Forgot Your iPhone Password? Here's What to Do

Can't remember that passcode? We've got your iPhone fix

iPhone password

The iPhone's passcode feature is an important way to keep prying eyes out of your personal data. But what if you forget your iPhone passcode? Entering the wrong passcode six times triggers a message that says your iPhone has been disabled. Whether you've gotten this message or just know you've forgotten your passcode, follow these steps to regain access to your iPhone.

The Solution is to Erase Your iPhone or iPod Touch

There's really only one way to solve this problem and you may not like it: erasing all the data on your iPhone and, if you have one, restoring from backup. Erasing all data from your iPhone erases the old, forgotten passcode and lets you set up the phone again.

This may seem extreme, but it makes sense from a security perspective. If your iPhone was stolen, you wouldn't want it to be easy to bypass the passcode and access your data.

The problem, of course, is that this approach erases all of the data on your iPhone. This isn't a problem if you have a recent backup of that data you restore onto your phone (this is a good reminder: if you have access to your phone, make a backup right now and get in the habit of doing it regularly). But if you don't, you will lose anything added to your phone between when you last synced with iCloud or iTunes and when you restore it.

Three Options for Fixing a Forgotten iPhone Passcode

There are three ways to erase the data from your iPhone, remove the passcode, and start fresh: iTunes, iCloud, or Recovery Mode.

  • iTunes: If you have physical access to your iPhone, sync it regularly with a computer and have that computer nearby, this may be the easiest option. Here are step-by-step instructions on using iTunes to erase and restore your iPhone.
Restore iPhone button in iTunes
  • iCloud: If you've enabled Find My iPhone on your device, you can use iCloud to erase it. Use this option if you don't have access to the phone or if you sync with iCloud and not iTunes. Look here for instructions on how to use iCloud to erase your iPhone.
Erase iPhone button in iCloud
  • Recovery Mode: This is your only option if you've never synced your phone with iTunes or iCloud. In that case, you probably won't have your data backed up and will lose what's on your phone, but you'll be able to use your phone again. Read this to learn how to put your iPhone into Recovery Mode.
Person holding iPhone with Recovery Mode icons on the screen

After You Erase Your iPhone

No matter which of these options you use, you'll end up with an iPhone that's in the state it was when you first took it out of the box. You've got three options for your next step:

  • Setting up iPhone from scratch: Choose this if you want to start completely fresh with your iPhone and don't want to restore any data (or don't have any to restore). 
  • Restoring from backup: This is best if you have a backup of your data, either on iTunes or iCloud and want to put it back onto your phone. We have the instructions for doing this
  • Redownloading content: Even if you didn't have a backup, virtually anything you've bought from the iTunes, App, and iBooks Stores can be redownloaded to your device. Learn how to redownload this kind of content.

What About a Content Restrictions Passcode?

There's one other kind of passcode you may have on your iOS device: the passcode that protects Content Restrictions.

This passcode allows parents or IT administrators to block certain apps or features and prevents anyone who doesn't know the passcode from changing those settings. But what if you're the parent or administrator and you forget the passcode?

In that case, the options mentioned earlier for erasing and restoring from backup will work. If you don't want to do that, you need a program called iPhone Backup Extractor (it's available for both Mac and Windows). The process of using it takes you through a lot of files that may look complex or intimidating, but it shouldn't be too hard for the average user.

The Bottom Line

The iPhone's passcode feature being relatively strong is good for security, but bad if you forget your passcode. Don't let a forgotten passcode now stop you from using a passcode in the future; it's too important to security. Just make sure that next time you use a passcode that will be easier for you to remember (but not too easy to guess!)