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Creating strong passwords for OS X System
OS X brings a new requirement that every user of the system (even if they're the only user of the system) have a password. Although it's tempting to make your password as easy to remember as possible, that's not necessarily the best plan, especially if you have a full time Internet connection. Here are some tips to creating a strong password on any system, with some specific info on OS X.

In case you were not aware, OS X has a limit of eight characters for login passwords. This is not a "hard limit" (ie you can keep typing after eight characters), but rather, a "soft limit". OS X will only pay attention to the first eight characters of your password; anything beyond that is ignored. So even though you think "pastrami3tZ8n" is a secure password, it's really just the word "pastrami", which isn't secure at all.

For the most secure OS X password possible, you should:
  • Use a long password, up to eight characters, but don't bother going over that. A reader on the X4U mailing list pointed out that many cracking algorithms start at eight characters, as this has been an upper limit in UNIX for quite a while. So use what you're comfortable with, but in general, longer should be better.
  • Mix numbers and letters.
  • Mix upper and lower case.
  • Do not use dictionary words.
  • Do not use 'familiar' words such as the names of pets, kids, or other relatives, birthdates, anniversaries, etc.
  • Do not use the same password on your machine that you use online; most online web passwords are not encrypted, and can be intercepted.
  • Plan on changing your password regularly; change the length and mix of characters; don't just change the ending digit (ie don't go password1, password2, password3, etc.).
I realize this is truly basic information, but with so many people now having full-time internet connections, the importance of a good password cannot be understated!

NOTE: The info above regarding the eight character password limit is no longer true. See the comments; it has been removed...
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Why is OS X limited to an 8 character password?
Authored by: sjonke on May 18, '01 12:31:28PM

See the title. It seems bizarre/incredibly lame that we are limited to only 8 characters. Is there a hack that would make OS X use more than 8 characters?

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Why is OS X limited to an 8 character password?
Authored by: alf120 on Jun 04, '01 11:10:45AM

Ugh, I wish there were *no* passwords in OSX. I'm computer savvy enough to know when I'm sharing using FTP or allowing telnet access. I've despised passwords all my life, and will continue to do so until passwords become seemless (and, ironically, the only way for that to happen is to not have passwords).

OS 9 at least had no passwords as the default. Having the keychain use passwords is annoying enough. Having EVERYTHING use passwords (including installs) is annoying and inconvenient beyond belief! There's no way to write scripts without having to account for passwords. GRRRRRR.

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This is why, so I've heard.
Authored by: memoryhole on Jun 04, '01 03:48:22PM

In a word: AppleTalk. AppleTalk has always been restricted to having a password with a maximum of 8 characters. Apparently, Apple felt it necessary (to make things consistent, I guess) to restrict everything to 8 characters, in order to make AppleShare serving and client applications as simple as possible.

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Creating strong passwords for OS X
Authored by: armchainmstenw on May 29, '04 11:08:27PM

Can one change the character limit to more than 8?


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Creating strong passwords for OS X
Authored by: cilly on May 30, '04 08:24:51PM

OS X with the last updates (jaguar and panther) allow passwords with more than 8 characters.

Set your password to 15 characters and try to login with only the first 8 character of your password, it won't work.

This is an old article and should be removed or at least marked as outdated.

cilly @

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