How to Use iCloud Keychain

iCloud Keychain is Apple’s take on modern cloud password management.

If you take a few minutes to think about one thing you hate the most about the internet, chances are the one thing will be dealing with passwords.

Humans, unlike computers, tend to forget things, very easily. This is why we need help managing our passwords, whether it’s writing one down and sticking it to your computer screen, or saving all your passwords in an Excel spreadsheet and password-protect the spreadsheet with “password” as the password – believe it or not, this is exactly what Sony did when they got hacked by North Korea in 2014.

Another form of password management is apps like 1Password. In the case of 1Password, like the name suggests, all you need to remember is one password, your master password, to open the app where all your other passwords are saved. The app then auto-fills passwords when you log into your favorite internet services. And of course, 1Password is available across different platforms and browsers, just as you’d expect in a subscription based service. 

iCloud Keychain is Apple’s take on modern cloud password management. It is available on both Mac OS and iOS. Your passwords are saved and synchronized between your devices via iCloud. Unlike 1Password, iCloud Keychain is a free service as long as you have an Apple ID and a device running iOS 7 or later, or Mac OS X Mavericks or later.

To use iCloud Keychain, make sure you are logged into your iCloud account on your device and have iCloud Keychain turned on.

Go to Settings on your iPhone or iPad, then tap into your Apple ID, then iCloud, scroll down and you’ll see Keychain, tap into it and toggle it on if it’s off. If your device asks for your Apple ID password, follow the onscreen instructions.

With iCloud Keychain turned on, try signing up with an online service. Notice when you create your password, your device is going to recommend one. The recommended password is a strong one, so strong that you won’t be able to remember it, but worry not, because your device is going to remember the recommended password for you, should you choose to go with it. Of course, you still get to type in your own password if you like.

Once you go through the song and dance of the signup process, head to Settings and then Passwords & Accounts, and then Website & App Passwords. You’ll be asked to authenticate, do that and search for the new service you just signed up with using your user name or the website address, and you’ll see your newly created account and password. You’ll even get to copy the password if you like, but know that whenever you try logging into the site, your device is going to remind you that you have a saved password you can use with just one tap and a quick authentication with your device password, Touch ID or Face ID.

The beauty of iCloud Keychain is it synchronizes your passwords between your devices via iCloud. Set up an account on one device, your password is going to appear on your other devices as well as long as you are signed in using the same iCloud account.

Try logging into the same website on your Mac, you’ll be prompted to use the password you just created on your iOS device.

Even though you can’t remember the recommended password and really you don’t need to, you can still see it on any of your devices when you feel like it.

On your Mac, launch the Keychain Access app and search for the new service you just signed up with, again using your user name or the website address, and you’ll see the same record on your Mac. Double click on the record, check “Show password”, type in your Mac password and voila you’ll see your new password right there.

Got a question regarding iCloud Keychain? Feel free to leave a comment.