I've asked the related question in security SE: Why does not updating a MacOS keychain password cause applications to become troublesome? and the answer there explains that keychain is used by various applications to store "sensitive data such as credentials, certificates and the like... passwords..." and goes on to explain that a total list of all possibilities is beyond the scope of the question.


I changed my password by using recovery mode. I'd changed it yesterday, then it suddenly appeared to stop working.

As I continued, I received the message (photo of screen shown below):

The system was unable to unlock your login keychain.

Since I don't use my keychain at all, and since I did not understand the implications of each choice, I just selected Continue Login.

Once I was using my computer again, I have a persisting sequence of dialogue boxes that will not go away. They seem to interfere strongly, rendering other applications unresponsive (beachballing) until I cycle through them once or twice by clicking Cancel three or six times. Preview is particularly difficult to use now.

For example, I have found that when I open multiple images in Preview, I can move easily between them through cursor operations on the sidebar, but as soon as I try to use the arrow keys preview freezes and beachballs until I click through the keychain dialogues again. Same for other menu items like close and save.

I have similar behavior for other apps. For example when TextEdit has an .rtf document that contains links, trying to use hotkeys to save will also trigger a dialogue box, but I'll ask primarily about Preview to keep it simple.

QUESTION: Why specifically would Preview access the keychain when I use keyboard shortcuts, but not cursor clicks or menu items for the same operations? Any thoughts why this (sometimes) happens with TextEdit as well?

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  • 1
    Good question. I doubt people here will know why? But if you wanna get rid of the dialog boxes just keep you login keychain unlocked and have the same password as you login password.
    – user14492
    Commented Jul 1, 2018 at 11:12
  • @user14492 you might be right but it's hard to know the extent and limits of every user's ability and knowledge ahead of time. Thanks for leaving the keychain tip as well.
    – uhoh
    Commented Jul 1, 2018 at 11:15

2 Answers 2


Short answer: It doesn't.

Long answer: There are plenty of reasons why this may occur. I discuss a couple of scenarios below.

If you recently changed your password, I would recommend reading this support article from Apple.

The password of your macOS user account might not match the password of your login keychain. Either create a new login keychain or update it with your new password.

If this is not the scenario for you, or if that article does not solve your problem, there are other probable scenarios. Sometimes, after updates, the Keychain may become corrupted. Using Keychain Repair from the Keychain App, you can easily fix this problem. I would refer to this answer for more information.

I have been personally facing this issue since El Capitan, and only recently fixed this issue. When El Capitan was released, this bug was introduced to some users using FileVault. Disabling FileVault and re-enabling solves this problem as well.

For additional solutions, I would refer to other answers left in similar questions:

  • These all look very helpful, thanks!! I'll give them a read today.
    – uhoh
    Commented Jul 3, 2018 at 23:33
  • Everytime I Cmd + c to copy in Preview it asks me for my password. Why????
    – Jacob Lee
    Commented Jan 28, 2021 at 1:25
  1. Preview can store files in iCloud
  2. iCloud stores keys and certificates in the keychains

Seems like that keychain isn't unused, and you may need to either sign out of iCloud and then delete the keychains or test with a new user account to be sure your security dependancies aren't broken.

  • This is very helpful as it gives me something to think about; thank you! I don't use iCloud. I've never used it (as far as I know/remember) and wouldn't know how to sign in or out. I'm not even aware of having an Apple ID. That doesn't necessarily mean it's not happening without me knowing it.
    – uhoh
    Commented Jul 3, 2018 at 23:30
  • Totally @uhoh - if you make a new user account and set the Mac to not auto log in any account, can you reproduce the issue when you log in to the new account?
    – bmike
    Commented Jul 3, 2018 at 23:43
  • I'm a heavy user of Apple products but with a limited scope of activities. I'll look into this today and get some local assistance if necessary. Is there something I could read further about how to "...set the Mac to not auto log in..."?
    – uhoh
    Commented Jul 3, 2018 at 23:48

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