Welcome to OS X: Creating/Changing Your User Account Password

Welcome to OS X

This is the first in a series of articles targeted at users new to OS X, or even veteran users looking to brush up on the basics. 

One of the most important steps any user can take to secure the information on their Mac is to set up a secure and robust password. In OS X, a user’s password is required (when properly configured) to wake the system from sleep, to install software, and to access critical areas of the operating system.

When you booted up your Mac for the first time, it asked you to set a password for your user account. Many users, anxious to get started using their new computer, enter a simple and insecure password or, worse, no password at all. This leaves your Mac vulnerable to malicious individuals looking to steal your personal information or even just a nosey visitor who decides to poke around the system while you’re out.

In either case, changing/adding a secure password is essential. Thankfully, Apple has made this a fairly simple process.

First, open System Preferences, either from your dock or from the Apple Menu in the upper left of the Menu Bar. 

Accounts System Preferences

Next go to Users & Groups (for Lion) or Accounts (for Snow Leopard). From there, select the user account for which you wish to change the password using the menu on the left. Once selected, press “Change Password’ next to the user’s image on the right.

Change Password

At this point, if you have an existing password, enter it in the “Old Password” field. If you don’t have a current password, leave “Old Password” blank.

Change Password Dialog

Now it’s time to create a new, stronger password. You can either create this password yourself, and enter it twice in the “New” and “Verify” boxes, or you can use OS X’s handy Password Assistant by clicking on the key icon to the right of the “New password” field.

Password Assistant

The Password Assistant is a built-in utility that generates strong passwords for the user. Under “Type,” it’s recommended to select “Memorable” so that you’ll have a chance of remembering your system password. However, if you choose, you can select other types that will generate completely random passwords.

Once you’ve chosen the password type, use the Length slider to adjust the length of the password, keeping an eye on the Quality bar below. As long as your suggested word measures green in quality, you’ll have a strong and secure password going forward. Close the Password Assistant by pressing the red dot in the upper left corner and retype the suggested password in the Verify field.

Finally, enter a password hint if you wish and press “Change Password.” Your user account will now be fully protected against simple password attacks and nosey visitors.