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I received a hand me down white MacBook with 10.4 on it and it automatically logs into a user account that isn't able to change much in the preference pane. How do I recover or change the administrator password?

The original owner told me to try a few passwords, none of which work to get logged in as admin.

  • And if you ever want to make sure that no one can reset your password this simply, you can boot your OS X Install Disk and go to Firmware Utility and set a password. After that, no one will be able to boot from another source without first typing the firmware password. – intlect Aug 21 '10 at 19:39
  • Firmware passwords can be reset if you have physical access to the machine, so don't put all your faith in using those to secure your data. – jacklar Aug 20 '11 at 2:49
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Boot to OS recovery, internet recovery or on older systems, with a Mac OS X DVD, then there's an option to change passwords.

reset

You can follow an how-to here.

  • If you are the user (not the administrator) you can just as the Administrator to reset your password. But, if you are the Administrator, then: Have your DVD installer ready. Insert the DVD to the tray Restart and press down the letter ‘C’. It will load the installer DVD On the first screen, select Installer > Reset Password Select your account and make up a new password. Reboot – jdiaz Aug 17 '10 at 19:55
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Getting admin access without the Setup Utility: another option, for the sake of completeness.

  1. Boot into single user mode by holding command-S on boot up.
  2. Enter /sbin/mount -wu / when the prompt appears to mount the filesystem
  3. Enter rm /var/db/.AppleSetupDone
  4. Enter reboot

At this point, it should run the colorful little setup utility that ran when the machine was new. This'll create a brand new admin account. This method can be useful if you don't want to mess up any existing accounts on the machine.

Before step 4 you can use the passwd command to overwrite the current password for any accounts on the mac. The command ls /Users will show all the user names.

  • I had to use this method right now instead of mine, because I didn't have the Mac OS X DVD with me and it works perfectly ! – Studer Aug 20 '10 at 22:41
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You can reboot into single user mode and change the password of a user with:

passwd [user]

Enter the new password twice and reboot.

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