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If you can log in and use sudo but can’t unlock Sys Pref prefpanes in Big Sur

Posted on December 23, 2020 by alanysiu

I and at least one other person on the MacAdmins Slack saw situations in which a known working password (can log into the computer, can use sudo to escalate privileges in the terminal) on an admin account is not working in System Preferences to unlock a prefpane. Special thanks to owen on the MacAdmins Slack for pointing us to this knowledgebase article: If you can’t unlock settings in System Preferences.

tl;dr: do an SMC reset. That should fix it.