How to Use iCloud Keychain

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iCloud form for computer storage

The iCloud Keychain keeps your Safari website usernames and passwords, credit card information and Wi-Fi network information updated across all of your approved Apple devices that use iOS 7.0.3 or later or OS X Mavericks v10.9 or later. It can also keep your mail, contacts, calendar and messages accounts updated across all of your Mac computers.

Here’s how to use iCloud Keychain.

Protecting Your Information

Keychain keeps all of your passwords and credit card information saved by you up-to-date only on the devices you approve. When you turn it on an additional device, your other devices receive a notification requesting approval for the additional device. After you approve it, iCloud Keychain automatically begins updating on that device, as well. Keychain stores credit card numbers and expiration dates but doesn’t store or autofill their security codes.

Existing saved passwords, Wi-Fi networks and Internet accounts are all automatically included in Keychain.

Your information on iCloud Keychain is protected by industry-standard encryption procedures, both in transit and in the cloud.

How to Set up iCloud Keychain

After you upgraded your iPad to iOS 7.0.3 or later, the setup assistant would have asked you to set up iCloud Keychain. If, for some reason, you skipped this step, here’s how to set up Keychain now:

  • Tap Settings > iCloud, turn Keychain on and follow the onscreen instructions

Follow these steps if you’re using OS X Mavericks v10.9 or later:

  1. Choose Apple () menu > System Preferences, then click iCloud.
  2. Select Keychain and set a passcode to unlock your screen after sleep or after the screen saver begins, if you want
  3. Enter your Apple ID and password
  4. Follow the onscreen instructions

The iCloud Security Code

You can create an iCloud Security Code when you set up iCloud Keychain that can be a 4-digit code like the passcode lock for your device or a more complex code that’s automatically generated for you. The security code is used to authorize additional devices to use your Keychain and to verify your identity so you can do other things like recover you iCloud Keychain if you lose all your devices.

Apple can’t recover your iCloud security code. If you enter it incorrectly too many times, you won’t be able to use that Keychain. Contact Apple Support, who will help verify your identity so you can try to enter the security code again. After a number of incorrect attempts, your Keychain will be removed from Apple’s servers and you’ll need to set it up again.

Set up Keychain With no Device to Approve From

You can still set up iCloud Keychain on another device, even if you can’t access any of your other devices using Keychain. You’ll need the following items:

  • Your iCloud Security Code
  • The verification code sent via SMS to your cell phone number when you first set up Keychain. If you can’t access this number, contact Apple Support, who will verify who you are, so that you can complete setup on your new device

When set up is complete, Keychain will be pushed from the Cloud to the new device.

Set up iCloud Keychain without Cloud Backup

If you want to set up iCloud Keychain without storing your information in the Cloud, simply skip the step to create a security code. Your keychain information will then be stored locally on your device and updated across your other approved devices.

But please note that, if you don’t create a security code, Apple can’t help you recover your Keychain.

Turning iCloud Keychain Off

When you turn iCloud Keychain off on a device, you’ll be asked to keep or delete passwords and credit card information that you saved. If you choose to keep this information, it won’t be deleted or updated if you make changes on your other devices.

Removing Keychain from Apple’s Servers

To remove Keychain from Apple’s servers, use these steps:

If you’re using iOS 7.0.3 or later:

  1. Tap Settings > iCloud > Keychain > Advanced. In iOS 7, tap Settings > iCloud > Account > Keychain
  2. Turn off Approve with Security Code
  3. Go to each of your devices that are using iCloud Keychain and turn iCloud Keychain off

If you’re using OS X Mavericks v10.9 or later:

  1. Choose Apple () menu > System Preferences. Click iCloud, then click Account details
  2. Deselect “Allow approving using security code"
  3. Go to each of your devices that are using iCloud Keychain and turn iCloud Keychain off.

After completing these steps, your keychain data will remain on your devices but changes to it won’t show up on your other devices or the cloud unless you turn Keychain back on.

If you want your data to update on all of your devices, but not to the cloud, turn on Keychain on each device but skip the step asking you to create an iCloud security code.

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