This method tricks the computer into thinking the computer it’s brand new and leads you through the setup again to create a new administrator account.
This guide should take only about five or ten minutes to complete, but as there is some music and you have to boot into single-user mode, you may want to bring headphones if you’re in a public place.
If you want to recover the password of any current user on the target computer in cleartext (that means actually viewing the user’s password instead of just resetting it), check out our easy guide on cracking Mac OS X passwords.
You might want to have your wireless network password on hand, which isn’t required, but certainly helpful if you want to have access to the internet on a secured network right away.
We do not recommend this procedure on machines running 10.4.x due to crash reports.
1. Boot into Single-User Mode
Turn on the computer. Upon hearing the startup chime, hold the key combination CMD+S. This boots the computer into single-user mode, which in turn gives you access via the root user. It is important to note, however, that this can be blocked by a firmware password. If that’s the case, head on over to one of our other guides on getting into single-user mode while locked.
2. Mount the Hard Drive
Once single-user mode boots (it should look like a black screen with white text), we need to mount the hard drive. At the prompt type in:
/sbin/mount -uw /
3. Remove the “Setup Has Been Completed” File
Now that the drive is mounted, we can edit the file system. We’re going to delete a file that tells your computer that you have completed the initial setup. Type in:
This command deletes the file “.applesetupdone” in the /var/db/ directory, which the computer checks for on startup to ensure that the computer has already been set up.
Pretty self explanatory. We need the system to reboot so it can check for the file and then notice it’s missing. Type in:
5. Watch the Video
Your computer will shut down and reboot. A setup window should pop up asking what language you want your computer to be in, just as if you turned on your computer for the first time after purchase. After you select a language, a welcome video will play. If you brought headphones along, feel free to plug them in during the “Select A Language” screen. Otherwise, enjoy a little music.
6. Continue Setup
Go through the rest of the setup process.
Be sure to select “DO NOT TRANSFER MY DATA”.
Don’t worry, all of your old files will still be on the computer.
At one point during setup you will have to configure your internet connection, this is when you need your wireless password. It’s fine if you don’t have the password, you can enter it later if you need to.
7. Set up the Administrator Account
Near the end of the setup you will be asked to create an administrator account for your computer.
Be sure to make the name of the admin account different from the existing one.
You can name the account anything that you want, except for the name of the old administrator account. If the new account is given the same name as the old one it will overwrite the old account, causing all the old account’s files to be deleted.
8. Finish Setup and Log In
Wrap up the setup and the computer should automatically log you into your new administrator account.
Some important notes:
- This administrator account is exactly like any other account.
- It is not hidden in any way, and it does not have any special privileges.
- With this account you will be able to change the password on the old administrator account, and access the files of any account stored locally on the computer (unless the old user has enabled FileVault on their account.
Again, if you’d prefer to recover the password of any current user on the computer, follow our other guide on cracking Mac passwords.
The contents of this guide are for educational use only. For more information, see our Disclaimer.