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 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 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 another email service, iCloud Keychain 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 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.

Locate 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.

    A screenshot of Keychain Manager with the Name and Kind columns highlighted
  2. Go to the search box in the upper-right corner of the screen, enter the name of your email provider or any other detail you remember about your email account, such as your username, then press the Enter key.

    A screenshot of Keychain Manager in macOS with the search bar highlighted
  3. In the Category section of the left panel, click Passwords, and scroll until you find your email account.

    A screenshot of Keychain Manager with the Passwords category highlighted
  4. Double-click the relevant email account. By default, your password is not visible. Click the Show password check box and enter your login credentials to see your password.

    A screenshot of a Keychain item with the Show Password option highlighted

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

Locate a Stored Password in the Safari App

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

  1. Open Safari, go to the Safari menu, then choose Preferences.

    A screenshot of Safari with the Preferences menu item highlighted
  2. Click the Passwords tab, then enter your Mac user account password.

    A screenshot of Safari preferences with the Passwords tab highlighted
  3. Enter the name of the email provider you are looking for in the search field. As you type, results appear on the screen.

    A screenshot of Safari's Passwords preferences with the search bar highlighted
  4. Select the desired account in the results to reveal the password.

    Mac Safari Passwords screen

Access 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 iCloud Keychain toggle switch to the On (green) position.

iPhone screenshots showing the path to turn on iCloud Keychain

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.

    Screenshots of an iPhone showing Passwords & Accounts
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