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Reset OS X Password Without an OS X CD

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I wrote about this a while back on my blog, hackaddict, but it was such a popular post I thought I’d give it a revisit. A lot of people buy used Macs, and they often run into the problem of not knowing the admin password, so here is a way to get around not knowing the admin password on Macs.

To reset your OS X password without an OS X CD you need to enter terminal and create a new admin account:

  1. Reboot
  2. Hold apple + s down after you hear the chime.
  3. When you get text prompt enter in these terminal commands to create a brand new admin account (hitting return after each line):
    • mount -uw /
    • rm /var/db/.AppleSetupDone
    • shutdown -h now
  4. After rebooting you should have a brand new admin account. When you login as the new admin you can simply delete the old one and you’re good to go again!

269 Responses to “Reset OS X Password Without an OS X CD”

  1. Ryansway

    I was able to get it to work, but only after pulling out the RAM and restarting the machine. It was the only way to get past the lock which prevented any of the hot key combo’s during start up. Once the RAM was out I had no problems using “Apple S” – that method should probably be included in this procedure for those encountering the same problem I did. Cheers!

  2. I’ve just tried this method several dozen times on an old Apple ibook 500 running 10.4.8 and it doesn’t work.

    The install CD method doesn’t work either as they are the original 10.2, nor does the restore CD method.

    So I tried this method using “Apple S” holding it down before, during, and after the chime, but no luck. Tried various intensities on the keys, no luck either.

    Any ideas?

  3. Do as he says but upon the start up you will here a chime THE APPLE CHIME :)! Once that is done, you have a 3 second time period to hit Apple Command – s. This works on any COMPUTER using Mac OS X 10.4.0 – 11. You must hold both firmly not to tough to brake your keys just enough to let it know whose boss. A screen “WILL!!!!” Pop up and you must hold both of them down at the same time until that appears. Once it does you will wait about a minute then do as it says and Voila! It works and FOR ALL THE NAY SAYERS NO it doesn’t wipe your information say do not transfer anything, and nothing is wiped. Logon as the admin and put in your password and change the old admins privileges to standard and then change yours to admin settings then reset the password on the old one to something you will remember. Then log out and go onto the old one and ALL OF YOUR THINGS ARE THERE AND NOTHING IS DELETED I HAVE DONE THIS 20000 TIMES TRUST ME my company uses macs and so many people forget the password and it takes to much time to do this with the disk that its easier this way and nothing will be deleted if you just put in the information needed nothing more don’t transfer anything.

    Example –
    The old account let say was name. JoeShomo!
    Joeshomo forgot his password and doesn’t no how to get it back
    Reads this then says okay. Shuts down his computer, turns it on hears the chime 3 notes before the end hits Apple Command – S together comes to the text screen.
    Types in what it says and then reboots.
    Comes to the First time start up screen. Follows the instructions and doesn’t transfer anything “TRUST ME DONT TRANSFER!!!”
    Then names his new account FIXER!!!
    He Logs on to FIXER!!! and goes to Account Preference.
    Clicks make this computer an administrator! ” No need to put in any password here ”
    Clicks on the Lock if its locked which it will be if someone is secure with there computer.
    Goes to the JoeShomo account and clicks don’t allow administrator privileges.
    Then below the names and Short name, clicks reset password!!
    Change it to what ever you want that you will remember and finish up.
    Close the Account settings.
    Log out and go to the JoeShomo account don’t be worried your stuff is there!!
    And if your smart you will leave FIXER!!! account or whatever you name it!
    But if not then change it back and that does it.
    DON”T LISTEN TO PEOPLE THAT TELL YOU THAT IT WILL SCREW ANYTHING UP IT WONT ITS JUST A glitch that allows the computer to think its the first time starting up but doesn’t wipe the hard drive. Because it already has a OS. Just a refresher if you will.

    If that doesn’t help and you need more then that contact me at
    [email protected] I will help you further!!!
    Any other problems contact ME WILLING TO HELP

  4. LOL thats not hacking! Im not even sure if its worthy of being called cracking. Who has a password on their machine anyway. I only keep one on my broweser to keep my friends from screwing around with my business stuff.

  5. ModelBoi . . .

    Ok… Here is the Story… I have a Macbook SO X tiger… It was stolen 8 day’s ago… with all my stuff… including my battery, charger, CD and even my I-pod… I just got it back today… but the police told me the CD and ipod was no where to be found,,,

    Here’s my issue… They never found the guy… But The Theif stole my password and changed everything !!! He put his own password! …. Plus now I don’t even Have a CD to reset it!!!!! Can someone please help me hack my own computer?!…. Does this work for my laptop?… All my modeling stuff and info has been lost!… I use this for work!… Please… Can someone be of any assistance… (These past few days have been crazy…. sorry for the begging….)


    I’ll check this from time to time…. Thanks…

  6. …So i did what was said, before knowing there was notes beneath, and the mac sounds the mac chime during start-up. However, upon entering the OS screen, where its loading…it has a small folder icon, and flashing to Mac face Icon….Wont do anything, acts as if everything is wiped…which means I would need a CD. I dont have one…Any words…..Thanx

  7. Laurens Bainton

    EW says:
    You fail to mention that in the process you delete ALL of your information.

    That is not resetting the OS X password, that is called creating a new account and taking over someone else’s computer with a fresh start. The title of this post should be changed.

    MY REPLY: by the way i did that to my mac and i got all the data back. The hard drive didn’t
    delete it

  8. Hi,

    I tried this on my personal MacBook, which runs the latest version of Leopard and it worked exactly as advertised.

    I REALLY want to do this with my MacBook Pro from work, which runs Tiger 10.4.10. Can anyone confirm that this also works with Tiger?? I’m a little concerned about trying it on my work machine. I can’t make a true backup without Admin rights…

    If anyone knows if this works in Tiger, please let me know.

    Thank you!

  9. flysi

    @ devious: When booted into OS X, change your startup disk to the Mac HD in System Prefs > Startup Disk. When you reboot, it will boot into OS X by default (instead of Windows), and then you can boot into Single User mode.

    Oh, and using punctuation is not a bad habit to get into.

  10. devious

    Hi i have a dual os mac with windows and mac how do i get to command line on the mac as when my pc reboots it loads up windows asap or if i keep hold of alt it gives me option to choose but then when i click on mac and hold apple and s it doesnt take me to command prompt

  11. /I3az/


    All Personal Computers can be “hacked” this way. Even BIOS password can be got around by just pulling out the batteries!

    Thats why on the first Mission Impossible film u have the computer locked up in a secure room ;-)

  12. mount -uw /
    passwd *username*
    reboot now

    Obviously replace *username* with the desired login name. If you don’t know it, go in to /Users and see which folders are available…

    cd /Users
    ls -a


  13. The Oz

    actualy no it does not delete the user account to do that you would have to do this

    rm -R /Users/Username

    The command simply deletes the prefs for the apple setup assistant and it could be another way to regain access should you not have your Install DVD. After running the command and rebooting youll be brought to the Apple Setup Assistant where it will allow you to create another admin user which in turn allows you to enable the root user and then regain access to your files.

    Resetting a firmware password is as easy as changing the amount of ram in the machine and them zapping pram, that takes care of any firmware passwords.

  14. Does this work if a firmware password is enabled? Cuz otherwise it’s a little disappointing to think it would be that easy to snag a computer and wipe all of its data, even if the owner, thinking he’s being all security-conscious, has bothered to enable a firmware password…

  15. Todd Baur

    Yeah this is a bad idea. Sorry, but removing that file will just trick OS X into thinking its the first time its been powered up, and take you through registration.

    So if you absolutely need to reset your password without an Apple CD available, you’re better doing this.

  16. You fail to mention that in the process you delete ALL of your information.

    That is not resetting the OS X password, that is called creating a new account and taking over someone else’s computer with a fresh start. The title of this post should be changed.

    • I did what this post suggested, and ended up with a machine that wanted to go through the original setup process, as it had ‘lost’ all my accounts.

      But this *seems to have* fixed it:

      mount -uw /
      touch /var/db/.AppleSetupDone
      shutdown -h now

      The file .AppleSetupDone should have stuff in it (name, city, eye colour, registration info, etc), but it *seems* to work just as an empty file.

      • Stinger01

        did you find anything else that could possibly fix this problem?!

        I followed this & I still can’t Log into my Mac with my own Name & Password which is really weird!

        I don’t have my Mac original CD so I guess I’m kinda stuck, huh!

      • Stinger01

        I have a MacBook & I went inside my settings & changed all users back to admin name & password & shut off my Labtop; after I powered it up again, after I typed in the admin name(my name & last name), I punch in my password & than enter; it doesn’t work & wont let me pass that window!!!; I tried â– mount -uw /
        â– rm /var/db/.AppleSetupDone
        â– shutdown -h now
        than powered it up again & now all I get is Black & Grey window!; So I tried your instructions(Above)(mount -uw /
        touch /var/db/.AppleSetupDone
        shutdown -h now); Now I’m back where I started as I can’t pass my password window again!!!

        Anyone know what to do as I would hate to take it into an actual Apple Store as I would hate to pay $$$ for something I can fix myself.

        HELP PLEASE!!!