locked iphone

Can’t sign into your iPhone or iPad anymore? If you’ve forgotten the PIN and haven’t set up Touch ID on a modern iPhone or iPad, you’ll need to reset your phone or tablet to regain access.

You’ll lose everything stored on the device itself, although you can restore from backups. If you’ve synced your iPhone or iPad with iTunes, you can even make a fresh backup first to ensure you won’t lose anything.

Why Can’t I Bypass the Passcode?

There’s no way to bypass the PIN and regain access to an iPhone or iPad, even if you do have the username and password of the account signed into iCloud.

Enter the wrong passcode six times in a row and you’ll be informed your device is “disabled” for a period of time, preventing you (or an attacker) from trying over and over again.

On a modern iOS device, the hardware encryption keys are actually protected with the passcode you enter. This is why you always have to enter your PIN or passcode every time your device reboots — even if you’ve enabled touch ID. There’s no way around this aside from wiping the iPhone or iPad and starting fresh.

Wipe and Restore From an iTunes Backup

RELATED: What You Need to Know About iPhone and iPad Backups

If you’ve previously synced your iPhone or iPad to iTunes on a Mac or PC, you can have iTunes make a fresh backup and restore that backup. You won’t lose any data if you can do this.

To do this, connect your iPhone or iPad to a computer you’ve previously synced with an open iTunes. If iTunes asks for a passcode, you won’t be able to provide it if you can’t get past the lock screen. Try another computer you’ve synced with previously. If you’re asked for a passcode, you won’t be able to back up or restore the device from within iTunes — you’ll have to use one of the below methods instead.

If iTunes doesn’t ask for a passcode, you can visit the device’s summary screen in iTunes and click “Back Up Now” to make a backup.

After the backup is complete, click “Restore iPhone” or “Restore iPad.” You’ll be able to restore it from the backup you’ve just created, setting up a new passcode while you do so. The passcode is not part of the backup. Select “Restore From iTunes Backup” while going through the setup process again.

Wipe From Find My iPhone

RELATED: How to Track, Disable, and Wipe a Lost iPhone, iPad, or Mac

If you haven’t synced the device with iTunes and Find My iPhone is enabled on the device, visit the Find My iPhone page at iCloud.com in your web browser and sign in with your iCloud account and password.

Select the iPhone or iPad you want to wipe using the option at the top of the screen, and then click the “Erase” button. This will remotely erase your iPhone or iPad. When setting it back up, you’ll be able to restore from an iCloud backup or set it up as a new device. Either way, you’ll be able to enter a new PIN or passcode.

Wipe From Recovery Mode

RELATED: How to Reset Your iPhone or iPad, Even if it Won't Boot

If you haven’t set up Find My iPhone and you’ve never backed up your iPhone or iPad to a PC or Mac, you’ll have to use recovery mode to wipe it.

To do this, you’ll need a Mac or PC with iTunes installed and the included cable to connect your iPhone or iPad to the PC.

First, connect the iPhone or iPad to your computer and open iTunes. Press and hold the Power/Wake and Home buttons at the same time to forcibly restart your iPhone or iPad. (In the case of the iPhone 7, press and hold the Power/Wake button and the volume down button.) Don’t let go of the buttons, even when the typical Apple logo appears. Keep holding the buttons until you see the recovery mode screen, which contains an iTunes logo as well as an outline of cable.

iTunes will inform you that “There is a problem with the iPhone [or iPad] that requires it to be updated or restored.” Click the “Restore” button to restore your device to its factory default settings. Afterwards, you can set it up from scratch and restore it from iCloud backups — if iCloud backup was enabled previously.

These methods will also work for Apple’s iPod Touch devices. If you forget the passcode to your Apple Watch, you can erase it from the Apple Watch app on your iPhone and restore an Apple Watch backup from your iPhone, too.

Image Credit: DeclanTM on Flickr

Profile Photo for Chris Hoffman Chris Hoffman
Chris Hoffman is Editor-in-Chief of How-To Geek. He's written about technology for over a decade and was a PCWorld columnist for two years. Chris has written for The New York Times and Reader's Digest, been interviewed as a technology expert on TV stations like Miami's NBC 6, and had his work covered by news outlets like the BBC. Since 2011, Chris has written over 2,000 articles that have been read more than one billion times---and that's just here at How-To Geek.
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