.
What Does Keychain Store?
Your keychains can store any and all of the following items:
- Usernames and passwords for apps, services, servers, websites
- Network credentials
- HTTPS certificates
- Encryption keys
- Secure notes
View Saved Passwords in macOS with Keychain Access
Keychain Access is something like a rudimentary password manager for macOS. It lets you view, add, and edit keychain entries.
1. Open Keychain Access by typing its name into Spotlight. You can also find the application in “Applications -> Utilities -> Keychain Access.app.”
2. The app should open with a list of keychain entries. If it doesn’t, call up the list of keychains from the menu bar, “View -> Show Keychains,” then select a keychain in the upper-left sidebar. For local keychains, the default is “login.”
3. Double-click the keychain item you want to inspect to open the detail window.
4. Tick the box next to “Show Password” at the bottom of the keychain detail window.
5. Enter your administrator password to verify your authorization to view the password.
6. The password will appear in the password field in plain text.
This is most useful for recovering lost Wi-Fi account information or resurrecting ancient user accounts, but it can be used to recover any information stored in a keychain. You can remove entries by right-clicking and choosing “Delete (name).”
View Saved Passwords in iOS & iPadOS
iOS and iPadOS devices don’t have an equivalent version of Keychain Access. Instead, they have a simple table view inside the Settings app. This still allows you to see and edit usernames and passwords, but you won’t find other credentials there.
1. Open the Settings app.
2. Scroll down and tap “Passwords & Accounts.”
3. Tap “Website & App Passwords.”
4. If you have Face ID enabled, your iPhone will authenticate your appearance. If you don’t, it will ask for your PIN code to confirm your identity.
5. Tap on the website or app password you want to view.
6. The password will be displayed in the detail window.
To remove entries from your keychain on iOS or iPadOS, tap the “Edit” button at the top of the window. Select the keychains you want to remove, then tap the trash icon to delete them. You can also edit entries individually by opening the their details page and using the text tools to edit their contents.
iCloud Keychain vs. Local Keychain
By default, your keychain is synced with your iCloud account. This means all your keychain items are available across all your Apple devices, and can even been seen in iCloud.com. This is slightly different from a local keychain, which only saves the passwords to the device’s storage. iCloud Keychain essentially synchronizes your local keychains across all your devices.
If you’re having trouble with your iCloud Keychain, the solution is often to delete the local keychains and let a “fresh” copy download from the cloud. You can also look for corrupted keychain entries, but those may not be immediately obvious.
Other than Keychain, you can also store your passwords in a password manager. Check out some of the best password managers for macOS.