Pro Tips to Set Up & Use Security Keys on iPhone, iPad, and Mac

While two-factor authentication through a passcode is safe, it’s not the ultimate verification method. In circumstances where your device could be at greater risk of targeted attacks, authentication via “Security Keys” can be a safer bet. For a change, it altogether eliminates the need for verification codes that tend to often get lost in translation due to external factors and lets you get through the process by using your physical key. Unlike the verification codes, your physical key can never be intercepted by hackers nor can it ever get stuck in a loop due to network-related issues. So, if you are all set to get the most out of this feature, let me show you how to set up security keys on iPhone, iPad, and Mac.

Set Up & Use Security Keys on iPhone, iPad, and Mac Like a Pro

To get going, let’s first clear out all doubts and also tick off prerequisites!

What are Security Keys and How Do They Work? 

Before going to understand how Security Keys work, it would be better to decipher “Two-Factor Authentication”.

Two-factor authentication ensures you are the only one who can access your account. In order to ascertain your identity, it requires you to input two pieces of information. While the first piece of the required information is your Apple ID and password, the second one is the additional verification which could be in the form of either a six-digit verification code or a security key.

To be more precise, “Security Keys” are tiny external devices that enable you to authenticate your Apple ID instead of a passcode. Specifically developed for folks who wish to have an extra layer of shield from malicious attacks like phishing, it’s by far the safest form of authentication – even a step ahead of biometric authentication.

To ensure you can get through the verification process at your will, it replaces the verification code, which is sent to your trusted device linked with the same Apple ID. Just plug in your device to safely authenticate and you are done! Whether you wish to sign in to your account on an iDevice or reset your Apple ID, it will live up to your task without making any fuss.

Albeit exceptionally secure, six-digit codes could be manipulated, hacked, and seized by online attackers. As for the security keys, they are with you and can be placed at your preferred spot – away from the reach of scammers. Don’t get me wrong, even the mighty sky might fall one day! But, hey, it’s about which one offers you a better safeguard when your back is against the wall.

You Could Forever Lose Access to Your Account, If…

Since physical security keys are always at your disposal, you don’t have to rely on other devices for verification. Then, what’s the catch? 

Though the security keys are great in terms of both safety and flexibility, you’ve got to deal with them carefully. Bear in mind, if you ever happen to lose them, you won’t be able to recover your Apple ID. Yeah, you got that right! You could forever lose access to your Apple ID in the event your security keys are lost. Not even Apple can help you break the lock.

To help you avoid this situation, Apple allows you to set up at least two security keys. And if need be, you can create up to six keys. As a result, if a key is lost, you will always have the other one to fall back on. 

What are the Downsides of Security Keys? 

Although security keys have got most bases covered, there are some glaring loopholes that you need to keep in mind. 

  • Bear in mind that security keys can’t let you sign in to older iDevices that are running outdated operating systems. 
  • Security keys don’t work with managed Apple IDs. 
  • You can’t use security keys with child accounts. 
  • You are not allowed to use security keys with the Apple Watch that is connected to a family member’s iPhone. Hence, be sure to first set up your Apple Watch with your own iPhone.
  • Probably the biggest shortcoming is that they don’t support iCloud for Windows. 

From Where Can You Buy Security Keys? 

There is no dearth of security keys in the market. Hence, you can easily find a trusted one that can work with your iDevice. 

  • You can head over to the FIDO Showcase website to explore a variety of FIDO-certified security keys. Besides, you can also find a variety of security keys on Amazon.

Things to Consider Before Buying a Security Key for Your iDevice

There is a variety of security keys. While some come equipped with NFC for wireless use, others come with USB-C, USB-A, or Lightning ports. Not to mention, there are quite a few security keys that feature multiple ports for direct connectivity with compatible devices. 

Security keys that are equipped with near-field communication (NFC) and a USB-C connector can work with most Apple devices.

Irrespective of which type of security key you buy, make sure it’s FIDO certified. For those unfamiliar, FIDO stands for Fast Identity Online and is developed by the FIDO Alliance which is a nonprofit organization. 

Which are the Best FIDO Certified Security Keys?

Take a look at some of the highly-rated security keys – 

What are the Requirements for Setting up Security Keys? 

  • Your iPhone must be running iOS 16.3 or later.
  • Your iPad must be equipped with iPadOS 16.3 or later 
  • Your Mac must have macOS Ventura or later installed. 
  • Ensure that all your devices where you’re signed in with your Apple ID are running the supported operating system.
  • Be sure you have at least two FIDO-certified security keys that support the Apple devices that you use.
  • Make sure Two-factor authentication is enabled for your Apple ID. Head over to the Settings app on your iPhone/iPad (on Mac, open System Settings) -> Apple ID banner -> Password & Security -> go to section Two-Factor Authentication and be sure it’s active.
  • Do note that in order to sign in to Apple Watch, Apple TV, or HomePod after you set up security keys, you must have an iPhone or iPad running the supported operating system.
  • Ensure that your browser is updated.

Enable Security Keys on iPhone and iPad 

  • On your iPhone or iPad; navigate to the Settings app -> Apple ID‌ banner.
Tap on Apple ID banner
  • After that, choose Password & Security.
  • Tap on Security Keys.
Choose password and security in Settings app
  • Next, tap on the Add Security Keys button and go through the on-screen instructions to complete the process.
Set up security keys on iPhone iPad and Mac
  • Next up, make sure to review the devices that are linked with your Apple ID and then decide to Stay signed in to all active devices or select devices that you don’t want to continue to have access to your account and sign out of them.

Enable Security Keys on Mac 

  • First off, click on the Apple menu () at the top left corner of the screen and choose System Settings in the drop-down menu.
Choose System Settings in the drop down menu
  • After that, click on your name at the top and select Password & Security.
Choose password and security in Apple ID settings
  • Head over to the “Security Keys” menu section and click on Add next to it.
Click on the Add option
  • After that, go through the onscreen instructions to set up your security keys.
Add security keys on Mac
  • Up next, review the devices associated with your ‌Apple ID‌ and choose to stay signed in to or sign out of any linked Apple devices as per your needs.

Remove Security Keys Using your iPhone or iPad

  • Open the Settings app on your iPhone or iPad -> Apple ID banner -> Password & Security -> Security Keys.
  • After that, tap on Remove All Security Keys and confirm the action.
  • It’s important to note that If you remove all security keys, your Apple ID will once against start using the six-digit verification code for two-factor authentication.

Remove Security Keys Using your Mac

  • On your Mac, go to System Settings app -> Apple ID banner -> Password & Security -> Security Keys.
  • Then, click on Remove All Security Keys and confirm.
  • Once you have successfully removed the security keys, your Apple ID will begin to use the six-digit verification code for two-factor authentication as earlier.

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Wrapping up..!

From a security perspective, “Security Keys” are a boon as they provide a robust shield to your Apple ID. However, make sure to use the keys with care and keep them in a safer place so that you won’t lose them. Else, you might get locked out of your account for good.

Read more: 15 Best Ways to Hide Apps on iPhone and iPad (2023)

Posted by
Rajesh Mishra

Co-founder/Editor-in-Chief: Rajesh Mishra (Your beloved “R.K” 360 Reader Voice) is a Shakespearean poet at heart who turned a tech nerd while having a secret rendezvous with iPhone 4. When that rendezvous turned obsession, he let go of his hard-core political journalism in favour of the lifelong love-affair with technology. In a career spanning one and a half decades, Mr. Mishra has crafted over 8K articles and around 2K YouTube videos. He is probably the only journalist alive with this unique achievement. When he is not at his desk, you may find him either engrossed in a Deathmatch or chasing Wordsworth!


  1. I stumbled upon this article while researching ways to enhance the security of my Apple devices, and I must say, it’s an exceptional resource! The author has done a fantastic job of explaining the importance of security keys and providing step-by-step instructions on how to set them up and use them effectively on iPhone, iPad, and Mac.I highly recommend this article to anyone looking to enhance the security of their Apple devices. Whether you’re a novice or a seasoned user, you’ll find valuable information and practical advice that can be implemented easily. I’m grateful for stumbling upon this resource, and I’ll be sure to share it with my friends and colleagues who are equally concerned about safeguarding their digital lives. Thank you for sharing this valuable information!

    1. Most welcome! Thrilled to have your invaluable feedback.

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