Did you forget your iPhone or iPad passcode? That can be quite a frustrating experience.
With prevalence of Face ID and Touch ID on the latest iPhone models, passcodes aren’t as prevalent as they once were. As you’re less accustomed to entering it now, the chance of forgetting your passcode increases significantly.
If your iPhone or iPad is showing an error message that says something like iPhone is disabled, try again in 5 minutes or iPhone is disabled, connect to iTunes, there’s no need to panic. You can bring your device back to life and maybe even recover the data.
First: Try Using This Tip to Recall Your Password
It might sound obvious, but before we dive into those methods, try recalling your passcode with an important tip in mind. It can save you from the hassle of having to explore other ways to remove your passcode.
It’s a common misconception that the iPhone only uses four-digit passcodes. It make sense that you might not know this, as the option is buried inside the Settings app. As it turns out, you can also set a custom-length numeric code or even a full alpha-numeric password like you’d use on a website.
Thus, it’s possible that you might have set a custom numeric or alphanumeric passcode, but are only trying to recall potential four-digit numbers. Try recalling your passcode with this increased scope of digits. Be careful though, as entering the wrong passcode six times in a row disables your iPhone.
If that doesn’t seem to work or your iPhone or iPad is disabled already, no worries. Let’s look at some of the ways to reset your iPhone or iPad passcode.
What Do the Error Messages Mean?
If you’re not able to access your iPhone or iPad, you might see a few different versions of an error message. There are two main kinds of error messages: iPhone is disabled, try again in X minutes and iPhone is disabled, connect to iTunes.
The first error message shows up after five consecutive incorrect attempts to enter your passcode. After this, with every attempt, your device will lock you out for longer periods of time. After the ninth attempt, you’ll be locked out for 60 minutes.
Your device will lock you out completely after 10 attempts. That’s when you’ll see the iPhone is disabled, connect to iTunes message.
Once your iPhone or iPad tells you it’s disabled and you need to connect to iTunes, you’ve unfortunately lost the battle. The only way to get it back to life now is by resetting it using iTunes.
What to Do If You Forget Your Passcode? Reset
Apple makes it clear that the only way to fix a forgotten iPhone password is to factory reset your iPhone or iPad. Unless you made a backup before you forgot your passcode, there’s really no way to save your phone’s current data.
But if you’ve recently backed up your iPhone or iPad to a computer using iTunes, or using iCloud, you can get the data back after the resetting process.
1. How to Unlock a Disabled iPhone/iPad Using iTunes
If you’ve previously synced your device with iTunes, you can use a recent backup to restore your iPhone/iPad and reset its passcode. Here’s how to erase your device using iTunes:
- Connect your device to the computer you previously synced with.
- Open iTunes. If iTunes lets you in without prompting for a passcode, you can proceed. However, if it prompts you for a password, then try connecting your device to another computer you might have synced with. If you have never synced with any other computer, this method won’t work for you. In that case, skip to the section explaining recovery mode below.
- Wait for iTunes to sync your device and make a backup.
- When the sync completes, click on Restore iPhone and let the restoration process complete. This will reinstall iOS from scratch.
- When complete, the iOS setup screen should pop up on your device. Here, tap on Restore from iTunes backup .
- Choose the latest backup to restore from.
Doing so will restore your data to the point in time when you made the backup. Also, it will remove the passcode, giving you a chance to set up a new one.
2. How to Erase an iPhone/iPad Using iCloud
If you sync your iPhone/iPad via iCloud instead of iTunes, and you have Find My iPhone enabled on your locked device, you can erase your iPhone/iPad using iCloud. You can also use this method if you don’t have physical access to your device.
Note that your locked device must be connected to Wi-Fi or cellular data. If it isn’t, you can open Control Center (swipe up from the bottom on iPhone 8 and earlier; swipe down from the top-right corner on iPhone X or later) to toggle these.
In the rare case that you do not have an active internet connection and have disabled access to Control Center on the lock screen, this method won’t work for you. Fortunately, you can still reset your iPhone/iPad using the instructions given in the next section.
Having verified all the prerequisites, here’s how to erase your iPhone/iPad using iCloud:
- Open iCloud dashboard on a computer and log in using your Apple ID.
- Click on All Devices at the top and then select your device.
- Click on Erase iPhone.
Your device will erase itself remotely, thus deleting everything including the password. On the setup screen, you can choose between restoring from an iCloud backup or setting up your iPhone as new. Select the one you want, then you can set a new passcode.
Note: You can also use the Restore method in iTunes, then choose to recover from iCloud during the initial iOS setup if you want to.
3. How to Reset an iPhone/iPad Using Recovery Mode
If you have never synced your device with iCloud or iTunes, erasing your device using recovery mode is your only option. Doing so will erase your iPhone/iPad’s data permanently and set it up as new. Here’s how to erase your iPhone/iPad using recovery mode.
First, connect your iPhone to a computer and open iTunes. You’ll then need to press a hardware key combination to enter recovery mode, which varies based on your iPhone model. Here’s a summary from our guide on the iPhone’s recovery mode for each class of device:
- On an iPhone 8, iPhone X, or higher: Press and quickly release the Volume Up button. Then press and quickly release the Volume Down button. Finally, press and hold the Side button until you see the recovery mode screen.
- On an iPhone 7 or iPhone 7 Plus: Press and hold both the Side and Volume Down buttons at the same time. Keep holding them until you see the recovery mode screen.
- On an iPhone 6s and earlier, iPad, or iPod touch: Press and hold both the Home and the Top (or Side) buttons at the same time. Keep holding them until you see the recovery mode screen.
When you enter the recovery mode, iTunes will prompt you to either Restore or Update your iPhone. Click on Restore.
iTunes should begin downloading software for your device. If the download takes more than 15 minutes, your iPhone will exit recovery mode automatically. If this happens, just repeat the above steps. Once the process completes, you can set up your iPhone and set a new passcode.
Unfortunately, without a backup, your data will be lost.
How to Reset a Disabled iPhone/iPad Without iTunes
Apple takes pride in the fact that it values user security and privacy. While there’s no denying that Apple’s security infrastructure is top-notch, it’s also true that it isn’t bulletproof. For instance, a developer used a $500 box to exploit a vulnerability in iOS 10.3.3 and the iOS 11 beta to perform a brute force attack and bypass the lock screen.
The brute force method could take days to work, depending on the complexity of the password. Fortunately, Apple patches such vulnerabilities swiftly.
This is the most impractical method to bypass your passcode. That’s not just because of the price of the box, but also because you’d have to be really unlucky (lucky?) to have a vulnerable version of iOS on your phone. If you have some really important data that you cannot afford to lose, but still need to reset your passcode, you could give it a try.
If you don’t like using iTunes, you can also use a third-party toolkit like dr.fone’s Unlock feature to unlock your device (as long as you have Find my iPhone disabled). The app runs your iPhone/iPad through a similar restoring process by putting the device in recovery mode and installing the latest version of iOS.
Remember to Always Back Up
Now that you’ve successfully removed your iPhone/iPad’s passcode, it’s time to go back to the basics and learn from this experience. In no particular order, here’s what you should do:
- Keep iOS updated: A few brute-force boxes that exploit a vulnerability in iOS have popped up in the past. Apple often acts quickly and patches the vulnerabilities. Therefore, it’s best to keep iOS updated on your device.
- Create a strong yet memorable passcode: A strong password isn’t necessarily tough to remember.
- Keep your device backed up: Most importantly, back up your iPhone/iPad regularly and in multiple ways. Losing your precious data is a dreadful experience.
Get started with our complete guide to iPhone/iPad backups.
Image Credit: dimarik/Depositphotos
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