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Smart way to keep your Mac safe if you have to bring it in for service

Hopefully, you never have to send your Mac in for repairs. But if things go bad, you might not have a choice. And usually, when something goes wrong, the last thing you think about is securing your personal information.

While your Mac might not be working at the time, when the tech eventually gets it running again, they will have access to all your details. So how do you safeguard your information from prying eyes? Tap or click here to see seven tech support scams going around right now.

That is exactly the question that Kim recently received on her show. A listener had to send in her Mac for service, and she was concerned about all her passwords. On a Mac, any saved passwords are stored in the keychain. Is there a way to password-protect your entire keychain? Read on to find out how.

Here’s the answer

Having your Mac worked on while you are not nearby can be a worrisome experience. Inevitably, you would have to provide the technician with your user password. This will allow them to conduct software tests and update anything that is causing issues.

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But if they have your user password, they can use it to access your keychain because it’s the same password. So, the solution to that problem is rather simple: create a different password for keychain.

Here’s how to do that:

  • Open the Keychain Access application
  • Select your keychain in the drawer
  • Select Edit
  • Click on Change Password for Keychain
  • Select the appropriate keychain and enter the new password

Create another Mac account/user

Unless the technician needs access to your specific Apple account, there is another way to restrict access to your files, folders, and passwords. Create a separate account on your Mac that the technician can use.

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This will allow them access to your machine but will be restricted to only move around within that environment. It will keep all your files and passwords safely stored away on your account.

“We have Maintenance accounts. If a malicious technician resets your user profile password, this will not change your keychain password. They would effectively have no access,” Kim explained to the caller.

Here is how to add another user:

  • Click on the Apple menu
  • Select System Preferences, then click Users & Groups
  • Click the Add button
  • Select the New Account pop-up menu
  • Choose the type of user
  • Enter a new name for the user, in this case, “technician” or “maintenance”
  • Input a password and remember to make note of it so that you can give it to the technician
  • Enter it again to verify
  • Click Create User

Last resort for ultimate security

There is another option available, but it might be a bit extreme. Kim suggested that the best security during service is to back up with Time Machine and perform a clean reinstall of OSX. This will wipe everything off the Mac, including your passwords. When you get your machine back, restore it with the backup.

Here’s how to do that:

  • You will need an external storage device.
  • After you’ve connected the device, set it as your backup storage.
  • On the Apple menu, click System Preferences.
  • Click Time Machine.
  • Click Select Backup Disk.
  • Select the drive you have connected.
  • If it needs to be formatted, click on Erase to proceed.

If the drive is connected, your Mac will automatically make hourly backups for the past 24 hours, daily backups for the past month, and weekly backups for all previous months. Keep in mind that the first time you perform a backup, it will take some time.

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