How to Unlock iCloud-Locked iPhones

New phone with old owner info? Forgot your password? Try these tips

What to Know

  • If it's your phone, enter the Apple ID username and password that was first used to activate it.
  • For a used iPhone, ask the original owner to enter their credentials, sign out of iCloud, remove the Apple ID, and erase the device.
  • If you can't unlock the phone, show valid proof of purchase to Apple tech support and see if they can help.

This article explains what to do when you have an iCloud-locked iPhone, which means Activation Lock is turned on as an anti-theft measure. To unlock and use the phone, you must access its original Apple ID username and password. Instructions apply to devices with iOS 7 and later.

How to Unlock an iCloud-Locked iPhone

Activation Lock is an effective anti-theft measure. Your iPhone or iPad automatically turns on Activation Lock whenever Find My iPhone is active. Once you enable Activation Lock, nobody can delete the device, activate it on a different account, or disable Find My iPhone without entering the Apple ID username and password that originally set up the phone. If you encounter this issue, here's what to do:

If It's Your iPhone

  1. To determine if you have an iCloud-locked iPhone, look for the Activation Lock screen.

    icloud activation lock on an ipad, iphone, and apple watch

  2. Enter the Apple ID username and password first used to activate the phone.

  3. Your iPhone will open. You'll need to reset your Apple ID password if you forgot it.

If you use Two-Factor Authentication to secure your Apple ID on iOS 11 or later, disable Activation Lock using your device passcode. Select Unlock with Passcode, tap Use Device Passcode, and then enter the passcode.

If You Have Access to the iPhone's Original Owner

The process gets more complex when the username and password aren't yours, for example, if you bought a used iPhone. If an iPhone is iCloud-locked to an account other than yours, and the person whose account was originally used is physically near you:

  1. Ask them to enter their Apple ID account credentials on the phone.

  2. When the phone gets to the home screen, they should sign out of iCloud:

    • On iOS 10.2 and earlier, go to Settings > iCloud > Sign Out.
    • On iOS 10.3 and up, go to Settings > [your name] > Sign Out.
    Signing out of an Apple ID on iPhone
  3. When asked for their Apple ID username and password, they should enter it again.

  4. They should then remove the Apple ID from the iPhone:

    • On iOS 10.2 and earlier, tap Sign Out, then tap Delete from My iPhone.
    • On iOS 10.3 and later, tap Turn Off.
  5. Erase the phone again by going to Settings > General > Reset > Erase All Content and Settings.

    Erasing an iPhone
  6. When the phone restarts this time, you shouldn't see the Activation Lock screen.

If the Original Owner Isn't Nearby

That's the easy version. The slightly harder version comes when the person whose account you need isn't physically near you. In that case, they need to remove the lock using iCloud, by doing this:

  1. Ask them to sign in to iCloud with their Apple ID.

  2. Select Find iPhone.

    Find iPhone
  3. Select All Devices, then select the iPhone that needs to be unlocked.

    Select the device under All Devices
  4. Select Erase and then follow any other on-screen prompts.

    The Erase iPhone button
  5. Once the previous owner has removed the phone from their account, restart the iPhone, and you won't see the Activation Lock screen when it starts up.

If You Have No Access to the Phone's Original Account

If you don't have a way to log in with the iPhone's original account, you're basically stuck. Activation Lock is a powerful and effective tool and you can't get around it. It's important to make sure used phones are not iCloud-locked before you buy them.

Your one remaining option is to reach out to Apple. If you can provide valid proof of purchase to Apple, the company may be willing to unlock the phone for you. Get a receipt or other proof of purchase, and then contact Apple for tech support to see if they can help.

Are All iCloud-Locked Phones Stolen?

Just because an iPhone is showing an Activation Lock message, that doesn't necessarily mean it's stolen. It's possible to enable Activation Lock accidentally. Some situations in which this could happen include:

  • Forgetting to turn off Find My iPhone before erasing the iPhone.
  • Forgetting to sign out of iCloud before erasing the iPhone.
  • If your Apple ID is disabled.

In those cases, you'll get the Activation Lock screen when trying to set up the phone again. These mistakes are somewhat common when buying used iPhones.

iCloud locking is also a sign that you need to check to see if an iPhone is stolen. If you're buying a used iPhone, be sure to ask whether Activation Lock is disabled, and if it's not, don't buy the phone.

About Sites Promising to iCloud-Unlock an iPhone

If you've done any Googling on this topic, you've likely come across dozens of sites and forum posts claiming other companies can bypass iCloud locks. Some may call themselves "official" unlocks. Whatever they say, they're all scams looking to get money for a service they can't provide. The only away around an iCloud lock is the original Apple ID used to activate the phone.

These services claiming to bypass iCloud locks are generally either just looking to take your money, or they may be engaged in an even more complex fraud scheme.

A few services can get around Activation Lock, but in doing so, they break your phone's connection to Apple. You won't be able to update the operating system or activate the phone again after erasing its data, among other limitations. Those are pretty big drawbacks, and it's hard to see how they're worth it.

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