Why and How to Delete Your Keychain featured Image

If you are running MacOS and had to enter in a password, you might have seen a popup asking, “Would you like to save this password?” That is part of Keychain, Apple’s password management system. It’s pretty self explanatory: just as a keychain keeps all of your keys in order, Keychain is a program that allows users to store all their passwords. You can also use it to store certificates, encryption keys, private notes, credit card numbers, and other secure information. While System Keychain holds all of your private data on just one device, there’s also iCloud Keychain, which can sync everything across all of your Apple devices.

There are a lot of benefits to having your computer and phone remember your password. Users can create more complex and randomized passwords for any of their accounts without having to keep track of all the capital letters, numbers, and special characters. It also saves you the hassle of getting your wallet out when making online purchases. As you can see, Keychain is pretty handy. So why would anyone want to delete their keychain?

When Your Keychain Gives You Trouble

One of the most common problems users encounter is when they change a password and it does not get synced with Keychain. This could happen if you change the password on the user account to your computer or tablet. If you are onboarding or switching company devices, you could also experience Keychain issues from making a new account or changing your password on your company’s system or server. Either way, this may result in your Mac asking you for the password to your login Keychain, or you may get an error message; “The system was unable to unlock your login keychain.”

If you get the latter error prompt, there should be a button that says “Update Keychain Password,” where you can simply update your information by typing in both the old and new passwords. However, if you cannot remember or are unable to recover the old password, then you will need to create a new login keychain. Take note that this will reset your keychain and you will lose all stored passwords and data that was in the previous keychain. However, if you don’t know the old password and are unable to update it to the new one, then you won’t have access to any of the data, anyway.

To create a new login keychain:

  1. Open Keychain Access from the Utilities folder
  2. Go to Preferences in the Keychain Access menu
  3. Click Reset My Default Keychain
  4. Enter the new password to match your account’s password
  5. Log out of your device so that it returns to the login screen
  6. Log in using your new password

Re-organizing vs. Deleting Your Keychain

If you are experiencing a lot of login prompts and error messages that are Keychain related, then it might be time to delete your keychain and get a new, fresh start. But it’s possible that you would want to reset or delete your device’s keychain on your own. It’s a good idea to delete your keychain if you are trading in a company computer or tablet for a new one, or if you are returning a company device altogether. Although it’s likely those devices will be re-provisioned anyway (especially if your company is partnered with Electric), it doesn’t hurt to delete your stored passwords on your own, just in case.

In other cases, you may just want to declutter your keychain, or delete passwords to websites or accounts you no longer user or need access to (e.g. client accounts). If you are sharing a computer, then you may also want to delete individual passwords to protect your own accounts. In these situations, you probably would not want to delete or reset the keychain altogether, especially if it isn’t your device.

To delete individual items in your keychain:

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

Not remembering passwords is no fun, but being constantly asked for a password is just as annoying. Updating your Keychain passwords or deciding to delete Keychain and start afresh should help solve your problems. If your Keychain issues aren’t untangling themselves, then it’s time to contact Electric. Not only can our helpdesk help to troubleshoot password issues in ten minutes or less, but we can also handle the re-provisioning of company-issued devices. Just think about how helpful this would be if an employee leaves the company and doesn't leave their device's login credentials—and honestly, you'd be shocked if you knew how often this happens.