Sure, iPhone passcodes are annoying – 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 if a thief overpowers you, that four- or six-digit passcode prevents access to all your private data.
The dreaded “iPhone has been disabled” message appears when you or someone else has entered the wrong passcode on your device more than six times. The more times you try the wrong code, the longer it will take you to actually enter the correct passcode and be one with your device again. Depending on how you set up your iPhone, all data will be automatically erased if you enter a wrong passcode 1
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.
Recover from iTunes in recovery mode
With your iPhone in hand, you can use your latest iTunes backup to restore the data on your phone, and that’s probably the easiest way to go. Most Mac and PC users have iTunes installed, even if they never use it as a backup. Today, Apple prefers you to 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: Turn off 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: Turn on your iPhone in recovery mode:
- Now to connect to an iPhone 8 and later, connect the device to your computer while using the Side button until you turn it Recovery mode screen.
- To connect to an iPhone 7, press and hold the Reduce volume button until you turn it Restore Mode screen.
- For an iPhone 6S or older: Connect your device to your computer while on the House button until you turn it Recovery mode screen.
Step 3: Open iTunes. iTunes should be updated and closed before connecting your iPhone to avoid confusing issues. Let iTunes detect your iPhone and select your iPhone name from the side menu.
Step 4: When the option to To recover or Updating appears, select To recover and iTunes will download software for your device. Then proceed with a fresh installation and enter a new passcode and you can get back to work. This shall 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 installation process by selecting Recover from iCloud backup (if you didn’t get a chance, go back to Settings, General, and choose it Erase all content and settings start over). This only works if iCloud can use a copy of your iPhone data. That’s why it’s so useful to have a recent backup of your iPhone, although it can take up a lot of iCloud space.
You should always have the Find My app enabled on your device so that you can erase it if it is lost or stolen. Find My is a feature of iCloud and uses the phone’s GPS and Internet connection to locate it on a map, allowing you to control certain functions remotely. Find My works with iOS 5 and later on iPhone 3GS and newer iPhones, and only works if turned on before iPhone was lost, so turn it on now.
You can use Find My to locate and / or remotely wipe your device. This will delete all data and reset your phone so that you can use it again. If you’ve made a habit of backing up your data to iCloud or iTunes, you can restore your phone to the most recent backup and restore some or all of its contents. But even if you need to go back to factory settings, at least you can protect your phone.
Step 1: To find your iPhone through iCloud, go to the iCloud webpage to search for devices, sign in with your Apple ID and your Apple devices will be loaded automatically. Select All Devices at the top of the screen and select your iPhone from the list.
Step 2: Select to remotely lock the device screen and set a new passcode Lost mode / Mark as lost. This prevents anyone else from using the phone and accessing your personal information.
Step 3: If you need to completely erase your iPhone (if you’re pretty sure it was stolen, this could be a good idea), select Erase the iPhone instead and confirm.
Turn on Touch ID or Face ID
Maybe you learned your lesson by clumsily forgetting your passcode. There is an easier way to secure your phone: you can always use Touch ID or Face ID instead of entering a password. Use Touch ID or Face ID depending on the iPhone model you own. The iPhone 5S to iPhone 8 have the option Touch ID. If you have an iPhone X, XS or XR there is no Touch ID option, you will have to use Face ID instead.
Whatever updated method is available to you, use it and you won’t have to enter an alphanumeric passcode as often. Just show your face or scan your finger and your device will recognize it’s you and Open Sesame. However, keep in mind that your iPhone will still ask you for your passcode when you reboot it or to change certain settings, so make sure not to forget that new passcode or you may be locked out again.