Recover an Email Account Password With macOS Keychain Access

Your passwords are available in your keychain

Your email accounts are likely among your most frequently accessed password-based services, so losing or forgetting your email password is a big deal. However, you can recover that password easily — without using your email service's typically cumbersome lost-your-password procedure. Your password is likely stored in what Apple calls a keychain as part of the Mac's built-in password storage function.

Information in this article applies to Macs with macOS Catalina (10.15) through OS X Mavericks (10.9) and iOS devices with iOS 13, 12, or 11.

What's a Keychain?

Keychains have a simple purpose: They contain login information such as account names and passwords in a secure, encrypted form for apps, websites, services, and other virtual places you visit on your computer.

When you set up Apple Mail or other email services, iCloud Keychain typically prompts you to save your login name and password. This information is stored securely in a keychain on your Apple device, as well as in iCloud, if you enable it in the Mac's System Preferences. If you forget your email password, you can recover it from Keychain on your Mac or an iOS device.

How to Find the Keychain Access Utility

Locate the Keychain Access utility on your Mac at Applications > Utilities > Keychain Access.

Path to Keychain Access on a Mac

Each user account on a Mac has a separate login and keychain.

Locating a Password in Keychain Access Utility

Finding a forgotten password in Keychain is relatively simple.

  1. Sort the keychains by tapping the Name or Kind column header so that your email password is easier to find.

    Keychain Access utility on a Mac
  2. Enter the name of your email provider or any other detail you remember about your email account, such as your username, in the search box at the upper right corner of the screen. Press Return.

    Keychain Access utility on a Mac
  3. Click Passwords in the Category section of the left panel and scroll until you find your email account.

    Keychain Access showing search results
  4. Double-click on the relevant email account. By default, your password is not visible. Click the Show password box and enter your login credentials to see your password.

    Password screen in Keychain Access utility on a Mac

Uncheck the Show password box before you close the Keychain Access window to protect your privacy.

Locating a Stored Password in the Safari App

There's an even simpler way to find stored passwords using the Safari application on your Mac.

  1. Open Safari and choose Preferences in the Safari menu.

    Safari Preferences option on a Mac
  2. Click the Passwords tab and enter your Mac user account password.

    Password preferences on a Mac
  3. Enter the name of the email provider you are looking for in the search field. As you type, results appear on the screen.

    Search Results in Passwords screen on a Mac
  4. Select the desired account in the results to reveal the password.

    Mac Safari Passwords screen

Accessing Email Passwords on iOS Devices

Keychain Access syncs with iCloud, so you can use it on iOS devices such as iPads and iPhones to retrieve lost passwords. It isn't turned on by default, but you can turn it on by tapping Settings > [your name] > iCloud > Keychain and then moving the slider next to Keychain to the On/green position.

Keychain settings on iPhone

With Keychain active, it is easy to locate forgotten passwords on your iOS devices:

  1. Tap Settings and select Passwords & Accounts.

  2. Tap Website & App Passwords.

  3. Authenticate using FaceID or Touch ID when prompted.

  4. Scroll down to the email account (or enter it in the search field to locate it) and tap it to see the email password.

    Passwords & Accounts on an iPhone