How to unlock your iPhone if you forgot your passcode

One of the first things to do when setting up an iPhone is to set up a passcode along with Face ID or Touch ID. This protects the privacy of your data and ensures that others cannot access your iPhone, especially thieves. But you should also make sure that you don’t forget your iPhone passcode once you start using Face ID to unlock your phone.

It’s easy to forget the lock screen passcode if you don’t use it very often or if you’ve changed it recently. The good news is that there are still ways to get into your iPhone if that happens. The bad news is that you might lose some of the personal data you have stored on your iPhone. That’s where backups come in handy, though.

Don’t forget to backup your iPhone

There are a few ways to reset an iPhone after you forget the passcode and Face ID/Touch ID stops working. But each of them involves erasing the contents of the phone. Reader’s Digest compile a guide explaining your options based on Apple’s available documentation for such extreme iPhone troubleshooting.

But all these efforts will lead to the same result. You will wipe the phone and lose your contacts, messages, photos and app settings. Apple has implemented this specific iPhone behavior to ensure that third parties cannot access your data easily.

Whether it’s the police, a partner or a thief, you don’t want them to be able to reset your password and access your data. That is why unlocking iPhone after forgetting passcode means erasing everything.

With that in mind, make sure you have recent iPhone backups available so that data loss is minimal. You can back up to iCloud and have an automatic schedule for the backups.

The best option is to back up to a computer and make encrypted backups. These save the settings and passwords of all apps, making recovery even easier. But this process is not automatic as the iCloud backups.

How to unlock iPhone from the device

One way to unlock iPhone after forgetting the password is to pre erase iPhone option directly from the handset. The steps are simple, as Apple explains:

  • From your device Lock screentry entering your passcode until the “[Device] Not availablescreen will appear and your device will ask you to try again later. If successful, keep trying to enter your passcode until the “Security lock” screen will appear, and you will get the To clear [Device] option in the bottom corner of the screen.
  • Tap To clear [Device]and then tap To clear [Device] again to confirm.
  • Enter your Apple ID password to sign out of your Apple ID on your device.
  • Tap To clear [Device] to permanently delete all your data and settings.
  • When your device has rebooted, follow the onscreen instructions to reset your device, restore your data and settings from backup, and set a new passcode.
Erase an iPhone directly from the lock screen.
Erase an iPhone directly from the lock screen. Image source: Apple Inc.

Note that you need your Apple ID password here. Without this step, anyone could steal, erase and make your iPhone their own. Apple also recommends that users make sure to contact their carrier before wiping the handset if they are using the eSIM functionality.

How to unlock iPhone with a Mac or Windows PC

As with the previous method, you have to turn off your iPhone to unlock it after forgetting the passcode.

Turn off the iPhone

Turning off iPhone involves different gestures depending on your model. Here are the official options:

  • iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, iPhone X and later, including iPhone SE (2nd and 3rd generation): Press and hold both side button and volume down button until the shutdown slider appears.
  • iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 6s and iPhone 6: Press and hold the side button until the shutdown slider appears.
  • iPhone SE (1st generation), iPhone 5s and earlier: Press and hold the top button until the shutdown slider appears.

In either case, you’ll want to drag the slider to turn off your iPhone.

Enter Recovery Mode

After waiting a minute for the phone to turn off, you will want to enable recovery mode. Again, the process differs depending on your iPhone. From Apple:

  • iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, iPhone X and later, including iPhone SE (2nd and 3rd generation), use the Side knob.
  • iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus use the Reduce volume knob.
  • iPhone SE (1st generation) and iPhone 6s and earlier use the House knob.

While pressing the right button, you want to connect your computer to the iPhone without releasing the button.

Keep holding until you see the recovery mode icon on your iPhone.

Recovery screen on an iPhone.
Recovery screen on an iPhone. Image source: Apple Inc.

Restore your iPhone

Depending on the operating system, you may want to open Finder (macOS Catalina or later) or iTunes (Windows and macOS older than Catalina). Do you think iPhoneand then tap To recover.

Your computer will download the software and start the recovery process. If the download takes more than 15 minutes, you will need to enter recovery mode again after the download to complete the recovery.

This process applies to the previous iPhone unlock method – if you have erased iPhone from the lock screen. That is if you want to restore your iPhone from a Mac/Windows backup. Because the previous method also allows you to restore from iCloud if you have recent backups.

Using MacOS to Restore an iPhone.
Using MacOS to Restore an iPhone. Image source: Apple Inc.

Use Find My to unlock iPhone

Reader’s Digest also has another wireless alternative for unlocking an iPhone after forgetting the password. You can use Find my to do this by going to on a computer.

Open the Find My app after logging in, tap All devices and select the iPhone you are targeting. Press erase iphone, and that will get the job done. But again, this step involves knowing your Apple ID password.

On Macs, you can just open the standalone Find My app.

The process begins as soon as it connects to a known data network.

As with the previous methods, you still want to restore from an iCloud backup or connect to a computer for a local backup.

If this fails, you can always contact Apple Support for more advice.

What not to do

After you restore the iPhone, make sure to set a password that you remember. That way you don’t have to start the recovery process again.

Whichever method you choose, you should know that these are all safe, free-to-use unlocking procedures for iPhones (and iPads) after you forget the passcode.

You should not buy any third party apps to handle the process even if they promise no data loss. It is doubtful if they can deliver. And if they can, that means breaking Apple’s encryption, something you should be more concerned about than erasing personal data.

Finally, you should check out the below video from Apple Support on how to unlock an iPhone if you forgot the passcode. It covers the above methods, except the Find My procedure, with plenty of images to help you along the way.

More iPhone Coverage: For more iPhone news, visit our iPhone 14 guide.