February 2014 Issue  Volume 15  Number 2

Product Evaluations and Guides

Setting up iCloud Keychain on Mac Computers and iOS Devices

When the new iCloud Keychain feature was announced at Apple's June 2013 Worldwide Developers Conference, it was met with great excitement. Available since late October 2013, iCloud Keychain is a management tool that can help you get your passwords, authentication, payment, and login information under control across all of your Apple devices and computers.

Keychain Functions

According to Apple's FAQ, "iCloud Keychain keeps your Safari website usernames and passwords, credit card information, and Wi-Fi network information up to date across all of your approved devices that are using iOS 7.0.3 or later or OS X Mavericks v10.9 or later."

Passwords, user names, wireless account information, and Internet accounts are automatically transferred when the Keychain is enabled. You have control over which information should be used. For example, you do not have to provide all your passwords and you do not need to provide credit card information. If you do want your credit card information stored, every time you use the website linked with that credit card, you will be asked to enter the credit card's security code.

Security and iCloud Keychain

According to Apple, iCloud Keychain is protected with "industry standard encryption techniques." You do have the option of not storing your information in the cloud. If you choose this option, do not enter an Apple security code during the Keychain set-up process. The drawback of going this route means that Apple will not be able to recover your Keychain information if you lose it.

Setting Up Keychain

If you have not upgraded to iOS 7.0.3 you will be prompted to set up the Keychain during the upgrade. If you have previously chosen not to use the Keychain, but now want to use it, here's how to set it up:

On an iOS Device
  1. Go to Settings/iCloud
  2. Activate the "Keychain" button
  3. Locate the edit box to enter your 4-digit iCloud security code
  4. Locate the box to enter your cell phone number or any other phone number that can receive an SMS message. Apple will send you a verification code for setting up the Keychain on your Mac and other devices.
  5. Now go to Settings/Safari/Passwords/AutoFill. You will find several buttons. Make sure the button that says "Names and Passwords" is on. If it's not, do a one-finger double tap to activate it.
  6. Next is a "Saved Passwords" button. Activating this button will open a new page where you can view all your saved passwords and decide whether they should be saved. If you want to delete some user names and passwords, activate the "Edit" button in the upper right. Select the items you wish to delete by doing a one finger double tap. Once you have selected the items you want to delete, activate the "Delete" button in the upper left of the screen. The deleted items will also automatically be removed from your Mac and any other devices.
  7. Next is a button labeled "Always Allow." If this button is activated you can have AutoFill on even if the website requests that passwords not be saved. Think carefully about making the decision to use this feature.
  8. The next button is a "Credit Cards" toggle. If it is in the off position, activating it will bring up a prompt to create a passcode lock if you do not already have one.
  9. The final button is "Saved Credit Cards." When this button is activated, a screen appears with buttons to edit and add credit card information. If you add a card, the following information is required: card holder's name, card number, expiration date, and a description. This last field can say anything you want. When all the information is entered, activate the "Done" button in the upper right. If you have changed your mind, the "Cancel" button is in the upper left.
On a Mac

You must have OS X Mavericks on your Mac to use iCloud Keychain.

  1. Using the Apple menu, Dock, or Applications folder, go to System Preferences and activate the iCloud tab.
  2. Select the Keychain checkbox.
  3. Enter your Apple ID password and activate the "OK" button.
  4. You will be prompted to enter and re-enter a 4-digit security code of your choice. If you do not want your information stored in the cloud, activate the Advanced tab and choose "Don't create security code."
  5. You will be prompted to enter a phone number that can receive SMS messages.
  6. You will be prompted, but not required, to set up a passcode for when your Mac has had a period of inactivity or sleep. If you do not want to create a passcode, activate the "Not Now" button.
Setting Up Your Mac After You've Set up an iOS Device
  1. Using the Apple menu, Dock, or Applications folder, go to System Preferences and select the iCloud tab.
  2. Check the Keychain checkbox.
  3. Enter your Apple ID and Password to set up the Keychain.
  4. Select the "Request Approval" button. A verification code will be sent to the initial device you set up. Enter the code in the edit box.
  5. You will be prompted to add your Mac to the list of devices for your Keychain.

Managing Passwords in Safari on a Mac

To view a list of your passwords on a Mac, open Safari and go to Preferences under the Safari menu. Choose the Passwords tab. The first item in the Passwords tab is a checkbox to allow Safari to auto-fill user names and passwords. Next is an edit box labeled Passwords. Type in a URL. If a password has been saved for that site, it will show up in a results table to the right of the edit box.

Next is a table containing a list of websites, user names and passwords. At the top of the table is a checkbox that says, "Show passwords for selected websites." Make sure this box is checked or Safari will not display the passwords. When you check the box, you will be required to enter your computer's password. If you want to delete a password, there is a "Remove" button next to each entry.

Adding Credit Cards

If you want to add credit cards, open Preferences under the Safari menu. This time, activate the AutoFill tab. There are several checkboxes for using contact information, credit cards, and several other features. If you want to add credit cards, make sure the credit card box is checked. Next to that box is a button to edit credit cards. Activating the button brings up a form similar to the one on iOS devices (see above). Once the information is entered, activate the "Done" button. If you want to remove a credit card, select it and activate the "Remove" button.

Adding Additional Devices

You can add additional devices to the Keychain. Each additional device needs to be approved by the first device you set up. Simply follow the prompts and fill in the requested information. For example, if your first device was your Mac, that's the device that will have to approve all subsequent devices.

Using the Keychain

If you visit a website where your login information has been saved, there is no need to enter it again. If you want verification, review the contents of the password edit box. On iOS devices, VoiceOver will give the number of bullets entered in the password edit box. On the Mac, you will hear clicks. Just activate the "Login" button.

Once iCloud Keychain is enabled, whenever you go to a new website Safari and all iOS devices will ask you whether you want to save the login information for the new site.

If you saved credit card information, activate the credit card entry box and a list of your saved cards will appear. Choose the one you want. You will have to enter your CVV (security) code for the card.


The new iCloud Keychain feature is a definite convenience. If you use it, you no longer have to remember all of your passwords. You can also have Keychain create passwords for you, or you can make them up yourself.

Although it is a bit of work to set up the Keychain, it is a very useful option.

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