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by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Dan Moren

Quick Tip: Generate random passwords with OS X’s Password Assistant

Note: This story has not been updated for several years.

Used to be I would carefully craft my passwords like a hipster bakery making artisanal bread, but that was back in the day when you only had a couple. Now it seems like I’m creating new passwords every day. Who even has the time to come up with a good mnemonic anymore?

Fortunately, OS X includes a couple of handy tools for generating passwords. If you’re creating a password for a web service, and you have iCloud Keychain enabled, it can suggest one for you.

But there’s another tool you can find squirreled away in a couple places, including Disk Utility (when you create an encrypted disk image), AirPort Utility, and Keychain Assistant (when you make a new entry): Apple’s Password Assistant. Basically, wherever you see this key icon.

Password Assistant Icon
Password Assistant

The Password Assistant can generate random passwords using a variety of different methods, including Memorable (which contain words, as well as numbers and symbols), Letters & Numbers, Numbers Only, Random, and FIPS-181 compliant (a government standard); you can also use the slider to adjust the length of the generated password. A bar at the bottom indicates how strong the password is—the goal, of course, being to find one that’s strong enough, but isn’t impossible to remember.

Other tools, like 1Password, offer similar features, but the nice thing about Password Assistant is that it’s free, included on every single Mac, and is integrated with the system keychain, so you don’t have to resort to the good, old-fashioned sticky note.

[Dan Moren is the East Coast Bureau Chief of Six Colors. You can find him on Mastodon at or reach him by email at His latest novel, the supernatural detective story All Souls Lost, is now available for pre-order.]

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