I've changed my Macbook computer's password in using recovery mode. I'd changed it once normally, then it suddenly "stopped working" (or I started "mis-remembering" it after using it a few times, which is not likely, but not impossible).

As I continued with the recover mode, I received the message (photo of screen shown below):

The system was unable to unlock your login keychain.

Since I don't use my keychain at all, and since I did not understand the implications of each choice, I just selected Continue Login.

Once I was using my computer again, I have a persisting sequence of dialogue boxes that will not go away no matter how many times I click Cancel. They seem to interfere with other applications strongly, rendering them unresponsive (beachballing sometimes) until I cycle through them once or twice by clicking Cancel three or six times. Preview is particularly difficult to use now. Using menu items with the mouse is okay, but when I use hot-key's for copy/paste or arrows to move between multiple images, I then have to attend to the keychain dialogues again. It seems keystrokes are triggering them.

Question: I am not only asking how to stop this, but also asking why this is happening? Why is getting a keychain password so strongly linked to trying to use Preview, Chrome, and other applications, since I've never intentionally used the keychain? Is there any way to get this under control without updating my keychain password - something I do not use and don't see why anyone else should be able to use either?

This behavior makes me wonder if something else unknown to me is using or wanting to use the Keychain, which might be alarming!

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1 Answer 1


Well, the Keychain on macOS is the place for applications to store sensitive data such as credentials, certificates and the like. For instance, Keychain stores the passwords for all wireless networks you join. Chrome might use it to obtain a list of trusted root certificates for your system. Messages uses it to store its tokens. Why certain applications use the Keychain is an implementation detail we cannot fully explain here. Most likely, the app stores or accesses some kind of data that it deems sensitive. What you are experiencing happens all the time on macOS (see links below) and does not indicate your system is compromised.

Now, the Keychain is by default secured by your account password and unlocked automatically during boot. When you change your password, the Keychain password is not automatically updated. You need to either update the existing password or create a new Keychain. Since you claim you do not use the Keychain, the simplest solution is probably to just create a new Keychain and be done with it.

See here, here or here for possible solutions.

  • I see; I'll take a look, thank you for the explanation!
    – uhoh
    Commented May 22, 2018 at 15:34
  • Okay, I think I will separate out understanding why specifically Preview freezes/beachballs for want of keychain access as a separate question, then accept this, if that's okay with you?
    – uhoh
    Commented May 24, 2018 at 7:13
  • 2
    Sure, good luck with that.
    – 0xdead10cc
    Commented May 25, 2018 at 8:42

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