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Is there any setting that is supposed to cause the macOS Keychain Access app to show, in the password area, not the passwords themselves but instead random-looking capital alphanumeric characters?

This is what I'm seeing but I'd rather see the passwords.

I'm not sure if this is a setting I don't know about or if something is broken.

  • I assume that is after you log in to see the password – Ruskes Dec 19 '18 at 7:02
  • 2
    Are you sure that the 'random characters' are not actually the passwords? Does the keychain work (supplying correct passwords for websites, etc.)? – benwiggy Dec 19 '18 at 7:25
  • Are you talking about website passwords? – LaterSkater Dec 19 '18 at 20:11
  • Investigating more, I realize I'm seeing this behavior only for WiFi passwords (or, "Airport Network Passwords", in the language of the app). So I can see website passwords correctly, but passwords to WiFI networks all show up as alphanumeric characters. @LaterSkater – algal Dec 19 '18 at 20:15
  • I just entered the password to connect to a new WiFi network, I can connect successfully, but keychain doesn't show the password I entered. Just noticed this is happening only for WiFi passwords @benwiggy – algal Dec 19 '18 at 20:15
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Okay, I figured out why this is happening, after reading this article and this answer.

If you have access to a WiFi network because at one point or another you or someone else explicitly shared the password with you using the "Share Password" feature on iOS 11+ and macOS High Sierra+, then you never actually received the true plaintext password and so it is not saved in your keychain.

Instead, you get a kind of alphanumeric hash that was based on that password. Your device can use that hash to connect to the WiFi, but it's not feasible to reconstruct the original password from it.

So:

  • I am seeing these alphanumeric hashes for certain WiFi networks because I must have entered the true password on iOS and then explicitly shared it to my Mac (instead of relying on iCloud Keychain sync, to sync the true passwords across devices).

  • since that hash is all that's saved in my keychain, I have no way to recover the true password

  • whenever you use the "Share Password" feature to share a WiFi password to nearby devices, you're not actually sharing the password but only access to the network.

-1

This is a really simple guide to view your macOS keychain passwords:

https://www.engadget.com/2008/09/25/mac-101-retrieve-your-keychain-passwords/

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