Sure, iPhone passcodes are a pain — even if they only take a few seconds to enter — but the alternative is unthinkable. If you ever accidentally leave your iPhone in a public bathroom or some thief gets the better of you, that four- or six-digit passcode prevents access to all your private data.
The dreaded “iPhone is disabled” message pops up when you or someone else has entered the wrong passcode to your device more than six times. The more times you try the wrong code, the longer it will delay before you can actually enter the right passcode and once again be at one with your device. Depending on how you set up your iPhone, if you enter a wrong passcode 10 times, it will automatically wipe all data.
Here are a few easy ways to get out of this unfortunate situation — depending on the iPhone you own — and how to avoid it in the future.
Restore from iTunes in Recovery Mode
With your iPhone in hand, you can use your last iTunes backup to restore the data on your phone, and that is probably the easiest way to go. Most Mac and PC users have iTunes installed, even if they never use it as a backup. These days, Apple prefers that you use iCloud to back up your iPhone data, but many people still back up their iPhone playlists, movies, TV shows, books, and podcasts between their desktop computer and iPhone with iTunes.
Step 1: Power down your iPhone. Press the side or top button, depending on your iPhone model, until the power slider appears, and slide it to turn off.
Step 2: Power up your iPhone in Recovery Mode:
- Now, to connect with an iPhone 8 and later, connect the device to your computer while holding the Side button until you see the Recovery Mode screen.
- To connect with an iPhone 7, hold the Volume Down button until you see the Recovery Mode screen.
- For an iPhone 6S or earlier, connect your device to your computer while pressing the Home button until you see the Recovery Mode screen.
Step 3: Open iTunes. iTunes should be previously updated and closed before you connect your iPhone to prevent any confusing issues. Allow iTunes to detect your iPhone, and select your iPhone name from the side menu.
Step 4: When the option to Restore or Update appears, choose Restore and iTunes will download software for your device. Then proceed with a new setup and enter a new passcode, and you’re back in business. This will erase all data on your iPhone, so be prepared.
Step 5: If you have an iCloud backup, you should be able to restore from an iCloud backup during the setup process by selecting Restore from iCloud Backup (if you didn’t get a chance, go back into Settings, General, and choose to Erase All Content and Settings to start over). This only works if iCloud has a copy of your iPhone data to use. That’s is why it’s so handy to have a recent backup of your iPhone, although this can take up a lot of iCloud space.
You should always have the Find My app enabled on your device so that you can wipe it clean if it gets lost or stolen. Find My is a function of iCloud and uses the phone’s GPS and internet connection to locate it on a map so you can control certain features remotely. Find My works with iOS 5 and higher on the iPhone 3GS and newer iPhones, and will only work if it is enabled before the iPhone is lost, so enable it now.
You can use Find My to both find and/or remotely wipe your device. This will delete all data, as well as reset your phone so you can once again use it. If you made a habit of backing up your data to iCloud or iTunes, you can restore your phone to the most recent backup and salvage all or part of its contents. But even if you have to go back to factory settings, at least you will be able to protect your phone.
Step 1: To find your iPhone via iCloud, go to the iCloud webpage for finding devices, sign in with your Apple ID, and your Apple devices should automatically load in. Select All Devices at the top of the screen, and select your iPhone from the list.
Step 2: To remotely lock the device screen and set a new passcode, select Lost Mode/Mark as Lost. This prevents someone else from using the phone and accessing your personal data.
Step 3: If you need to erase your iPhone entirely (if you are pretty sure it was stolen, this may be a good idea), select Erase iPhone instead, and confirm.
Enable Touch ID or Face ID
Maybe you learned your lesson by inconveniently forgetting your passcode. There is an easier way to secure your phone: You can always employ Touch ID or Face ID instead of having to punch in a passcode. Use Touch ID or Face ID, depending on which iPhone model you own. The iPhone 5S up to iPhone 8 have the Touch ID option. If you have an iPhone X, XS, or XR, there’s no Touch ID option, you must use Face ID instead.
Whichever updated method is available to you, use it and you won’t need to enter an alphanumeric passcode quite so often. Just show your face or scan your finger and your device will recognize that it’s you and Open Sesame. But bear in mind that your iPhone will still prompt you for your passcode when you restart it or to change certain settings, so make sure you don’t forget that new passcode or you may find yourself locked out again.