What Does Lockdown Mode Mean on Apple Devices?

This high-security mode makes it far harder for someone to get into your iPhone

Designed to prevent sophisticated and powerful cyberattacks, Apple's Lockdown Mode is meant to provide ultra-high security settings for iPhones running iOS 16 or later and iPads running iPadOS 16 and up. You can also use Lockdown Mode starting with macOS Ventura (13.0). This article explains what it is, what it does, and who should use it.

The Pros and Cons of Apple Lockdown Mode

In security, there is always a trade-off between offering protection and taking away so many features that your device is no longer useful. That's certainly true of Apple Lockdown Mode.

When enabled, here's what Lockdown Mode does to secure an iPhone or iPad:

  • FaceTime: All FaceTime calls will be blocked except for those coming from people you have called in the past.
  • Messages: All attachments except images, links, and other shared content is blocked in Apple's built-in texting app.
  • Web Browsing: In the Safari web browser, some advanced, performance-enhancing technologies are disabled.
  • Shared Albums: All shared albums in the Photos app are removed and new shared album invitations are blocked.
  • Device Connections: If your device is locked, hardwired connections to computers and other devices are blocked.
  • Apple Services: Invitations sent by others to join Apple services are blocked except for people you have previously sent invitations to.
  • Profiles: Configuration profiles that can be used to install beta or modified versions of your device's operating system cannot be installed.

All of these options are blocked because they are used in the kinds of hacks and cyber attacks facing the people Lockdown Mode is designed for.

Pros of Apple Lockdown Mode
  • Powerful security for those who need it

  • Apple will proactively contact those who need it and recommend it to them

  • Built into iOS and iPadOS, so no extra software is needed

Cons of Apple Lockdown Mode
  • Only runs on iOS 16 and iPadOS 16 and up

  • Greatly reduces key functionality when enabled (but that's what makes you safe!)

  • Not foolproof, so it should be one layer of security, not the only layer

How to Decide if You Need to Use Apple Lockdown Mode 

Deciding if you need to use Lockdown Mode on your iPhone or iPad is pretty easy: almost everyone in the world doesn't need it.

Everyone needs strong security, but Lockdown Mode is designed specifically for people who are likely to be the target of the most powerful and sophisticated cyberattacks. These are people like politicians, journalists, activists, and dissidents. Essentially, people doing important—and potentially sensitive or risky—work whose opponents might want to target them to get access to the data they have.

For people like that, the standard sort of hacker and cybercriminal behavior—phishing, scams, and the like—aren't serious concerns. Instead, they need to worry about attacks from hackers employed by governments, companies that sell devices to hack Apple's security, and other extremely sophisticated attacks.

So, for the average person, Lockdown Mode is probably more than you need. Unless you're in one of those sensitive categories, just follow our tips for iPhone security and iPad security.

Want to protect yourself from local, state, and national governmental surveillance? We have tips to reduce government spying on iPhone.

How to Enable iPhone Lockdown Mode

To enable Lockdown Mode on an iPhone or iPad running iOS 16 and iPadOS 16 or higher, follow these steps:

  1. Tap Settings.

  2. Tap Privacy & Settings.

  3. Tap Lockdown Mode.

  4. Tap Lockdown Mode in the confirmation window.

  5. Tap Turn On & Restart.

  6. Your iPhone will then restart in Lockdown Mode.

    To turn off Lockdown Mode, follow steps 1-3 and then tap Turn Off Lockdown Mode.

  • How do I lock an Apple Watch?

    To lock an Apple Watch, enable the Wrist Detection feature so your Apple Watch locks when you aren't looking at it. Open the Apple Watch app on your iPhone and tap Passcode. Turn the Wrist Detection slider to On.

  • How do I remove iPhone activation lock without an Apple ID?

    When Activation Lock is turned on as an anti-theft measure, you must unlock an iCloud-locked iPhone. You'll need the Apple ID associated with the iPhone. Ask the original account holder to enter the Apple ID on the phone or via iCloud. Without that Apple ID, your only option is to reach out to Apple with proof of purchase.

  • What is water lock on an Apple Watch?

    Water can activate your Apple Watch screen; enabling the Water Lock feature stops your watch from activating if you shower or swim. Selecting a water activity in the Workout app automatically turns on Water Lock. Or, go to Control Center > Water Lock to activate it.

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