Admin pw recovery on mac

TL;DR: Is there a way to find out the admin password on a Mac? I know there’s 99.9999999% chance there’s no way to get this but figured I would ask.

My friend has a 2012 Macbook AIR. From what I can tell, it has a bunch of malware on it just by googling some problems. I downloaded Malwarebytes but when I go to install it, it’s asking me for a password. However, he has no password on the computer (when logging in).

We tried three different passwords but none worked. Worst case scenario, he is actually going to buy a new computer and then wipe this one completely and use it as a shared computer (which is probably how it got malware on it in the first place).

I would look in keychain but I wouldn’t know what to look but I’m guessing I couldn’t get it anyway because I would need a master pw to view the master pw…

I’m assuming him taking it to a genius bar wouldn’t work but maybe I’m wrong.

Try no password, hit return…
Don’t ask how I know…

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Thanks. I will try this shortly. Will update.

Unfortunately, that did not work.

You can reset the password by booting into recovery and/or single user mode. Here are some links that might be useful.

  1. Cnet: Locked out of your Mac? How to bypass and reset your password to get back in

Note: Cnet’s website is atrocious, so the link above will actually take you to a PrintFriendly URL for the article.

  1. Once a computer has malware on it, I would retrieve anything essential on it, boot into recovery, reformat the drive, and reinstall macOS. But that’s just me. MalwareBytes is probably sufficient for cleaning it, but I’d still feel icky using it. Plus, reinstalling the OS on an old computer might solve other niggling problems that have cropped up over time.

  2. If you want to share your Mac with others, create a second, non-administrator account and people-who-are-not-you are only allowed to use that account. No exceptions. (This is as close to fundamentalism as I get :wink: )


Installing MalwareBytes is a good idea. They’re a reputable company.

If this doesn’t find malware, I’d trust it. I often come across obscure sites (that have great search engine optimization) claiming a known Windows bug is “malware”, which you can cure by installing their handy dandy malware fixer. Just type your admin password here…

Thank you, @tjluoma for your solutions. I will give those a try and offer it up to my friend.

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So, I was able to do this by using the simple instructions to boot into Recovery Mode that @tjluoma sent out. Super simple. A part of me is frightened because if a nefarious person got a hold of a computer, they could easily do the same thing.

The only confusing thing was the issue with the keychain. It gives you options on what to do with the keychain but they were confusing. My first option I tried gave me errors so I ended up resetting the password again and trying the other option and all seems ok right now.

After I got that all done, I did run Malwarebytes and it found a LOT of malware, including Safari extensions, which is what was causing so much annoyance to him because sites were not working properly.

So thank you all for the suggestions. I look like a genius!


Yup. This is why if you are sure that you will not forget your password, you should use FileVault and add a firmware password to your Mac:

Just beware of the warning at the bottom of that page:

If you forgot your firmware password

If you can’t remember your firmware password or passcode, schedule an in-person service appointment with an Apple Store or Apple Authorized Service Provider. Bring your Mac to the appointment, and bring your original receipt or invoice as proof of purchase.

Weird, I have never heard of a firmware password. I just did a search in this group and I see some posts about it. Somehow I missed those.

Thanks for the heads up and again, thanks for your advice previously.