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Take Control of Passwords in Mac OS X
Oct 21, 2010

Take Control of Passwords in Mac OS X, Second Edition

Maximize your security and minimize your hassle while creating and managing Macintosh and Web passwords!

Although some aspects of this ebook remain accurate, too many of Joe’s recommendations about password security are dated and even incorrect as of February 2013. We have marked this ebook as “obsolete” in the Take Control catalog and database. You may instead be interested in the more-general Take Control of Your Passwords, also by Joe Kissell. If you’re interested in discussions of Keychain Access, which hasn’t changed, buy Take Control of Your Passwords, after which you can download “Take Control of Passwords in Mac OS X” from the Ebook Extras page’s Blog tab.

More Info

Suffering from password overload or anxiety? Set your mind at ease with friendly assistance from Mac expert Joe Kissell! You’ll learn how to match your personality type and risk factors to a personal plan for choosing and managing your Mac, Web, and iPhone/iPad/iPod touch passwords efficiently and securely. You’ll also learn how to handle:

  • Passwords on your Mac (login, master, root, firmware, email, AirPort, keychains)
  • Interactions between your Web browser and your stored passwords
  • Syncing passwords between Macs, and with your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch
  • Use Apple’s Keychain Access password manager
  • Getting started with a third-party password manager
  • Planning for what to do if your software (or your brain) forgets key passwords
  • Solving password-related problems

"Take Control of Passwords in Mac OS X is outstanding. It’s very thoughtful and well presented. I’ve spent more time than the average person thinking about this topic, and still I learned some things from your book."    —James Tummins

Read this ebook for advice on these password-related issues:

  • Coming up with secure passwords that are easily remembered and typed
  • Keeping track of impossible-to-remember passwords
  • Setting up sensible passwords that control access to your Mac
  • Reducing hassle by making your Mac automatically log you in to Web sites
  • Balancing security with the annoyance of frequent password entry
  • Understanding the purpose of the common Mac keychains
  • Finding and viewing the passwords that your Mac has tracked for you
  • Syncing passwords between different Macs (or with an iPhone/iPad/iPod touch)
  • Planning for disaster—what if you’re injured and someone else needs your passwords?
  • Deciding whether you should memorize your passwords, write them down, or have your Mac store them
What's New

What's New in Version 2.1

In this minor revision, I’ve updated the book to reflect the latest information about Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, iOS devices, 1Password, and other third-party products. Among the most significant changes are these:

  • Revised the discussion of 1Password to reflect the latest version (3.x) at publication time, as well as current versions for iOS
  • Updated the list of Desktop Password Managers with the latest facts, and added mention of the popular LastPass service/ software
  • Corrected information in Biometric Devices about using UPEK’s Eikon fingerprint scanners with 1Password

I haven’t bought this ebook or 1Password. To get the 1Password discount, what should I do?

After you buy the ebook, look on the last page of the ebook for the 1Password coupon, which you can click to jump over to the Agile Web Solutions Web site and access the discount on 1Password. The discount appears in the first screen of the cart, so you go through one or two clicks before you see the discount. You should see it before you enter credit card info.

Update Plans

March 4, 2013 – We kept this ebook up-to-date for several years, but for its most recent update, we decided to change the focus from “Mac OS X” passwords to the overall, general problem of password management on a variety of devices. Because the focus changed, and because technology has changed, too, we created an entirely new ebook. That new ebook is Take Control of Your Passwords.

Posted by Adam Engst

  1. On the Importance of Passwords

    In the November 2011 issue of The Atlantic, James Fallows shares the story of how his wife’s Gmail account was hijacked and what they went through to recover years of stored messages. It’s a compelling tale that will hopefully bring home the need for secure passwords and offline backups of cloud-based data.

    Posted by Michael Cohen (Permalink)

  2. Keychain Syncing to Disappear with MobileMe

    Apple has announced that iCloud, due to arrive this fall, will replace MobileMe. While iCloud will include many features currently in MobileMe, some of them did not make the cut. And among those is one mentioned in Take Control of Passwords in Mac OS X: syncing keychains between Macs (covered on page 71 of version 2.1). According to a MobileMe to iCloud Transition page, you’ll be able to continue syncing your keychains until you switch your MobileMe account to iCloud or until June 30, 2012, whichever comes first.

    Because I recommend using 1Password—and syncing one’s passwords amongst Macs, PCs, and iOS devices securely via Dropbox—this change need not cause any trauma. However, do keep in mind that some kinds of passwords (such as those Mac OS X stores automatically when you mount network volumes or disk images, or connect to wireless networks) are kept only in your keychain, so those will no longer sync automatically and may have to be re-entered by hand, once per device.

    Posted by Joe Kissell (Permalink)

The Author

Take Control publisher Joe Kissell has written more than 60 books about technology, including many popular Take Control books. He also runs Interesting Thing of the Day and is a contributing editor of TidBITS and a senior contributor to Macworld.