How to import your passwords to Apple’s iCloud Keychain via Safari

If you’re moving from LastPass (or another password manager you’re not happy with), you may be tempted to simply opt for the password manager that comes with your browser or operating system. It is certainly an easy and reasonable solution, depending on your point of view. Until recently, third-party password managers were known to be more secure, but Apple and Google have been working to make their built-in password managers more secure, while Microsoft is adding one to its authentication app. Then it could be a viable option.

However, one way these built-in password managers don’t stand up to their independent competitors is how difficult it can be to get pre-existing passwords into their systems.

If you tend to hang out in the Apple ecosystem, that means using Safari for your passwords and passing them to your other devices using Apple’s iCloud keychain. Here’s how to transfer your password data to iCloud Keychain.

Make sure you have a keychain

iCloud Keychain is Apple’s way of syncing your information across devices, not just passwords, but credit card information, Wi-Fi passwords, etc. in. (If you plan to use your passwords on your iOS mobile device as well, you may want to check them there as well.)

Using a macOS device:

  • Go to the System Preferences app by clicking on the Apple icon in the upper left corner
  • If you have macOS Mojave or earlier, click iCloud. Otherwise, select Apple ID> iCloud.
  • Go to the app list and make sure Keychain is checked

Make sure you have the iCloud keychain.

Using an iOS device:

  • Go to Settings and tap your name
  • Tap iCloud and scroll down to Keychain
  • If the keychain is off, tap the input and then turn it on

Import your password data

To get your data on Keychain, you have to import it into Safari on your Mac. Simple, right? Well not really.

Unfortunately, unlike most password managers, you cannot import passwords from a CSV file into Safari. However, you can import passwords from Firefox or Chrome. So if you have a CSV file from another password manager and you don’t have any of those browsers on your machine, you will have to install one of them first and load your passwords into it. (You can find instructions for importing passwords to Chrome here and Firefox here.)

Once your passwords have been imported into one of the other browsers:

  • Close the other browser
  • Open Safari, go to File> Import From, and choose Chrome or Firefox. You can import bookmarks, history, passwords, or any combination thereof by checking the appropriate boxes.

One note: I had a number of hiccups when trying to import from Firefox to Safari. Safari invariably crashed, even after I did a number of tweaks in Firefox. I finally gave up and tried it with Chrome, and the import worked right away. Your experience may be different.

You can check if the import worked by going to Safari’s top menu and selecting Safari> Preferences> Passwords. (You will need to enter your user password to access the password list). You should see your passwords listed there.

Once you’ve imported your passwords into Safari, iCloud Keychain should automatically collect them and use them on all your approved devices. You can verify by typing and clicking “Keychain Access” using Spotlight Search. That should open your Keychain app; You can click iCloud in the upper left column and “Passwords” in the lower left to see your imported passwords.

You should find your passwords in Keychain Access (for obvious reasons some data is grayed out).

You should find your passwords in Keychain Access. (For obvious reasons, some data has been toned down.)

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