Unlocking an iPhone without performing a factory reset is possible in some cases. There are a few different methods that allow you to unlock your iPhone while keeping your data intact.
What does it mean to unlock an iPhone?
When you purchase an iPhone, it is typically “locked” to the carrier that you bought it from. This means it can only be used with a SIM card from that specific carrier. For example, if you purchase an iPhone from AT&T, it will only work with AT&T SIM cards.
Unlocking an iPhone removes this carrier restriction. It allows you to use your iPhone with SIM cards from other carriers. For example, you could unlock an iPhone purchased from AT&T and then use it with a T-Mobile or Verizon SIM card.
There are a few main reasons you may want to unlock your iPhone:
- To use your iPhone with a different carrier when traveling internationally
- To switch to a new carrier before your contract with your current carrier is up
- To be able to resell your iPhone to someone who uses a different carrier
Unlocking allows much more flexibility in how and where you can use your iPhone.
Can I unlock my iPhone without resetting it?
In most cases, yes you can unlock your iPhone without having to wipe it and reset it back to factory default settings. There are a few methods that allow you to preserve your data and settings when unlocking.
The easiest and most straightforward way to unlock an iPhone is to request a carrier unlock from the carrier it is currently locked to. You are eligible for a carrier unlock after meeting certain requirements:
- The iPhone must be paid off completely (or you have to have completed a certain number of payments).
- Your account must be in good standing.
- The iPhone must not currently be reported lost or stolen.
- You must satisfy the minimum contract period.
Exact eligibility requirements can vary between carriers. If you meet the requirements, you can contact your carrier and request they send an unlock directly to your iPhone over the air. This unlock will allow you to use your iPhone with other carriers without having to wipe your device.
Third-party Unlocking Services
There are many third-party unlocking services that can also unlock your iPhone without wiping it. These services use various methods to unlock devices, typically by exploiting backdoors in the iPhone software. Reputable unlocking services will be able to unlock your iPhone without the need to reset it.
The main downsides to third-party unlocks are:
- They do not have a 100% success rate.
- The unlocks can sometimes be temporary and get relocked after iOS updates.
- Apple may disable certain features like iMessage or FaceTime on the phone.
However, for many people third-party services are still a good option to avoid having to wipe the iPhone when unlocking it.
Another method is using a DSU (Domestic SIM Unlock) tool to unlock the iPhone. This involves using a SIM card from another carrier and special unlocking software to generate an unlock code. The unlock code can then be entered on the iPhone to unlock it without needing to erase it.
A DSU unlock has some risks of rendering the iPhone unusable if the incorrect codes are entered too many times. But when done properly it can reliably unlock without wiping the device.
When would I need to do a factory reset to unlock iPhone?
In some circumstances, you will still need to perform a factory reset when unlocking an iPhone:
- If you cannot get a carrier unlock approved and need to use a third-party service or tool.
- If you forget your passcode and cannot access the iPhone.
- If you need to bypass Activation Lock.
- If you need to downgrade the iOS version to unlock.
Basically, if you cannot access the iPhone itself to enter codes or change settings, then you will most likely need to factory reset it in order to complete the unlock.
Factory resetting deletes all data and settings from your iPhone and restores it to original factory conditions. So you would need to set it up again from scratch after the unlock.
How to backup iPhone before unlocking and factory reset
If you do need to wipe your iPhone for the unlock process, make sure to properly back up your iPhone data beforehand.
There are two main methods to backup an iPhone:
- iCloud backup – You can enable and configure iCloud backups on your iPhone in the Settings app. It will automatically backup your data and settings to Apple’s servers.
- iTunes backup – Connect your iPhone to a computer and open iTunes. You can then do a full backup of your iPhone data to your computer.
Make sure you complete a full backup using one or both methods before wiping the iPhone. This will allow you to restore your data on the iPhone once it has been unlocked.
Encrypted backups will save the most data, including saved passwords and health data. Non-encrypted backups will not save some sensitive information.
How to restore iPhone data after unlocking
Once your iPhone has been wiped and unlocked, you can restore your data back on it:
- When setting up the unlocked iPhone, choose to restore from an iCloud or iTunes backup during the setup process.
- Log in with your Apple ID and choose the backup you want to restore from.
- The iPhone will then download your data and settings from the backup.
This will restore your data like contacts, photos, app data, settings, etc back onto your iPhone so you have it just like it was before the unlock.
To summarize the key points:
- It is possible to unlock an iPhone without wiping it in many cases using carrier unlocking, third-party services, or DSU tools.
- Factory resetting is required if you cannot access the iPhone or need to downgrade iOS.
- Always fully back up your iPhone before factory resetting it for unlocking.
- You can restore your data back to the unlocked iPhone from the backup afterwards.
While unlocking an iPhone without losing data is possible in many situations, there still are cases where wiping and factory resetting the device are unavoidable. Be sure to fully back up your iPhone before undergoing any unlock procedure.
Unlocking your iPhone allows much greater flexibility in choosing carriers and where you can use your device. Just be sure to understand the risks and procedures before attempting to unlock your iPhone.
In the next section, I will provide some frequently asked questions and answers related to unlocking iPhones without factory resetting.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it illegal to unlock an iPhone?
No, it is not illegal to unlock an iPhone in the United States. The practice of phone unlocking was made legal in 2014 when the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act was signed into law. As long as you own your iPhone and have satisfied any contractual obligations, it is perfectly legal to unlock it.
Does unlocking void iPhone warranty?
Unlocking an iPhone through official carrier methods does not void the warranty. However, if you damage components while doing a third-party unlock, that would void the warranty. Unauthorized modifications can also prompt Apple to deny warranty claims.
Can Apple unlock my iPhone?
Apple cannot directly unlock iPhones. You need to contact the carrier it is currently locked to for an official unlock. Apple can provide the name of the carrier upon request.
How much does it cost to unlock an iPhone?
The cost to unlock an iPhone depends on the method:
- Carrier unlocking – Free to $50 USD in most cases
- Third-party services – Around $15 to $30 USD on average
- DSU unlocking – Around $3 for an unlock code
Shop around to find a reputable unlocking service at a reasonable price. Avoid free or very cheap unlocking options as these are often scams.
How long does it take to unlock an iPhone typically?
Unlocking timeframes are:
- Carrier unlocking – Within 1-3 business days in most cases
- Third-party service – Within 1-2 business days
- DSU unlocking – Dependent on user but can be done in under an hour
So you can usually get your iPhone unlocked without having to wait too long by using one of the reliable unlocking methods.
Can I relock my iPhone after unlocking it?
No, there is no way to relock an iPhone back to a specific carrier once it has been officially carrier unlocked. The only way is to completely factory reset the iPhone to wipe the unlock.
Will unlocking affect my data plan or coverage?
Unlocking has no impact on your cell coverage or data plan. It only allows you to use the iPhone with SIM cards from different carriers. Your original carrier service is not affected.
Do all iPhone models get unlocked the same way?
The various iPhone unlocking methods work universally for all iPhone models. The unlocking process is the same whether you have an iPhone 5, X, 11 or older models.
Can I unlock an iPhone to use internationally?
Yes, unlocking allows you to use your iPhone with international SIM cards when traveling outside your home country. It removes the carrier limitations that would otherwise prevent international roaming.
Summary of Key Facts
Here is a quick summary of the key facts covered about unlocking an iPhone without reset:
|Carrier unlock keeps data||An official carrier unlock keeps all your data and settings intact.|
|Third-party services work||Reputable third-party unlock services can usually unlock without wiping data.|
|Reset needed sometimes||A full reset is required if you cannot access the iPhone or need to downgrade iOS.|
|Back up before reset||Always fully back up your iPhone before a factory reset.|
|Restore after unlocking||You can restore your data back after unlocking from a backup.|
|Unlocking is legal||Unlocking your iPhone is legal in the United States.|
|Works on all models||Unlocking works the same for all iPhone models.|
Step-by-Step Guide to Unlock iPhone without Resetting
Follow this step-by-step guide if you need to unlock your iPhone without losing data:
- Back up iPhone fully via iCloud and iTunes.
- Contact carrier support and request official unlock.
- If carrier won’t unlock, use reputable third-party unlock service.
- Receive and enter unlock confirmation code.
- Check unlock status under Settings > General > About.
- Insert new carrier SIM card to test unlock.
- Use phone as normal with new carrier.
If you follow these steps, you should be able to successfully unlock your iPhone without having to wipe it and lose all your information.
How Unlocking iPhone can Save You Money
Unlocking your iPhone doesn’t just give you more flexibility – it can also save you a lot of money with the right strategy.
Here are some ways that unlocking your iPhone can benefit you financially:
- Avoid expensive international roaming fees – Unlocking allows you to insert local SIM cards when traveling internationally instead of paying huge roaming charges.
- Switch to cheaper carrier deals – You can change to cheaper carrier options instead of being stuck in your current expensive plan.
- Resell at higher value – Unlocked iPhones have far higher resale values as they work across multiple carriers.
- Use prepaid SIMs – An unlocked iPhone lets you use cheap prepaid SIM plans and swap SIMs to get the best deals.
By unlocking your iPhone, you gain access to more affordable SIM-only plans that could save you hundreds of dollars per year on cell phone service. It gives you the flexibility to always seek out and switch to the best deals.
Average Savings from Unlocking iPhone
On average, unlocking your iPhone can save you:
- $150-300 per year on cell phone service by switching plans
- $500+ on international travel by avoiding roaming
- $100-300 when reselling your used iPhone
The savings will depend on your specific usage, travel habits, and other factors. But most people can save money in the long run by unlocking their iPhones.
Cost of Unlocking vs. Savings
|Unlock Cost||Potential Savings|
|$0-50 carrier unlock||$150-800+ per year|
|$15-30 third-party service||$150-800+ per year|
As you can see, the one-time cost of unlocking is very small compared to the significant savings you can achieve over the life of your iPhone.
Unlocking your iPhone provides much more flexibility in how, where and with which carrier you can use your device. While factory resetting is required in some cases, there are reliable methods to unlock your iPhone without data loss in many situations.
Make sure to do a full backup, understand the risks and costs, and choose a reputable unlocking method. This will allow you to successfully unlock your iPhone so you can use it freely and save money in the long run.