How To Recover Lost Admin Rights On macOS High Sierra and Sierra, Mac OS X El Capitan And Yosemite

OS X 10.11_El Capitan icon 256x256If you lost your administrator rights on macOS 10.13 High Sierra,  macOS 10.12, Mac OS X 10.10 Yosemite or Mac OS X 10.11 El Capitan, you can recover the admin privileges easily by rebooting into Apple’s Setup Assistant tool. This will run before any accounts have been loaded, and will run in “root” mode, allowing you to create accounts on your Mac. Then, you can recover your admin rights via the new administrator account. After that, you can reboot into your recovered admin account and delete the interim administrator account.

Note (Updated February, 3, 2021): The following fix applies to macOS High Sierra 10.13 and earlier. For macOS Mojave 10.14, macOS Big Sur 11 and later, fixing Mac no admin account via the “Command – S” (SUM = Single User Mode) route is not possible anymore. The updated fix therefore is found here: Fixing Mac No Admin Account On macOS Mojave Or Later

Recover lost admin rights on OS X 10.10 and 10.11_create a computer account

Recover lost admin rights on OS X 10.10 and 10.11_create a computer account

Normally, when you set up Mac OS X / macOS for the first time, your initial account will be an administrative one, allowing you to configure the system and install applications. Sometimes rare, errors that occur when upgrading, e.g. from OS x 10.10 Yosemite to OS X 10.11 El Capitan, or restoring from backup, or otherwise when making heavy modifications to the system, could result in your admin account being destroyed so you cannot log in to it or use it for changing system settings.

If it happens then one quick but well-known and convenient trick for recovering administrative status on a system trigger Apple’s Setup Assistant tool. This will run before any accounts have been loaded, and will run in “root” mode, allowing you to create accounts on your Mac.

Even though the Setup Assistant only runs once when you first install Mac OS X / macOS, it remains on your computer and is prevented from running by the presences of a hidden file called ‘.AppleSetupDone‘ in a system folder on your Mac. Therefore, to have the Setup Assistant run again so you can create a fresh admin account, you simply need to remove this file:

Easily recover lost admin right on Mac OS X 10.10 Yosemite, Mac OS X 10.11 El Capitan,  macOS 10.12 Sierra, and macOS 10.13 High Sierra by reactivating Apple’s Setup Assistant tool. Be aware that this option is also a security risk to your mac.

Stay tuned! 😉

59 thoughts on “How To Recover Lost Admin Rights On macOS High Sierra and Sierra, Mac OS X El Capitan And Yosemite”

  1. I’m having the same issue with Yosemite, but your first step doesn’t work. In the end I’m not able to have the start-up disk writable.

  2. Hi Gee,

    yesterday it didn’t work, today it does. What a good sleep and a cup of coffee can do! Thanks for your support!

    Regards,Dirk

    1. Hi Anna,

      I cannot guarantee you anything. But so far in my experience, there’s no risk if you do not delete any account.

      Regarding your current data: You use the new account solely to gain access to your ‘old’ account again. This means you do not need to transfer any data. Just follow my instructions carefully step-by-step!

      Cheers,
      Gee Are

  3. this does not work for me at all. I tried twice Do I press return after I enter these commands? Sorry to ask – I did enter return but it has not helped. I am not clear if I enter reboot at the end or ‘reboot’

    Thank you

      1. Hi Gee,
        I was trying to follow these directions from the way they display on my phone. It didn’t work. But I wondered if the longer commands were actually truncated by my phone since some lines didn’t say ‘enter’ or ‘return’ at the end.

        After several failed attempts, I finally opened this page on a computer screen and could see the commands and format of them display in full. Anyone viewing the helps on a phone is not going to see it correctly.

        Anyone who is struggling with this needs to know that every line of command ends with (return key) and if you don’t see it displayed that way, you need to view it on a larger screen.

        Then it works! Thanks for the help!

  4. Hi Gee,

    Once I boot up my mac, it just starts up, and holding command + S didn’t do anything. What should I do?

    Thanks

  5. Hi there,

    By accident, I ticked in the box “Allow user to administer this computer”. Now I have 2 admin accounts but I really want to remove one of them. I did log out the one I want to remove, logged in the one I want to keep, open the golden lock, but the “minus” button is always grey so I cannot remove it. Please anyone tell me what should I do now? Many thanks

  6. Hello Gee
    I followed the instructions, but it didn´t work. Started normally after reboot. Does it work with High Sierra?
    I did notice that when I wite this: mount -uw it / shows up as this: mount/uw/

  7. Hi, so umm.. i have this problem and did exactly what you told me to do. but all it does is that after rebooting, it just comes up on a normal startup screen. plz help.

    1. Power off then on while holding command+S
      Then on the command line type these orders, paying attention to spaces and capitals as shown below
      This will reset the mac to the first start point, you vreat an admin account, then change the other account privilege to admin. . ..

      mount -uw / (return key)

      cd /var/db (return key)

      mv dslocal dslocal.old (return key)

      mkdir -p dslocal/nodes (return key)

      cp -Rp /System/Library/DirectoryServiceS/DeafaultLocalDB/Default dslocal/nodes/ (return key)

      rm .AppleSetupDone (return key)

      reboot (return key)

      1. THREE FREAKING HOURS!, two blood pressure checks, one BP pill, 1.5mg Xanax, 150-200 MacBook help forums and pages……… AND THIS POST FIXED IT!!!! OhhhRah!

      2. cp -Rp /System/Library/DirectoryServiceS/DefaultLocalDB/Default dslocal/nodes/ (return key)

        Mind that a that is not supposed to be there

  8. Power off then on while holding command+S
    Then on the command line type these orders, paying attention to spaces and capitals as shown below
    This will reset the mac to the first start point, you vreat an admin account, then change the other account privilege to admin. . ..

    mount -uw / (return key)

    cd /var/db (return key)

    mv dslocal dslocal.old (return key)

    mkdir -p dslocal/nodes (return key)

    cp -Rp /System/Library/DirectoryServiceS/DeafaultLocalDB/Default dslocal/nodes/ (return key)

    rm .AppleSetupDone (return key)

    reboot (return key)

  9. I just want to say It is incredibly annoying when I don’t actually use Facebook, but to in order to see the information I have to go the the process of recovering a password word so I can like this article only to find that it didn’t work. Probably an error on my end, I know, but it is still very frustrating.

  10. It actually worked very well for me. Just make sure and put in spaces where his are. You have to pay attention to the spaces or it will not work.
    I am up and running again!
    Thanks Big Guy!!

    1. Did you get your mac to reboot again?
      I have the same problem now after trying Salam’s instructions on January 21st 2018.
      Please help me.

  11. Followed instructions carefully and am thrilled to have my comp all back up and running properly! Thank you so much!

  12. It didn’t worked for me on a 2015 mbp
    The both command mount -uw/ and /sbin/mount -uw/ is illegal commands
    So I cannot do any of the commands below

  13. This really saved my bacon, thanks! I skimmed these instructions on how to change an account’s username: https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT201548
    I missed that you need to create a separate administrator account, and tried to do it from the account I was updating. When the computer restarted, the username and folder hadn’t changed, but the account was downgraded and I no longer had admin privileges.

  14. hello I tried to change the user name on my admin account and i have lost admin privileges to my laptop I have researched to fix the problem and someone said you cannot fix if you have filevault enabled which i do, is there anything i can do? thanks! 🙁

  15. During the new account creation process, I am prompted to “Please enter the password used to unlock your Mac’s boot volume.” I have no idea what this means, and none of my passwords work.

    Thank you,

  16. Had the same glitch where renaming the user got rid of the admin privileges. This method did not work for me. Had success booting into single-user mode and deleting the user setup and it only took a few minutes.

  17. carl vandenabeele

    I put myself in trouble with my wife’s iMac. Hers is a second hand one. Next to my admin account (Charlie V, my English nickname) I installed originally her account also with admin privileges. Last autumn, she accidentily deleted some software. That was for me the sign to change her into a standard user. Now, almost 9 months later, I need to install new software but I’m not allowed. And who’s the idiot now? ME! Seems I completely forgot my own admin password. I’ve been trying different combinations for over a week. I have tried all keyboard combinations. I could not solve it. Same with firmware password. Apparently the original owner must have added a firmware password? There is no possibility to access myself! Apple doesn’t wanna help me, because I have no official invoice. My iMac was not stolen! Can anybody help me?

  18. what are the exact steps please. i somehow unchecked admin box and don’t have access anymore as a use, only standard user…

  19. Pingback: Fixing Mac No Admin Account On macOS Mojave Or Later - miapple.me

  20. hi sir, my Mac would not accept my admin password or I have lost my privileges to have access on it. I followed the instruction but mine is not working. is there any alternative ways to restore my admin account even if my filevault is on. thank you

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