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I got quite the headscratcher here...

I'm in a password reset loop. I have been tasked with "fixing" my wife's MacBook. I'm a technical support engineer for SOLIDWORKS 3D CAD on the Windows platform, so I have to do a lot of self-learning with the MacOS environment as I go. I've exhausted everything I could find mentioned online and would be very appreciative of some insight from more experienced users.

THE GOAL

  • Access the HD to recover important documents and pictures.

THE SITUATION

  • My wife left her computer unused for many months. The battery ran out and it was left 100% dead for a good while.

  • When charging it back up and trying to log in, the machine will not accept my wife's machine password (she had written it down previously). We've tried over 50 iterations. We tried all passwords and all permutations of any Apple passwords past and present. No dice.

  • So far, no method of resetting the password has been successful.

  • The machine seemingly can't connect to the internet to reset the password via Apple ID even though I have verified it is connected to Wifi. I tried multiple networks to rule out faulty internet. It rejects incorrect passwords, so I know it actually connects when the Wifi credentials are entered correctly. At this point, her Apple ID is the only credential I can independently verify is accurate.

  • My wife inadvertently activated FileVault and can't remember if/where she stored the Recovery Key. Big "uh-oh."

  • Because FileVault is active, I cannot access the macOS Utilities (⌘+R held while booting) to run the 'resetpassword' command in the Terminal. It only boots to the Recovery OS which isn't helpful.

  • I also am locked out of single-user startup (⌘+S held while booting) which is disabled when FileVault is active. I was hoping to run some command-line codes to reset the password or create and admin account. Can't do any of that with FileVault enabled.

  • The 'Macintosh HD' Startup Disk is encrypted in the Recovery Assistant. It asks for an unlock password, but I have no idea what to enter. Any attempt has been unsuccessful.

Need some insight!

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  • Welcome to AskDifferent! In order to help, I have a few questions: When does it ask for the unlock password(login screen, startup e.t.c.)? Is the whole disk encrypted or just the home folder? What happens if you use Shift+Option+CMD+R while booting? What happens if you use just Option when boot? – iTunes Nov 10 '20 at 22:31
  • Does your wife have an iPhone or any other Apple device associated with her Apple ID? – Udhy Nov 11 '20 at 11:28
  • Holy crap!!! @iTunes, I've tried the 'Shift+Option+CMD+R' before and it didn't seem to have any effect. I tried it this morning and POOF, it finally got to the OS X Utilities! But now I have a different problem.... I use the 'Terminal,' type 'resetpassword,' and the 'Reset Password' utility pops up. There is a window: 'Select the volume containing the user account:' and it is completely blank. I cannot select a volume and thus cannot select a user account to enter a new password for. – RuffWorks Nov 12 '20 at 13:39
  • @Udhy, Yes, I have her iPhone and have full access to it. When logging into an Apple website I can see her MacBook Air and iPhone devices. – RuffWorks Nov 12 '20 at 13:42
  • @RuffWorks It could be because the whole volume is encrypted with FileVault and not just the home folder or that the version of OS X utilities is too old. From the first point, your data is lost. However, there is a semi-workaround: you can create a partion using disk utility in OS X Utilities and install another copy of macOS parallel with the current. You can then keep using the Mac without deleting the data. In the second case, use Option+CMD+R while boot and see what happens. – iTunes Nov 12 '20 at 17:59
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Have you tried this method? From this source:

Use Recovery Mode to reset your password

You'll need to boot your Mac into Recovery Mode in order to access the password reset tool. I've found the easiest way to do that is to turn off your Mac.

With your Mac turned off, press and hold the Command and R keys on your keyboard, then press the power button. Hold in Command+R until you see a progress bar show up below the Apple logo. You can also get into Recovery Mode by restarting your Mac and trying to time the keyboard combo of Command+R, but in my experience, starting with your Mac turned off is the most reliable method.

With your Mac now in Recovery Mode, click on Utilities in the menu bar followed by Terminal. A new window will show up, waiting for you to enter a command. Type "resetpassword" as one word, without the quotes, and press Return.

Close the Terminal window, where you will then find the Reset Password tool. A list of all user accounts on your Mac will be on display. To reset the password for your account, you'll need to set a new password for all users. Make sure you write down the new password for anyone who shares your Mac.

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  • why the downvotes. i was suggesting amethodso he could change his password! – Natsfan Nov 11 '20 at 16:59
  • In my original post I specifically mentioned the method you recommended and explained that I cannot use it because FileVault is active. It probably got downvoted because you did not read the original post before answering. But now I have a new problem. Through Shift+Option+CMD+R (recovery mode with internet) I was finally able to get to OS X Utilities, use the 'Terminal', type 'resetpassword', but the area where a volume is mean to be selected is 100% blank, meaning I cannot select a volume to select a user account to reset a password. – RuffWorks Nov 12 '20 at 13:45
  • Update: the reason for this was the OS X Utilities it was booting to was the factory OS it shipped with (Maverick). Because the machine had been updated to Catalina and the HD was encrypted, the old OS X Utilities could not see the volume. Not a solution to resolve the issue. – RuffWorks Nov 20 '20 at 14:47

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