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How to Use Apple’s New All-In-One Password Manager

Most people don’t use a password manager or two-factor authentication–even people who know it’s a good idea–because installing and managing yet another app just sounds exhausting. Well, if you’re an Apple user, you don’t need another app anymore: Your device can manage your passwords and generate two-factor authentication codes for you, and you can even sync them with a Windows computer.

Password managers are important. Why? To quickly summarize, using the same password for every website and app is an open invitation for hackers to access all of your accounts. That’s because passwords regularly leak, and a leaked password on one site can give hackers access to all your other accounts if you use the same password everywhere. It’s best, then, to use a totally different password on every site, but no human being can remember that many passwords.

Password managers are the best solution we have at the moment, because they can generate, and then store, secure passwords for all of your services. Most people don’t use one, though, because such apps can be complicated to learn, and the best ones aren’t free.

So it’s great that Apple offers such functionality. But there’s a downside: It’s a little buried, if not outright hidden. Still, if you’re a Safari user with multiple Apple devices, this feature means you can quickly generate and save secure passwords for all of your accounts. Here’s how. Note that you’ll need a (free) iCloud account for this service to sync passwords between devices, though if you’re an Apple user you almost certainly already have one.

Create Passwords

To get started, you may need to enable the feature, which you can find in System Settings on your device under Passwords. Make sure iCloud Keychain is turned on. Windows users should also install iCloud for Windows, which can sync your passwords with Chrome or Microsoft Edge.

The simplest way to add passwords to Apple’s hidden password manager is to just start using your devices and saving passwords as you go. When you sign into any online account in Safari, or in any app on your iPhone or iPad, there’s generally a pop-up asking if you want to save the password in your iCloud Keychain for AutoFill. This is the simplest way to add accounts: Just hit the Save Password button and your username and password will be saved.

Alternatively, if you’re signing up for a new account, you will generally be offered an automatically generated strong password–if not, you can tap the key icon at the top of the keyboard on mobile or in the right side of the password field on desktop. Either way you should see the Add New Password option, which can automatically create a strong password for you.

From now on, when you log in to the site, your device will offer to fill out the username and password for you. It will generally use TouchID, FaceID, or your system password to confirm you identity, after which the username and password field will be filled in. This saves you from having to remember the passwords, and even the usernames, you use to log in to websites.

Browse and Edit Your Passwords

You might be wondering where, exactly, all of these passwords are saved. Let’s head back to Passwords in System Settings. Here you will find a list of all the passwords you’ve saved.

Screenshot of Apple password manager
Apple via Justin Pot

At the top of the list is a Security Recommendations function, which will cross-reference your saved passwords with known lists of leaked accounts. This is a useful way to know if any of your passwords absolutely need to be changed.

Below that is a search bar, which you can use to quickly find any account. Open an account to see the username, password, and URLs associated with the account. You can also add a note to any account, if you want.

Two-Factor Authentication

We’ve talked about how two-factor authentication keeps you more secure, but basically it means that a hacker who gets your password won’t be able to log in unless they also have physical access to your device. Generally two-factor authentication requires installing yet another app, for generating codes, but Apple devices have this feature built in, and they can even fill in the field for you.

Head back to your list of passwords in the System Settings app. Open any account and you’ll see a Set Up Verification Code field.

Screenshot of Apple password manager
Apple via Justin Pot

Tap this and you can set up two-factor authentication for the application. How to do this depends on the specific service you’re setting it up for, but it’s generally in the settings of the specific app or website. You’ll have a QR code to sign or, alternatively, a long code to copy.

Screenshot of Apple password manager
Apple via Justin Pot

After setting this up, your Apple device will automatically offer verification codes for you every time you log in to the service on any of your devices. It’s really slick, and it’s a lot faster than applications like Authy or Google Authenticator.

Importing and Exporting Passwords

Note that if you have an existing password manager, you can import your passwords to Apple’s system. Head back to Passwords in the settings app and hit the three-dot button on the right above your list of passwords. Here you will see the option to Import passwords.

Screenshot of Apple password manager
Apple via Justin Pot

You will need to export your passwords to a CSV file before you can use this functionality. Here are instructions for the leading password managers:

You can also Export your Apple passwords to a CSV file from here, allowing you to import them into one of these password managers. We’ve outlined the best password managers for you; my personal recommendations are Bitwarden, which is free and open source, and 1Password, which is powerful and free to use.

There’s not a lot of reason for the Apple faithful to do this, though. As we’ve outlined, Apple’s password system does most of what these applications can do. The main problem is that they’re hidden.

Recently the blogger Cabel Sasser argued that Apple Passwords needs an app, which is part of why I wrote this guide. I’m not sure if I agree with his premise–I suspect most people would simply ignore any “Passwords” app, the way they ignore most applications that come bundled with their devices. Still, it is true that all of this functionality is pretty buried. I hope this article helps you find it.

 

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