I have iCloud "keychain" enabled on both my Mac and my iPhone. However, iPhone "Passwords" did not match my stored passwords in Safari, despite using Keychain cloud sync. I have three Apple devices:

  • M1 Mac Mini
  • M1 MacBook Pro
  • iPhone XR

I disabled iCloud keychain sync on all three devices, made sure all are up-to-date on the latest versions of macOS & iOS. I also deleted the Directory (with a long string name) from here on both my Mac Mini and MBP:

  • ~/Library/Keychains

Re-enabled iCloud Keychain sync on my Mac Mini, then my iPhone....and a lot of old passwords came in on my Mac Mini. I turned off iCloud Keychain sync on my iPhone, then cleaned them up / fixed the PWs on the Mac Mini. Then when I turned on iCloud Keychain sync again on my iPhone it worked....but I still don't know how or why.

What is the authoritative source of "Passwords" in iCloud / Where exactly does the authoritative database live? I assume it must be in a datacenter somewhere (cloud storage) since I deleted the local DBs on my Mac....unless it pulled the old DB from my iPhone?

1 Answer 1


The authoritative source the is iCloud Keychain. It’s a database of passwords just like the keychain on your mobile device, Mac, or Windows computer. The only difference is you can’t access the database file like you can on your local device - it’s a service.

When you sync one device (your Mac for example) it will upload all your keychain entities. You do this by enabling iCloud Sync on the device. As you as more devices, it will sync each one with iCloud being the central repository.

If/when you synchronize and there is a conflict with an entry (happens, but not often), it will stop syncing and create a “Sync Issue” alerting you to the problem allowing you to resolve it.

Which database takes precedence? The one you select. If you turn off syncing on your local device it will ask you to keep or delete the saved passwords. If you delete everything and turn back on sync, everything from the cloud will be downloaded. Keep in mind, it will take the most recent records as “current.“

  • 1
    "a conflict with an entry"... so what might happen in that rare case?
    – Solar Mike
    Jan 5, 2023 at 20:39
  • @SolarMike, normally the most recent change (i.e. you change a password in Safari on your Mac last it well take that one). If it can’t resolve it will generate an error
    – Allan
    Jan 5, 2023 at 21:19
  • Thank you for the info, @Allan. So, to be sure, the passwords database does live in your iCloud storage, correct? Even when iCloud sync is disabled on all of your devices? Jan 6, 2023 at 4:42
  • 1
    If you disable iCloud sync on all your devices, it lives locally, not in iCloud. One caveat, if you backup your settings, keychain will live in the cloud but as a backup to be restored
    – Allan
    Jan 6, 2023 at 5:21
  • @Allan looks like it was a server thing - your answer is now complete, was missing after that bit I quoted. Plus 1.
    – Solar Mike
    Jan 6, 2023 at 7:08

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