Many users, with highly sensitive documents, may want to set up a firmware password on their Mac. A firmware password prevents starting up from any internet or external storage device other than the selected startup disk. This prevents users from using startup key combinations. Firmware passwords are very useful, and offer an extra layer of security to your Mac.

Firmware passwords essentially add a hardware-level layer of security that will restrict access to different boot options, whether that be single user, an external disk, or Recovery Mode. This prevents hackers from getting into your system. However, what happens if you forget your own firmware password? That can be a very messy situation, but it’s not hopeless. The fact of the matter is that you may be able to recover your firmware password or bypass it, by using one of the methods below. Apple can help you out, as well in this situation.

Please note that a firmware password isn’t the same as an administrator password that is used to login to your Mac. The firmware password appears immediately upon boot and has a grey lock icon above the text field. In order to get started and learn how to solve the problem of a forgotten firmware password, follow the instructions below.

Reset or Disable Password with Firmware Password Utility

Believe it or not, you can reset, change, or even disable your firmware password, using the same method that was used to set the password. In order to do this, you’ll have to boot into Recovery Mode. It goes without saying that you’ll need a password to access Firmware Password Utility. However, this method sometimes works, perhaps due to user error when typing the password. While this method seems a bit silly, you should still try it. In order to get started, follow the instructions below.

1. Reboot your Mac and hold the command + R key in order to enter Recovery Mode. An easy way to remember this shortcut, for future references, is to simply note that “recovery” begins with R and that is the key you need to use in order to gain access to Recovery Mode.

2. When you see the Utilities screen, use the Utilities menu bar and select Firmware Password Utility.

3. Select the option to turn the Firmware Password to the OFF setting.

If all goes well, your firmware password should now be off. Please ensure that you check your caps lock and num lock key, before you begin modifying passwords.

Enable Apple to Unlock Your Firmware Password

If you find that the method above didn’t work, then it’s best to enable Apple or an Apple Authorized Support Center to bypass or reset your firmware password. Using proprietary tools, Apple will be able to carry this out with relative ease. This will work on most modern Macs, including the models listed below. If you find that your model is not on the list below, you should still contact Apple, as the list isn’t conclusive.

  • MacBook Air (Late 2010 and onwards)
  • MacBook Pro (2011 and onwards)
  • MacBook Pro with Retina (every model)
  • iMac (Mid 2011 and onwards)
  • Mac mini (Mid 2011 and onwards)
  • Mac Pro (Late 2013)

As stated above, even if your Mac is not on the list, you should still contact Apple. You can reach them by phone, or set up an in person appointment. The store tends to get crowded, so it’s best to set up an appointment, if possible. If for some reason, you find you’re unable to set up an appointment then there’s no need to worry as Apple tends to accept walk-ins.

In most, if not all cases, you’ll have to present proof of ownership of your Mac. This is a security measure to ensure that you’re unlocking your own Mac, and not anyone else’s. If you for example have an email receipt of your purchase saved, or anything else of the like, this will suffice. Please avoid going to third-party stores that promise to easily solve your technical problems, as this can inadvertently cause more harm to your system. These places may even carry out methods that aren’t approved by Apple. If you end up taking your Mac to such a place and unconventional methods are used on your system, Apple may annul your warranty.

This may end up costing you more, in the long run. It’s best to visit your local Apple Store, or an authorized Apple Support Center, as stated above. After you’ve provided proof of purchase, your system will be inspected at the Genius Bar, and the problem can usually be solved in a short period of time. For future references, it’s probably best to save your password in a safe location, or write it down somewhere.