Can you unlock a disabled iPhone without losing everything?

Having a disabled iPhone can be extremely frustrating. You want to be able to use your phone, but it’s stuck behind the “iPhone is disabled” screen. Even worse, you don’t want to lose all the important data and memories stored on your device if you try to unlock it.

The good news is, in many cases, you can unlock your disabled iPhone without losing everything on it. However, the steps required depend on why your iPhone is disabled in the first place.

Reasons an iPhone may become disabled

There are a few main reasons an iPhone can become disabled:

  • You entered the wrong passcode too many times
  • You forgot your restrictions passcode
  • A software bug or glitch disabled the device
  • You performed a remote lock or erase

The way to unlock your iPhone without data loss depends on which of these scenarios applies to your device.

Unlock Method 1: Wrong Passcode Attempts

Entering the wrong passcode too many times is the most common reason iPhones become disabled. After 5 failed passcode attempts, your iPhone will disable itself for 1 minute. After 10 failed attempts, it disables for 5 minutes. Once you reach 10 failed passcodes, each subsequent failure doubles the disable time, maxing out at 1 hour.

If you go past 10 failed passcode attempts, you trigger a data wipe. At this point, your iPhone will offer you two options before erasing everything:

  1. Erase iPhone after 10 more failed passcodes
  2. Enter your recovery key to regain access

As long as you have your recovery key, you can unlock your disabled iPhone without losing data. Here’s how:

  1. When you see the recovery key option, select it.
  2. A screen will appear prompting you to enter your recovery key. This is a long alphanumeric code specific to your device.
  3. Find your recovery key by signing into and going to Settings > Account Recovery > Get Recovery Key.
  4. Carefully enter the recovery key on your iPhone.
  5. After entering the correct recovery key, your iPhone will unlock and you can set a new passcode.

Using your recovery key allows you to regain access to your iPhone without any data loss after too many failed passcode attempts.

What if I don’t have my recovery key?

If you don’t have your recovery key, your options are more limited.

You can continue entering passcodes until your iPhone erases itself. At that point, you can restore the iPhone from a backup to get your data back. However, any data created after your last backup will be lost.

Alternatively, you can take your iPhone to an Apple Store. They can unlock the device without erasing it in some cases. However, this option isn’t guaranteed to work.

Unlock Method 2: Forgotten Restrictions Passcode

If you enabled restrictions on your iPhone using a custom passcode but forgot the code, your device can become disabled.

When you enter the wrong restrictions passcode several times, you’ll trigger the iPhone’s data wipe like failing regular passcode attempts.

As with normal passcode disablement, you can avoid data loss if you have your recovery key. Just enter it when prompted to unlock your device.

If you don’t have your recovery key, your only option is to erase your iPhone by continuing to enter the wrong restrictions passcode. You can then restore from a backup, but will lose any data after the backup.

Unlock Method 3: Software Bugs or Glitches

Rarely, an iPhone can become disabled due to random software bugs or glitches. For example, some users reported becoming disabled after their battery died or attempting repairs using Apple diagnostics.

If a software issue caused the disablement, you’ll need to update or restore your iPhone software to fix it.

To perform a software restore:

  1. Connect your disabled iPhone to a computer.
  2. Open iTunes or Finder if you use a Mac.
  3. While holding the Home button, connect the USB cable to your computer.
  4. Keep holding the Home button until you see the Connect to iTunes screen.
  5. Select Restore iPhone on the Summary screen.
  6. Follow prompts to install the latest iOS version.

This type of restore fixes software issues that disabled your device while preserving your data.

Unlock Method 4: Remote Lock or Erase

Find My iPhone allows you to remotely lock or erase your iPhone if it becomes lost or stolen.

If you or someone else accidentally triggered a remote lock, you simply need your Apple ID and password to unlock it.

However, a remote erase resets your iPhone to factory settings, deleting your data.

Unless you have an iCloud or iTunes backup, your data will be lost after a remote iPhone erase. You can restore from a backup after unlocking, but will only recover data present at the time of the last backup.

Preventing iPhone Disablement

While you can usually unlock a disabled iPhone without data loss, it’s still an inconvenient situation. Use the following tips to avoid your iPhone becoming disabled in the first place:

  • Set a passcode you won’t forget, and avoid obvious number patterns.
  • Disable restrictions unless absolutely necessary.
  • Always maintain up-to-date iOS software to prevent glitches.
  • Be very careful about remote locking or erasing your device.
  • Frequently back up your iPhone data.
  • Store your recovery key in a safe place you can access if needed.


Having a disabled iPhone doesn’t necessarily mean losing your data. In many disablement scenarios, you can unlock your device without erasing everything. The key is having your recovery key or performing a software restore.

That said, you want to avoid iPhone disablement in the first place. Set a memorable passcode, keep backups, and store your recovery key somewhere safe. With a few preventive steps, you can avoid the hassle of an unusable iPhone.

Related Questions

Can you bypass disabled iPhone without computer?

No, there is no way to bypass a disabled iPhone without connecting the device to a computer. You need to use iTunes or Finder on a Mac/PC to either restore your iPhone software or erase the device entirely.

Can Apple Store unlock disabled iPhone?

Apple Stores can sometimes unlock an iPhone disabled by too many failed passcode attempts. However, this is not guaranteed to work – it depends on the specific circumstances. If the Apple Store can’t unlock it, your only options are erasing the iPhone or waiting for it to auto-erase after enough failed passcodes.

Can I reset my disabled iPhone without losing data?

It depends. You can reset a disabled iPhone without data loss if you have your recovery key, or if the disablement was caused by a software glitch and you do a restore. But if your only option is to enter passcodes until auto-erase, or erase the device remotely, your data will be deleted.

How long does iPhone stay disabled after failed passcode attempts?

The iPhone disable time depends on how many failed passcode attempts have been made:

Failed Passcode Attempts iPhone Disabled For
5 1 minute
6 5 minutes
7-10 15 minutes
11-15 1 hour
15+ 1 hour, doubling each time

Can you get data off a disabled iPhone?

If your iPhone is disabled but you haven’t erased it yet, you can get the data off before attempting any unlocking methods:

  1. Create an unencrypted iTunes or iCloud backup.
  2. Use a third party iOS data recovery tool to extract data from your iPhone.
  3. Manually transfer photos, videos, music, and other files from the iPhone storage.

This lets you salvage your data before any erase or restore processes that can cause data loss.

Is there any way to unlock disabled iPhone without losing data?

Yes, there are a few ways to unlock a disabled iPhone without losing your data:

  • Enter your recovery key if prompted after too many failed passcode attempts.
  • Use iTunes or Finder to restore your iPhone from a backup.
  • Bring your iPhone to an Apple Store for assistance unlocking it.

As long as your data is safely backed up, you can unlock the iPhone without permanent data loss. The key is avoiding any actions that will force the iPhone to perform a full erase.

What happens when you enter the wrong passcode too many times on iPhone?

Here is what happens when you consecutively enter the wrong iPhone passcode:

  1. After 5 failed attempts – iPhone disables for 1 minute
  2. After 6 failed attempts – iPhone disables for 5 minutes
  3. After 7-10 failed attempts – iPhone disables for 15 minutes
  4. After 11-15 failed attempts – iPhone disables for 1 hour
  5. After 15+ failed attempts – iPhone disables for 1 hour, doubling each subsequent time
  6. After 10+ failed attempts – iPhone provides option to enter recovery key or erase after 10 more failed passcodes

Once the auto-erase countdown begins, your only options are to enter the correct recovery key or wait for the iPhone to erase itself after 10 additional failed passcode attempts.

What should you do if you forget your iPhone restrictions passcode?

If you forget your iPhone’s restrictions passcode, follow these steps:

  1. Keep trying to enter the passcode you think is correct multiple times.
  2. If you exhaust all passcode attempts, your iPhone will become disabled and provide the recovery key option before auto-erase.
  3. Enter your recovery key if prompted to unlock the iPhone.
  4. If you don’t have the recovery key, you will need to erase your iPhone and restore from backup.
  5. Once unlocked, go to Settings > General > Reset > Reset All Settings to remove the forgotten restrictions passcode.

The recovery key gives you the best chance of unlocking your iPhone without data loss if you forget the restrictions passcode.

Can a software update or restore fix iPhone disabling issues?

Yes, sometimes software bugs and glitches can cause an iPhone to become disabled. In those cases, you can fix the issue without data loss by doing a software update or restore:

  • Update – Connect iPhone to computer > Open iTunes/Finder > Install Latest iOS Version
  • Restore – Connect iPhone to computer while holding Home button > Select Restore > Install Latest iOS

This wipes the software clean without deleting your data. If the disabling was caused by a software problem, this should allow your iPhone to work again.

However, a software restore won’t work if the iPhone is disabled for other reasons like forgetting the passcode. You’ll need to use the appropriate unlock method for your disable scenario.

If you lost your iPhone recovery key, is there any other way to unlock a disabled iPhone?

Unfortunately, the iPhone recovery key is the only way to unlock a disabled iPhone without erasing all data. If you lost your recovery key, there are still some options:

  • Keep trying passcodes until the iPhone erases, then restore from a recent backup.
  • Use professional data recovery services to manually pull data from the iPhone storage.
  • Bring the iPhone to Apple and hope they can unlock it without wiping data.

But without the recovery key, you are at risk of permanent data loss when trying to unlock the iPhone. That’s why it’s critical to always have a few copies of your recovery key stored in safe places you can access later.

Should I be concerned about iPhone disablement if I always use biometric unlocking?

Even if you predominantly use Face ID or Touch ID, you can still be at risk of iPhone disablement in some cases:

  • Too many failed fingerprint attempts will default back to passcode entry.
  • Some system updates temporarily disable biometric unlock.
  • Damage or Issues can prevent Face/Touch ID from working.

So while biometrics provide more convenient access, you should still take steps to prevent passcode-related disablement:

  • Create a strong passcode you can easily remember.
  • Store a copy of your recovery key somewhere safe.
  • Regularly back up your iPhone to preserve data if disabled.

Following best practices around passcodes and backups will keep your data safe, even if you mostly use Face/Touch ID day-to-day.

I performed a remote iPhone erase. Is there any way I can undo it and recover my data?

Unfortunately, there is no way to undo a remote iPhone erase from Find My iPhone. When you perform a remote erase, it factory resets the device and deletes all data permanently.

However, you may be able to recover some data if you had an iCloud or iTunes backup:

  1. Unlock your erased iPhone and go through setup screens.
  2. When prompted, choose to restore from your most recent iCloud or iTunes backup.
  3. This will re-sync your data from the backup to your iPhone storage.

While not everything can be recovered, this is your best chance of salvaging data after a remote wipe. Just don’t continue using the iPhone or overwrite the storage, or your backup data may be lost.


Having a disabled iPhone can be stressful, but doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve lost all your data permanently. As long as you have a few key things like your recovery key, recent backups, and the ability to restore software, you can usually get back into your iPhone without data loss.

The most important things are remaining calm, avoiding any forced erase procedures, and methodically following the right unlocking steps. With some careful effort, you can get past the disabled screen and regain access to your iPhone’s contents.