How to Reset Restrictions Passcode on an iPhone

What to do if you forgot your parental controls passcode

What to Know

  • Factory Reset: On the iPhone, tap Settings > General > Reset > Erase All Content and Settings. Set a new passcode.
  • Log into on a PC. Select Find iPhone > All Devices > select the iPhone to erase > Erase iPhone.
  • Recovery Mode (last resort): Sync the iPhone to iTunes, then tap Update in the pop-up window. Follow prompts.

In this article, you will learn how to reset your Restrictions passcode by completely erasing the iPhone with a Factory Reset, or by using the iCloud or Recovery Mode. Another option is to search for third-party software than can uncover the passcode without erasing the iPhone.

How to Reset Restrictions Passcode on an iPhone

If you forget your Restrictions passcode and need to reset it, there's only one surefire solution: erase your iPhone and set it up from scratch. There are three ways to erase your phone to reset your restrictions passcode: Using your iPhone, iCloud, or Recovery Mode.

Before you erase your iPhone, be absolutely sure that you back up all your data. If you don't, you'll lose data when you erase the phone and you may not be able to get it back.

How to Erase Your iPhone With a Factory Reset

You can totally erase your iPhone—including the Restrictions passcode—by resetting the phone to its factory settings. Do this on the device by following these steps:

  1. On your iPhone, tap the Settings app to open it.

  2. Tap General.

  3. Tap Reset.

  4. Tap Erase All Content and Settings and follow the onscreen prompts.

    Screenshots of how to reset an iPhone to factory settings

How to Erase Your iPhone Using iCloud

If you don't have immediate, physical access to your iPhone, you can erase it remotely with iCloud. This feature is especially useful if your iPhone has been lost or stolen. Here's what to do:

  1. Go to iCloud on a computer and log in with the Apple ID used on the phone you want to erase.

    iCloud website login
  2. Choose Find iPhone.

    iCloud website dashboard showing Find iPhone icon
  3. Select All Devices at the top of the screen and then choose the iPhone you want to erase.

    Selection of a device in Find My iPhone at iCloud
  4. Choose Erase iPhone and follow the on-screen prompts.

    iCloud Find My iPhone website

How to Erase Your iPhone Using Recovery Mode

It's also possible to erase an iPhone using Recovery Mode. Recovery Mode is normally a last-resort troubleshooting option. Don't start with this method, but you may need it in some cases, such as where there's a problem with your OS and other methods don't work. This method requires iTunes on a computer.

iPhone recovery mode screen
iPhone photo: hocus-focus/iStock

When nothing else works, erase your iPhone with Recovery Mode by following these steps:

  1. Turn off your iPhone by holding down the Sleep/Wake button. On the iPhone 6 and newer, hold down the Volume Down button, too.

  2. Get a computer with iTunes installed on it, but don't open iTunes yet.

  3. The next step depends on what model iPhone you have:

    • iPhone 8 and up: Plug the syncing cable into your iPhone. Hold down the Side button and plug the cable into the computer.
    • iPhone 7 series: Plug the syncing cable into your iPhone. Hold down the Volume Down button and plug the cable into the computer.
    • iPhone 6S series and earlier: Plug the syncing cable into your iPhone. Hold down the Home button and plug the other end into the computer.
  4. Continue holding the Side, Volume Down, or Home button (depending on your model) until the Connect to iTunes screen appears on your iPhone. 

  5. In iTunes, a pop-up window offers to Update or Restore the phone. Click Update and follow the on-screen prompts.

Third-Party Programs That Reset Forgotten Restrictions Passcode

Erasing your iPhone is an extreme way to reset a forgotten Restrictions passcode. If you want to avoid this, there may be software that can help.

A little time at your favorite search engine looking for software should turn up a bunch of options. Consider user reviews, price, and whether the vendor seems reputable.

Most of these programs operate in the same way: They dig into existing backups of your iPhone data on your computer to uncover the Restrictions passcode. Then you can enter it on your iPhone to change settings or the passcode itself. This requires that you have a backup of your iPhone that includes the passcode, of course.

After Erasing Your iPhone and Resetting Restrictions Passcode

After you've erased your iPhone and reset your Restrictions passcode, there are a few steps you can take:

  • Set up iPhone: With your device restored to its factory-new state, you need to set up your iPhone again.
  • Redownload music and apps: If you've got a lot of music, apps, or other media acquired from the iTunes and App Stores, you can redownload it all for free.
  • Set a new Restrictions passcode: Assuming that you want to keep using Restrictions, you need to set a new passcode. Make sure it's a code you'll remember this time.

The one thing you don't want to do is to restore a backup of your iPhone that has the same Restrictions passcode that you forgot. If you do that, you'll be back in the situation you were at the beginning of the process. If you have a backup that doesn't include the passcode, you could restore that, but you may lose some data that was created between that backup and today.

The Difference Between Restrictions and Device Passcodes

There are two kinds of commonly used passcodes on the iPhone—a device passcode and a Restrictions passcode—and it's important to understand how they're different.

iPhone Device Passcode

A device passcode is what you enter when you want to unlock the device for use. It's used as a security measure to prevent unauthorized people from accessing your device. You enter this on the lock screen (unless you use Touch ID or Face ID).

iPhone Restrictions Passcode

A Restrictions passcode prevents the Restrictions settings on your phone from being changed or disabled. You enter this when you go to the Restrictions section of the Settings app. It stops people who shouldn't be able to change the Restrictions settings (kids, for instance) from accessing the settings.

You set up each passcode individually, so there's no relationship between the two, unless you use the same code for both, but don't do that. It's bad security and makes it easy to guess the Restrictions passcode).

  • How do I set up Restrictions on an iPhone?

    To set up Restrictions on an iPhone, tap Settings > Screen Time > toggle on Content & Privacy Restrictions.

  • How do I check Screen Time on an iPhone?

    To check your Screen Time, go to Settings > Screen Time > See All Activity. Tap Week or Day to see a summary report of your weekly or daily use.

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