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How to recover Mac OS X keychains from a backup

How to recover Mac OS X keychains from a backup

MacFixIt reader Steffen Hofemann recently inquired:

"I had to re-install Mac OS X 10.4.x on my PowerBook completely fresh and could not keep the old system settings. I made a backup of the content of the hard disk though. How can I use the old keychain settings again? Is there a way to 'import' the passwords?"

Mac OS X keychains can be recovered from full system backups fairly easily. They are stored in the following directory:

  • ~/Library/Keychains/ [where ~ is your home user directory]

There you will find files such as:

  • login.keychain

and other keychains you have created.

As such, if you have created a full backup of your previous Mac OS X startup drive, you will be able to locate and restore these keychains.

Once you've located the appropriate files, use the following steps to restore them on your current Mac OS X installation.

  1. Open Keychain Access (located in /Applications/Utilities)
  2. From the "Edit" menu select "Keychain List"
  3. When the list appears, select the keychain you would like to replace with its backed up version -- usually "login"
  4. Click the minus (-) button at the bottom of the window to delete the keychain.
  5. Drag your backed up keychain(s) to ~/Library/Keychains/, replacing the other versions
  6. Go back to Keychain Access and again select "Keychain List" from the "Edit" menu
  7. Press the plus ( ) button at the bottom of the window and select the keychain(s) you just placed in the ~/Library/Keychains/ then press "Open"
  8. Go back to the main Keychain Access Window by pressing either "OK" or "Cancel" depending on whether or not you have made changes. If necessary, choose the keychain you would like to set as default by selecting it from the list in the upper-left corner and choosing "Make Keychain ("name") Default."

For more Keychain tips, see our tutorial "Keychain issues; resolving."

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