How to unlock an iPhone you've forgotten the password to, even if it's disabled

disabled 1A disabled iPhone will warn you that you can't log in for some period of time, which might be anywhere from a minute to forever.Dave Johnson/Business Insider

  • If you enter the wrong passcode too many times, you will be locked out of your iPhone. There's no way to bypass the passcode without factory resetting the phone.
  • Using iTunes, you can reset your disabled iPhone to its factory settings and then restore your apps and data from a recent backup.
  • If you don't have iTunes or a computer nearby, you can restore the iPhone to factory settings using Apple's Find My iPhone web page.
  • Visit BusinessInsider.com for more stories.

The good news about iPhone security is that a thief or over-curious stranger has virtually no chance of getting to the data on your phone unless you've put the passcode on a yellow sticky note and affixed it to the back of the case. (Even the FBI has been unable to crack suspects' iPhones after major crimes.)

After entering the passcode incorrectly just a few times, your iPhone will lock you out from attempting more codes for a short time. Continue to enter the wrong passcode, and you might find yourself locked out permanently.

Here's what you can do if that situation arises.

How to unlock a disabled iPhone using a computer

If your iPhone is disabled, the bad news is that there's no way to bypass the passcode and simply restart the iPhone; if that were possible, anyone would be able to do that, and it would defeat the point of the passcode's security.

disabled 1A disabled iPhone will warn you that you can't log in for some period of time, which might be anywhere from a minute to forever.Dave Johnson/Business Insider

Instead, you need to reset the iPhone to its factory settings and then restore your apps and data from a backup. It's worth pointing out that this is one reason you should always have a current backup. See our article, "How to backup your iPhone to iCloud, your computer, or an external hard drive," to make sure your iPhone is regularly creating a backup.

1. On your computer, start iTunes and connect your iPhone using a USB cable.

2. Start your iPhone's recover mode. Depending on which model iPhone, you'll need to do one of these two things:

  • If you have an iPhone 8 or later, press the Volume Up button, followed by Volume Down, then press and hold the Power button until you see the "connect to iTunes" screen.
  • If you have an iPhone 7, press and hold the Power button for three seconds, then swipe the "Power off" slider to the right. Finally, press and hold the Volume Down until you see the "connect to iTunes" screen.
  • If you have an iPhone 6s or older, press and hold the Power button for three seconds, then swipe the "Power off" slider to the right. Then press and hold the Home button until you see the "connect to iTunes" screen.
3. On your computer, click "Restore."

disabled 2When iTunes senses that your iPhone is in Recovery Mode, it'll give you the option to restore it to factory settings.Dave Johnson/Business Insider

4. After this process completes, your iPhone will be reset to its factory conditions. Then follow the on-screen instructions to restore your iPhone with a recent backup.

How to unlock a disabled iPhone using Find My iPhone

Another way you can accomplish the same thing is by using Apple's Find My iPhone feature, which lets you track your iOS devices and - worst case - reset them if they're stolen and can't be recovered. You can take advantage of that ability for your disabled iPhone as well.

1. Open the Find My iPhone website in any web browser.

2. Find your iPhone in the list of devices in the drop-down menu at the top of the screen and click on it.

3. Click "Erase iPhone" and then click "Erase" to confirm. You'll still need to enter your Apple ID password to do this, but you won't need the iPhone's passcode.

disabled 3Using Find My iPhone, you can erase your disabled device and return it to factory settings.Dave Johnson/Business Insider

4. After it's erased, it'll be returned to its factory settings and you can follow the directions to restore the iPhone with a recent backup.

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