Keychain 101: Getting Started with Apple's Password Manager

There are three things that I can remember without looking them up: the phone number for repair to my cable service, my favorite Pizza place, and my social security number. The rest I couldn’t tell you on a bet. My solution to this area of my life is Keychain.  My personal keychain has around 300 entries and I rely on it daily. In case you are not familiar with Keychain on your Mac here is what you need to get up to speed.

Getting started with OS X's KeychainGetting started with OS X's Keychain

  • Keychain is password management system in OS X developed by Apple. It was introduced with Mac OS 8.6, and has been included in all subsequent versions of Mac OS, including OS X. A Keychain can contain various types of data: passwords (for Websites, FTP servers, SSH accounts, network shares, wireless networks, groupware applications, encrypted disk images), private keys, certificates, and secure notes. You will find Keychain in the Utility folder in the Applications folder. Unless you indicate otherwise on a case-by-case basis, you can not open your keychain without your administrator password.

Keychain will generate and store all your Safari-based passwords and autofill them for you where and as needed. However, there may be times when a website doesn't allow autofill (for example, at public terminals or when a site has been coded to specifically block autofill).

I love Keychain and have since it was first released. We are all bombarded with info every day. Who can remember all this stuff? This can be particularly true if you visit a website that you haven’t visited in a couple of months. Which password did you use the last time you were there?

And don’t even think about just creating a new account. Your account is in their databases and most of the time a site will not let you create another account. You get messages like “that email address is already in use”, or “the name you have entered already has an active account with us.”

Now we have Keychain available on our OS devices through iCloud.

iCloud Keychain

iCloud Keychain requires OS X v10.9 or later or iOS 7.0.3 or later. iIt keeps the following account information up to date across your Mac computers and iOS devices:

    ▪    Website account names and passwords that Safari autofills for you

    ▪    Credit card numbers and expiration dates that Safari autofills for you

    ▪    Most Wi-Fi network names and passwords

iCloud Keychain also keeps account names, passwords, and settings that you add to it, such as the registration codes for your software. Passwords and credit card information are encrypted in your OS X keychain and your iCloud Keychain.

Set up iCloud Keychain on your Mac

  • Choose Apple menu > System Preferences, then click iCloud.
  • Turn on Keychain, then follow the onscreen instructions.

Approve a device to use iCloud Keychain

If you set up iCloud Keychain on your Mac, and then you set it up on another device, you may receive a notification on your Mac asking if you want to let the other device use your iCloud Keychain.

Do one of the following:

  • In the notification alert, click View, or
  • In iCloud preferences, click Option to the right of Keychain, then click Details.

In the dialog that appears, enter your Apple ID password, then click Allow.

Change how new devices can be approved

After setting up iCloud Keychain on your Mac, you can change whether your iCloud Security Code can be used to approve iCloud Keychain on new devices. You can also change the iCloud Security Code or the phone number used to verify your identity after you use the iCloud Security Code.

  • Choose Apple menu > System Preferences, then click iCloud.
  • Make sure Keychain is on and your Mac is approved.
  • Click Options next to Keychain, then make changes in the dialog that appears.

How to Set Up iCloud Keychain

  • How to turn on (or turn off) iCloud Keychain on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch
  • Launch Settings from the Home screen
  • Tap on iCloud.
  • Tap on Keychain.
  • Toggle iCloud Keychain to On.
  • You will be asked to either set up an iCloud Keychain password or enter the existing one. You can also choose to verify with another device if you choose.

 How to Manually View Credit Card Numbers with iCloud Keychain

  • Launch the Settings app on your iPhone or iPad.
  • Tap on Safari.
  • Tap on Passwords & AutoFill under the General section.
  • Tap on either Saved Passwords or Saved Credit Cards.

I find it particularly helpful that I can now access Keychain info on either my iPhone or my iPad. Before this became an option I always had to wait until I was at my Mac to transact business. It’s that whole memory thing.