by Michael Miller on March 19, 2012
Update 10/3/13 I’ve been getting a higher and higher number of people asking about Safari flat out refusing to save passwords on certain sites where it used to.
A bit of research made me realize what I should have known: Safari 6 and up will respect a website requesting that certain fields not be autocompleted (such as PayPal and Yahoo). There’s not much you can do about it within Safari, although you could use a third party password manager such as 1Password or a free extension (that link will download it) that would make Safari ignore the autocomplete request.
Update: I’m getting a surprising number of people from around the planet hitting this article, searching for things like ‘Safari isn’t saving password’, ‘Mac keychain’ and ‘why oh why am I always being asked for my keychain password someone help me please’. Anyway, if the article doesn’t answer the question, don’t hesitate to drop a question in the comments.
Your Mac, much like, say, a sheepdog, is supposed to make your life easier by fulfilling your commands. And much like a sheepdog, when you give it a clear, distinct command, and it lopes off into the sunset ignoring it completely, it’s apt to raise your blood pressure.
Just to take an example: lets say you’re doing your daily check in on your webmail, and lets say you’re using yahoo mail. You cheerfully plug in your username and password, and when Safari asks you ‘Hey, would you like to save this password for later?’ you say ‘yes.’
The next day, you happily surf back to Yahoo webmail, innocently expecting that there will be no more password typing for you (after all, typing 123456 can get a bit old).
As an unusually perspicacious individual (evidenced by you reading this blog), you’ve probably already guessed the punchline: not only has your Mac NOT remembered the password, but it pretty much refuses to do it even after you go through the entire denial, rage, and piteous begging stages of troubleshooting.
What is up?
First, a word about how passwords are stored on your Mac. When you first set up your Mac, it automatically created an account for you on the computer, with a name and password you gave it. For that account, it created what Apple calls a ‘Keychain’ – a little file that stores all your user names and passwords on the Mac. From there on out, in theory, all you need to do is enter the password for that ‘keychain’ once, and it will give programs access to all your other saved passwords. The upside is that you are still password protected, but that you can safely use a large variety of complex passwords on different sites, but be responsible for memorizing only one.
To take this convenience a step further, your Mac automatically sets your keychain password to be the same one as whatever you set for your Mac, so that when your Mac starts up and logs you in, it automatically unlocks your keychain, and boom – all your passwords automatically fill in as needed, with no fuss or muss on your part.
Of course, nifty as this system is, it will screw up from time to time, and for the average human being who has absolutely no idea that the keychain even exists, that can become a migraine in the offing.
So, if Safari isn’t saving your passwords, here’s what you can do:
First, of course, make sure that it is set to do so. While in Safari, go to the ‘Safari’ menu in the upper left hand corner of the screen, click on it, and then click on ‘Preferences.’
From there, click on the ‘Autofill’ tab, and make sure ‘User names and passwords’ is checked.
As you might notice, you can also click the ‘Edit’ button and view which passwords are saved, and remove specific ones you don’t want in the list. If you have one website that is being problematic and not saving a password, you can try removing it from that list and seeing if that fixes the problem. If it doesn’t, you’ll want to go into mucking about with the keychain.
For, this you’ll need to go to your Utilities folder. One way to get there is to click on the ‘Finder’ in the dock (the square smiley face) and then go to the ‘Go’ menu in the menu bar. From there, choose ‘Utilities.’
In the Utilities folder, find the handy dandy application called ‘Keychain Access.’ Keychain Access is the tool that will let you troubleshoot, edit, and view your keychain – among other things. It’s an incredibly useful tool, and one that it pays dividends to be aware of.
First, make sure that your Keychain is in good health. Go to the ‘Keychain Access’ menu in the menu bar, and choose ‘Keychain First Aid.’
Within Keychain First Aid, click on ‘Verify’ and then ‘Start.’ If it gives you any red text or squawks any warning messages, go ahead and click on ‘Repair.’
Once done with that, close that window, and go back to your Keychain list. It should list a variety of saved items, and the easiest way to find the one you want is to type what you’re looking for in the search bar in the upper right. So, if you were searching for a Yahoo item, you would type ‘Yahoo.’ It will narrow it down to just a few items.
Before we proceed to the next step, you should double click on one of the items in the list. See that little checkbox to the left? The one that says ‘show password’?
That’s right, as long as you know your keychain password, you can discover any other password that is stored on your account on that computer. This is incredibly handy if you ever forget a password.
At any rate, now that you’ve found your glitched-out password item, delete it. Select it in the list, and press the ‘delete’ key. Gone.
Now, quit Keychain access, go back to Safari, and try to log into your account once more. This time, when it asks if you want to save the password and you reply in the affirmative, it should actually do it. If not, well, you know how to get in touch with us!