How to bypass a forgotten passcode on iPhone or iPad
Forgetting or losing your iPhone or iPad’s passcode (or alphanumeric password) is a serious situation, but not necessarily a disastrous one. In this tutorial we explain how to ‘hack’ or bypass the passcode, and change it: you’ll have to restore your device, wiping its contents, but at least you’ll be able to use it again.
If you have a bit more confidence – and a legitimate reason to want to access an iPhone for which you haven’t got the code – then there is software that can help in more sophisticated ways. We discuss your options here too.
Finally, we cover the basics of removing or resetting the passcode once you’ve managed to access your iOS device.
Is it legal to
hack an iPhone passcode?
Bypassing passcodes, generally speaking, is veering towards what we’d call the “black hat” (or legally questionable) side of tech support, but plenty of people forget their passcodes. In these instances, you’ll need to get around the code to use your own device. Nothing dodgy about that.
If you’re reading this page because you stole an iPhone and then discovered it was locked, however, the police have already been notified and are on their way as we speak. Well, perhaps not, but you will find nothing to help you in this article.
Restore your device using Recovery Mode
To change the passcode on an iPhone or iPad in the normal way, you need the original passcode – which isn’t much help here. If you haven’t got the passcode, restoring and starting again is the best and simplest solution. This removes your personal data, but if you’ve got a backup you can restore it and it’ll be as good as new, except no longer protected by the passcode.
Trying to restore the device from iTunes requires a passcode, but you can restore it from Recovery Mode without one. This wipes the device completely and installs the latest version of iOS from scratch.
Note that you will need the Apple ID and password that were used to originally set up the device. That’s the password for the Apple ID, of course, rather than the passcode for the device – they’re two separate things.
Follow these steps to restore an iPad or iPhone from Recovery Mode:
- Charge up the device to at least 20 percent.
- On your Mac or PC, close down iTunes if it’s open. Connect your iPhone or iPad, and now (re-)open iTunes, assuming it doesn’t do so automatically.
- Now force-restart your iDevice. (If it’s an 8 or 8 Plus, or any iPhone without a Home button, press and release volume up, press and release volume down, then press and hold the power button until you see the connect to iTunes screen shown above. If it’s an iPhone 7 or 7 Plus, hold volume down and the power button at the same time, until you see the iTunes screen. For any other iDevice, you should hold the Home and power buttons at the same time.)
- You’ll now get the option to Restore or Update – the latter takes slightly longer because it downloads the latest iOS software, but either should do the trick.
- Set up your device.
Note that the above applies to macOS Mojave and earlier. If you’ve upgraded to Catalina, iTunes will have been removed from your system and you will use Finder instead.
Your device will now be up and running as before but without a passcode. You may be prompted to enter your Apple ID, depending on the version of iOS you’re running.
If you do set a passcode and you’re looking to remove it completely, after having access to your iOS device, then simply go into Settings > Touch ID & Passcode (or Face ID & Passcode), then tap ‘Turn Passcode Off’.
Use forensic software
Every so often someone discovers (or claims to discover) a technique to bypass the Apple passcode. This is sometimes a sort of ‘finger-tapping’ trick that enables the person to access something on a locked device: typically either Contacts or Messages. This isn’t hacking the passcode, it’s merely bypassing it.
Forget the finger tricks you’ll see in YouTube videos. It is possible to hack the passcode, but you need serious software to do so. This is known as forensics software because law enforcement agencies use them when analysing a mobile phone.
We tested Elcomsoft iOS Forensic Toolkit and found it a reliable means of cracking an iPad’s passcode. The software is not available to the general public and you will need to apply for a licence (and show your credentials).