This relates to a 2011 Macbook Pro running El Capitan.

I'm set up as the admin and my child has a standard account with parental controls enabled. My child forgot their password and I'm trying to reset it in System Preferences. I unlock the padlock with the admin password, but my child's account is still grayed out and I can't select it to reset the password.

This also happened about a month ago but one day suddenly I could select their user account and I successfully reset the password. I don't know why I suddenly could select it, and I don't know why I now suddenly can't select it. I tried locking and unlocking the padlock but it doesn't make a difference.

I know how else I can reset the password, but what I'm asking here is:

What circumstances could explain why I can't select the user account after unlocking the padlock with my admin password?

  • Firstly, welcome to Ask Different! :) I hope you come to find this site has a lot to offer! In case you haven't already, it's worth taking the time to read the tour. All the best with your question.
    – Monomeeth
    May 21, 2019 at 3:36
  • 1
    Do you have fast user switching turned on? If so, your child's account might be logged in (check by pulling down the fast switch menu, and look for a check mark next to it). macOS won't let you make changes to a user account while someone's logged into it, so that would explain the problem. May 21, 2019 at 4:20
  • @GordonDavisson Yes I do. This was exactly the problem. I was able to reset the password now. Thank you! May 21, 2019 at 15:44

2 Answers 2


The system won’t let you reset the password if it detects that account is currently logged in.

  1. Obvious cause is fast user switching and the other user is logged in.
  2. Less obvious cause, things are messed up.

In case 2, try reboot and safe mode boot or disabling automatic log in to be sure the other account(s) are clear before going deeper.


i think it falls under the parental guidance issues play in there some more!

  • 1
    The comments show that the issue is known and is Fast User Switching
    – mmmmmm
    Apr 10, 2021 at 12:02
  • @mmmmmm I’ve put up an answer in the answer section. No matter how well intentioned, let’s blame people for putting answers in the comments section more harshly than we blame people for answering on a way to clarify or even a wrong answer. I appreciate chris took a chance on an answer (even if it’s short or needs an edit or a link to source why parental controls could do this)
    – bmike
    Apr 10, 2021 at 12:41
  • @bmike If I'm 'guessing', I'll often suggest trying something in the Comments, for fear of downvotes. I don't think either should be judged harshly.
    – benwiggy
    May 10, 2021 at 13:09
  • I love to guess in an answer and then explain how or why it’s a guess and give a next step. That really helps people learn more than a “the answer is 13.5” - you can get the right answer by the wrong method and it doesn’t teach. This clearly needs an exit to make it better but it’s a start.
    – bmike
    May 10, 2021 at 14:26

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