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Syncing Keychains between Macs using Dropbox

Wil Limoges shows you the steps to get Keychains synced between Macs using Dropbox.

Before the advent of iCloud, Apple’s Mobile Me service once offered the ability to sync data from select applications such as Keychain Access between Macs. Since, the feature has been set aside, but no need to fear, with the help of Dropbox and a bit of good old-fashioned know-how, we can set things right once again.

For those of you who may be unfamiliar with the Keychain Access application, it’s a great little utility provided by Apple for storing passwords and other sensitive information in a secure format, which can be accessed from applications like Safari when a password is needed. Keychain can be found in the Utilities folder of the Applications folder on your hard disk.

Before setting out to make our Keychain sync between Macs, we’ll need to create a Dropbox account, download and install the Dropbox application, and change some settings. To do so, head on over to http://www.dropbox.com/ and click “Log in” located in the top right corner of the page, then click “Create an account” and follow the on-screen instructions. After you’ve created your account, download a copy of the Dropbox application and install it on any two or more Macs that you would like to sync your Keychain with.

Click on Create an account

Once you have installed Dropbox on at least two Macs, choose the Mac that you consider to be your primary workstation to begin. The reason you want to do this is because if you have used the Keychain Access app in the past, you can preserve any passwords that you’ve previously stored by syncing the existing Keychain file.

If the Dropbox application isn’t already running (look for an icon that looks like an open cardboard box in system menu bar), open the Finder, navigate to the Applications folder, and double-click on the Dropbox app. You should now see what appears to be an open cardboard box in the top right corner of the system menu bar.

Click on the icon and select preferences from the drop-down menu. This will open the Dropbox Preferences Pane. Here you just want to make sure that Start Dropbox On System Startup and Enable LAN Sync are checked. By checking Enable LAN Sync, Dropbox can sync information across your local network instead of syncing across the Internet, saving time and bandwidth.

Dropbox Preferences

Next, return to the Finder, click Go from the Finder menu bar, and select Go to Folder from the drop-down menu. A dialog box will appear. Type ~/Library/ and press return, which will take you to your Library folder located within your home folder. From here, navigate to your Keychains folder. In most cases, you should see a login.keychain file within the Keychains folder. If not, no need to panic. You can attempt to find your Keychain file by doing a Spotlight search for .keychain or create a new one from within the Keychain application. Drag the file from its location and place it within your new Dropbox folder, which is located inside of your Home folder by default.

The last three steps here are simple. Open the Keychain app by navigating to Applications/Utilities. Once open, select the login keychain on the left that should now appear to be missing (noted by its icon) and press delete on your keyboard.

Note that the icon is missing. Delete this keychain.

Click Delete References in the dialog box.

Click Delete References in the dialog box.

Lastly, click File from the menu bar and select Add Keychain from the drop-down menu. Navigate to the Dropbox folder and select the login.keychain file that we previously placed inside. That’s it! To complete the process, repeat the last three steps here on any other Mac that you wish to sync your Keychain with and have Dropbox installed on.

Navigate to the login.keychain file inside of the Dropbox folder

About

Wil Limoges is a Louisville, KY freelance web designer and Digital Savant at the vimarc group. He has had the pleasure of working for Apple as a Genius, loves science, and aspires to make great things!

4 comments
nello
nello

Posted this problem on Apple's Discussions forum and got no replies: https://discussions.apple.com/message/18972219#18972219 I shared my Keychain as described in this article and it works well for me on 10.7.4 except for one thing: Every time I reboot and login, I am asked for the password for the keychain; the keychain does not open automatically when I login. Just for the record??? My problem is apparently related to the fact that I use Dropbox to sync my keychain between two Macs. I met with an Apple Genius at the Northbrook IL Store on the morning of August 15. He said that sharing/syncing keychains was a feature of MobileMe. Unfortunately, now that MobileMe has been discontinued, there is no way to do this that is supported by Apple. As a result, he declined to attempt to fix my problem. Unlocking my keychain when I log in isn't a huge problem but it is annoying. Can you give me an idea what I've done wrong?

jwindmiller
jwindmiller

Since this is a post within Apple in the Enterprise, I thought I would pass along that this solution violates HIPAA laws within the Healthcare Space. In reality most online storage solutions do not meet the security requirements of healthcare. While I do appreciate the ease of integration of this solution, I just don't see most large enterprise recommending this to their Mac users.

ossoup
ossoup

This article was useful if you ignored the dropbox part though. If it focused on explaining you could save your keychain file and do this without using dropbox at all, and use a usb drive, the advice would seem more security conscious, since your keychain will have all your saved passwords. I still thought it was cool just focusing on the part of where to find your keychain and how to work with the app.

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

USB Thumb Drives and Health Work here do not mix at all well and are not legal here. The main reason for this is one person who shall remain nameless walked into a Health Department Place copied some files to a Thumb Drive and then promptly lost it before reaching the next place that needed the data. Result 12,000 patient files lost and a Big Stink started. ;) Col

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