iPhones can become locked or Activation Locked for various reasons, like forgetting your passcode or buying a used iPhone that’s still linked to the previous owner’s Apple ID. Unlocking your iPhone through iTunes is one way to get around Activation Lock so you can erase and use the iPhone again.
What does it mean if an iPhone is locked or Activation Locked?
A locked iPhone essentially means the iPhone is disabled and unusable. There are a few types of locked iPhones:
- Passcode locked – You enabled a passcode on the iPhone but can’t remember it.
- Disabled – The iPhone has been disabled after too many failed passcode attempts.
- Activation Locked – The previous owner’s Apple ID is still linked to the iPhone.
An Activation Locked iPhone occurs when you buy a used iPhone and the previous owner’s Apple ID is still associated with it in Find My iPhone. Until that association is removed, the iPhone remains Activation Locked and unusable by a new owner.
How to check if an iPhone is Activation Locked
To check if a used iPhone you purchased is Activation Locked:
- Turn on the iPhone and go through the initial setup screens.
- When you get to the Activation Lock screen, the previous owner’s Apple ID will be displayed if it’s still linked to the iPhone.
- If you see an Apple ID, it means the iPhone is Activation Locked. You won’t be able to fully set up and use the iPhone until the previous owner removes it from their Find My iPhone account.
What you’ll need to unlock an iPhone through iTunes
To unlock a locked iPhone via iTunes, you’ll need:
- The locked iPhone
- A computer with the latest version of macOS or Windows and iTunes
- For Activation Locked iPhones, the previous owner’s Apple ID and password
How to unlock a passcode locked iPhone with iTunes
If you forgot your iPhone’s passcode and it has become disabled from too many failed attempts, you can unlock it through iTunes by restoring the iPhone.
- Connect your locked iPhone to your computer and open iTunes.
- Select your iPhone in iTunes. Click Summary in the sidebar.
- Click Restore iPhone below the Summary section. This will wipe the iPhone and install the latest iOS software.
- Set up the iPhone from scratch once the restore finishes. You’ll be able to use the iPhone again with a new passcode.
How to remove Activation Lock using iTunes
If you have a used iPhone that’s Activation Locked to the previous owner’s Apple ID, unlocking it is more complicated. You’ll need to get the previous owner to turn off Activation Lock before you can use iTunes to restore the iPhone.
Here are the steps the previous owner needs to take to disable Activation Lock:
- Go to iCloud.com and login with the Apple ID linked to the iPhone.
- Click Find iPhone.
- Select the Activation Locked iPhone.
- Click Remove from Account to delete the iPhone from the Apple ID.
- Confirm turning off Activation Lock. This will disable it from the previous owner’s account and allow you to restore the iPhone.
Once Activation Lock is disabled, connect the iPhone to your computer and use iTunes to restore it to complete the unlock process:
- Open iTunes on your computer with the iPhone connected.
- Click Summary and then Restore iPhone to wipe the iPhone and reinstall iOS.
- Set up the iPhone with your own Apple ID once the restore finishes.
What to do if you can’t get the previous owner’s info
If you can’t contact the previous owner or don’t have their Apple ID, you won’t be able to turn off Activation Lock yourself. Some options if you can’t disable Activation Lock include:
- Contact Apple Support with proof of purchase for assistance removing Activation Lock.
- Take the iPhone to an Apple Store to see if they can look up and contact the previous owner on your behalf.
- Use a third-party unlocking service, but beware of scams.
Additional ways to unlock a locked iPhone
Beyond using iTunes, there are some other options for unlocking iPhones depending on the type of lock:
- Disabled iPhone – Connect the iPhone to iTunes and enter recovery mode to restore. Or enter DFU mode and connect to iTunes to force a restore.
- Forgot Passcode – Use an iPhone unlocking software that can bypass the passcode.
- Carrier Locked – Contact your carrier for an unlock code if the iPhone is carrier locked to only allow that carrier’s SIM.
Tips to avoid getting locked out of your iPhone
To avoid the hassle of unlocking an iPhone, follow these tips:
- Don’t buy used iPhones that are still Activation Locked or carrier locked.
- Setup Find My iPhone on your iPhone with your Apple ID in case it’s ever lost or stolen.
- Don’t forget your passcode. Write it down or save it somewhere safe.
- Enable touch/face ID and/or USB restricted mode for additional passcode security.
- Keep your iPhone software up to date to get the latest security fixes.
Frequently Asked Questions
How can I tell if my iPhone is locked or disabled?
If your iPhone is locked or disabled you’ll see the Connect to iTunes or enter passcode to enable iPhone screen when you turn it on. If you see the Activation Lock screen when powering on a used iPhone, it means Find My iPhone is still enabled by the previous owner.
What happens when you restore an iPhone in iTunes?
Restoring an iPhone in iTunes will wipe the device and reinstall the latest iOS software version. It removes any passcode and breaks any Activation Lock allowing you to set up the iPhone from scratch.
Will resetting an iPhone through iTunes delete everything?
Yes, resetting an iPhone via iTunes will factory reset the device to its default state. All settings, data, apps, photos, and content stored on the iPhone will be deleted. Be sure to backup your iPhone data before restoring through iTunes.
Can Apple remove Activation Lock?
Apple can help remove Activation Lock in some cases if you provide proof of purchase. Contact Apple Support with your iPhone’s serial number and receipt to see if they can verify your ownership and disable Activation Lock remotely.
How much does it cost to unlock an iPhone?
The cost to unlock an iPhone depends on the unlocking method:
|Third Party Service
Using iTunes or contacting Apple Support for help removing Activation Lock are free options. Carrier unlocks range from $5-$30 typically. Third party unlocking services average $10-$100 depending on the method used.
Unlocking a locked or Activation Locked iPhone through iTunes involves erasing and restoring the device to factory settings. If your iPhone is passcode locked, you can unlock it yourself this way. But if it’s Activation Locked you’ll need the previous owner’s Apple ID to disable Find My iPhone first before restoring.
Keeping your software updated, enabling Find My iPhone, remembering your passcode, and avoiding used devices with Activation Lock can help prevent iPhone locking issues. Contact Apple Support if you get stuck and cannot disable Find My iPhone on your own. With the proper steps, you can successfully unlock your iPhone through iTunes.