How to Strengthen Your iPhone's Passcode

It's time to replace that four-digit passcode with something better

What to know

  • Go to Settings > Face ID & Passcode. Enter your existing passcode.
  • Select Change Passcode and enter a six-digit passcode or select Passcode Options.
  • Options include four-digit (least secure), six-digit, alphanumeric, and custom numeric passcodes.

This article explains how to strengthen your iPhone's passcode. The iPhone iOS operating system provides robust passcode options that enhance the device's security. Instructions in this article apply to iPhones with iOS 14 through iOS 7.

How to Enable a Complex Passcode on Your iOS Device

The iPhone gives you the option of entering a six-digit passcode instead of the familiar four-digit passcode for better protection. You can also enter a custom alphanumeric passcode or a longer custom numeric passcode. To configure a stronger passcode through the Settings app:

  1. Tap Settings > Face ID & Passcode. (On iPhone 8 devices or some iPad models, tap Touch ID & Passcode instead.)

  2. Enter your existing passcode. If you don't currently have a passcode, tap Turn Passcode On.

    Path to Face ID & Passcode settings on iPhone
  3. Tap the Passcode Options link to select a passcode type. Choose from a four-digit passcode (the weakest), a six-digit passcode (stronger), a custom alphanumeric passcode, or a custom numeric passcode format. After you choose a type, you're prompted to enter the new passcode and then prompted to reenter it to confirm it.

  4. If you want to make your existing four-digit passcode stronger, select Change Passcode on the Face ID & Passcode screen. Enter a six-digit passcode in the field provided or select from the Passcode Options at the bottom of the screen and enter the new code.

    Change passcode fields on iPhone


For maximum security, in the Face ID & Passcode settings screen, set the Require Password option to Immediately unless you want a longer period of time before it is required. This option helps you to balance security versus usability. You can either:

  • Create a longer passcode and set a longer amount of time before it's required so you won't constantly need to enter it.
  • Create a shorter passcode and require it immediately.

Either choice has its pros and cons; it depends on what level of security versus convenience you are willing to accept.

If the device supports it, enroll either a fingerprint or your face in the Touch ID or the Face ID system. Those tools, which are considered secure, can be used in addition to a passcode.

Why Complex Passcodes Matter

While creating a complex password is recommended, most people don't want to make things complicated. Changing from a simple passcode to the iPhone complex passcode option boosts security because enabling the alphanumeric characters increases the combinations that a thief or hacker would have to try to break into a phone.

The simple four-digit numeric password has 10,000 possible combinations: 104 = 10,000. That may seem high, but a determined hacker or thief may guess it in a few hours, and an automated scanner can guess it in less than a second. Turning on the iOS complex passcode option increases the possible combinations.

The total number of possible combinations for the complex passcode option is huge; each character in the code expands from 10 to 77 potential values. In a passcode of 12 alphanumeric characters, the number of potential combinations grows to 7712, or approximately 43,439,888,520,000,000,000,000. Adding a few more characters presents a huge roadblock for a hacker trying to guess all the possible combinations.

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