How do I find my recovery key for my Macintosh HD?

What is a Recovery Key?

A recovery key is a randomly generated 28-character alphanumeric code associated with your Apple ID that can help you regain access to your account if you ever forget your password (Apple, 2023)1. Having a recovery key set up provides an important backup mechanism for protecting your data and recovering access to your account.

When you enable two-factor authentication for your Apple ID, you have the option to also generate a recovery key. This key acts as a backup verification method in case you lose access to your trusted phone numbers or authentication devices.

The recovery key allows you to unlock and reset your account password without needing access to your trusted phone numbers or devices. It can be used to regain access to your account, iCloud data, and encrypted disks. This makes it an essential credential to have written down and stored securely in case you ever get locked out of your Apple account.

Without a recovery key, it can be very difficult or impossible to recover an Apple ID account if you forget your password or lose access to your trusted two-factor authentication methods. Having a properly stored and accessible recovery key gives you a way to get back into your account and recover access to valuable data and devices.

Where to Find Your Recovery Key

If you enabled FileVault disk encryption on your Mac, your recovery key was generated and stored in a few places when you first set it up. Here are some places to check for your recovery key:

  • Check Keychain Access – Your recovery key may have been stored in the Keychain Access application on your Mac. Open Keychain Access and search for “recovery” to see if it’s there.

  • Check your Apple ID account – You may have been prompted to store your recovery key with Apple when enabling FileVault. Go to and view your account security settings to see if your recovery key is available.

  • Check password managers – If you use a password manager like 1Password or LastPass, check there as you may have saved your recovery key.

  • Physical copy – When first setting up FileVault, you had the option to print or save a physical copy of the recovery key. Check any safe storage places where you may have placed a printed/written copy.

If you can’t find your recovery key in any of these spots, you will need to reset your recovery key as covered in the next section.

Reset Your Recovery Key

If you have forgotten or lost your recovery key, there are a few options to reset it:

Via Apple ID Account

If you set up FileVault encryption using your Apple ID, you can reset your recovery key by signing in to your Apple ID account at Under the Security section, you can view or reset your recovery key.

Generate New in Keychain Access

You can generate a new recovery key using Keychain Access on your Mac. Open Keychain Access, click Keychain Access > Certificate Assistant > Create a Certificate, and follow the steps to create a new recovery key.

Contact Apple Support

If you cannot reset your recovery key through your Apple ID or Keychain Access, you will need to contact Apple Support. They can assist you with resetting your recovery key after verifying your identity.

Recovery Key vs Apple ID

The main difference between a recovery key and an Apple ID is that a recovery key allows you to reset your Apple account password without access to your trusted devices, while an Apple ID is the main username and password you use to access your Apple account and services (source).

A recovery key is a 28-character randomly generated code that acts as a backup method to reset your Apple ID password. It is created separately from your Apple ID and can be used to gain access to your account if you forget your password and don’t have access to trusted devices associated with your Apple ID (source).

An Apple ID, on the other hand, is your primary account login consisting of an email address and password. It is used to access Apple services like iCloud, the App Store, Apple Music, iMessage, FaceTime, and more. Your Apple ID can be reset using trusted devices like your iPhone, iPad, Mac, or by answering security questions.

A recovery key provides an additional layer of security if you lose access to your trusted devices and forget your Apple ID password. An Apple ID lets you access Apple’s ecosystem of devices and services. While related, they serve different primary purposes – one for backup account access and the other for regular account access.

Enable FileVault Encryption

FileVault is Apple’s built-in full disk encryption technology for Macs. When enabled, FileVault encrypts all data on your startup disk so that your information is protected and inaccessible without the proper encryption key.

There are several benefits to using FileVault disk encryption on your Mac:

  • Prevents unauthorized access to your data if your Mac is lost, stolen, or accessed without your permission
  • Protects sensitive information like financial records, passwords, personal photos/videos, etc.
  • Encryption applies to the entire disk, including your user data and system files
  • FileVault uses strong AES-XTS 128-bit encryption to secure your data
  • The encryption key is derived from your login password, requiring authentication to decrypt the disk

You can enable FileVault disk encryption in just a few steps:

  1. Open System Preferences and go to “Security & Privacy”
  2. Click “FileVault” and then click the “Turn On FileVault” button
  3. Follow the onscreen instructions to securely backup your encryption key
  4. Allow time for your entire disk to be encrypted in the background

Once enabled, FileVault will encrypt all existing and new data written to your startup disk. Your Mac will require authentication via password to decrypt and mount the FileVault volume when booting up or waking from sleep.

Back Up Your Recovery Key

It is critical to keep a backup copy of your Recovery Key in a safe place. If you lose your Recovery Key, you will not be able to access your encrypted data or reset your password without completely erasing your drive.

Here are some tips for safely backing up your Recovery Key:

  • Save a copy in a safe place – Keep a physical printout of your Recovery Key in a secure location like a safe or lockbox. Do not store it on your computer.
  • Consider a password manager – Save your Recovery Key in an encrypted password manager like 1Password. This keeps it accessible but secure.
  • Print a physical copy – Print out a paper copy of your Recovery Key and store it somewhere secure. This provides a fallback option if you lose digital access.
  • Store in multiple places – Keep copies of your Recovery Key in 2-3 separate secure locations in case one copy is lost or destroyed.

Backing up your Recovery Key is crucial to protect yourself from data loss. Treat your Recovery Key with the same care as your passwords and sensitive documents.

Reset Password with Recovery Key

If you forgot your Mac login password, you can reset it using your recovery key instead of your Apple ID in the following situations:

  • You don’t have access to your trusted devices linked to your Apple ID
  • You forgot the answers to your Apple ID security questions
  • You don’t have access to your trusted phone number for two-factor authentication on your Apple ID

Here are the steps to reset your Mac password using your recovery key:

  1. Restart your Mac and immediately press and hold Command + R until you see the Recovery window
  2. Select “Disk Utility” then “Continue”
  3. Select your startup disk (usually named “Macintosh HD”) in the sidebar
  4. Click the “Mount” button at the top of the Disk Utility window
  5. Quit Disk Utility and return to the main Recovery window
  6. Select “Reset Password” in the Recovery window
  7. Click the “Enter Recovery Key” button
  8. Enter your recovery key exactly as it appears on your stored copy
  9. Create a new password when prompted
  10. Re-enter the new password to confirm
  11. Click “Save” and your Mac password will be reset

The recovery key allows you to bypass your forgotten login password and Apple ID verification. Just be sure to store it securely, since anyone with the key can reset your account password.

Recover Data with Recovery Key

If your Mac won’t boot or you need to reinstall macOS, the recovery key allows you to access encrypted data on your startup disk. Without the key, data on an encrypted disk is inaccessible.

To use your recovery key to recover data from an encrypted disk:

  1. Boot your Mac into macOS Recovery mode by holding Command + R at startup.
  2. Select Disk Utility and click Continue.
  3. Select the encrypted disk and click Mount.
  4. Enter the recovery key when prompted.
  5. The disk will mount, allowing you to recover data.
  6. You can also reinstall macOS with the disk mounted to retain data.

Third party tools like Stellar Data Recovery can also decrypt and recover data using the recovery key if Mac cannot boot normally.

The recovery key serves as a backup to access encrypted data when normal password login fails. Store your key safely offline for emergency data recovery.

Third Party Recovery Software

If the built-in macOS recovery tools are unable to recover your data, you may need to try using third party recovery software. This type of software can help recover lost or deleted files when Disk Utility and other Apple tools fail.

Third party recovery software is especially useful if you encounter issues like:

  • Accidental file deletion
  • OS crashes or hard drive failure
  • Corrupted partitions
  • Lost or deleted partitions
  • Formatting drives and losing data

Some popular third party recovery apps for Mac include:

  • Disk Drill – Retrieves lost data from internal & external drives, cameras, iPods etc. Can rebuild lost partitions too.
  • Data Rescue – Recovers files even after formatting a drive or OS crashes. Has advanced scanning for in-depth recovery.
  • R-Studio – Cross-platform data recovery with RAID recovery and advanced file undelete features.

These apps work by scanning the drive sector-by-sector to find files marked for deletion. They can recover data from hard drives, SSDs, external media, RAID arrays etc. Many allow you to preview found files before recovery.

The recovery process involves first selecting the target drive, then scanning it to find recoverable files. Once found, you select the files to recover and save them to another safe location.


Here are some frequently asked questions about recovery keys for Mac:

How do I find my existing recovery key?

If you set up a recovery key previously, you can find it by going to Apple menu > System Settings > [Your Name] > Password & Security. Under Account Recovery, your recovery key will be listed. If you don’t see it there, you may not have set one up yet.

Do I need a recovery key if I have a password?

Yes, a recovery key provides an additional layer of security beyond just a password. It allows you to reset your password if you forget it. Without a recovery key, you may lose access to your Mac’s data if you forget your password.

What happens if I lose my recovery key?

If you lose your recovery key, you will not be able to reset your password or decrypt your data if you forget your password. The only way to recover data is to completely erase the disk and reinstall macOS. Be sure to store your key somewhere safe like a password manager.

Can someone else use my recovery key?

Yes, anyone with access to your recovery key can reset your account password or decrypt your disk. Treat your recovery key with the same level of security as your login password.

How is a recovery key different from my Apple ID password?

Your Apple ID password allows you to access Apple services like iCloud, App Store, etc. Your recovery key is specific to your Mac and allows you to reset your Mac login password and decrypt your disk. They serve different purposes.