What to Do When You've Forgotten Your Smartphone's Passcode

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What to Do If You’ve Forgotten Your Android Phone’s Passcode

Whether you made a mistake when setting it or you've been mind-wiped by aliens sometimes you just can't remember the PIN number or unlock pattern for your phone. Here are your options for getting back into your device.

Option One: Google's Official Method

Luckily, Android has a failsafe built-in. All you need to do is enter your passcode incorrectly five times. Once you do, you should see a new button pop up on the bottom of your screen that says "Forgot Passcode" (or something similar. Then, you should just be able to enter the Google credentials of the account attached to your phone and it'll prompt you to create a new passcode. Make sure you remember it this time—maybe even write it down and hide it—and you should be good to go. Of course, this assumes you remember your Google password, so it won't work for breaking into someone else's phone, nor will it work if you have full-blown amnesia. Sorry.

Option Two: Screen Lock Bypass

Unfortunately, the official Google method has been known to have some serious problems in the past—like, not working at all. If you find that this still doesn't let you into your device, you have another option. Free app Screen Lock Bypass will bypass your phone's lock screen every time you turn it on, so you don't need to type in your passcode anymore. However, it doesn't disable the passcode, it just bypasses it. We wouldn't recommend it as a long term solution, but you can use it to get back into your device and back up your apps before wiping it clean.

Just log into the Android Market's web interface and install the app to your device. Then, install one more app—it doesn't matter what app—and Screen Lock Bypass will automatically launch, letting you wake up your phone without a lock screen. It'll also launch itself whenever you reboot your phone, so you can turn your phone off and still access your data. Once again, you'll need your Google credentials to log into the web-based market, so evildoers and amnesiacs will not be able to use this method.

If you uninstall it, you'll have to deal with the lock pattern again, though, so like I said—now would be a good idea to back up your apps and wipe your phone.

What to Do If You’ve Forgotten Your iPhone’s Passcode

Some passcodes are so effective that even you can't remember what they are. If you've locked yourself out of your iPhone, it's not to complicated to get back in. Here's how.

The Methods That Don't Work

There are plenty of methods on the internet claiming to help you bypass the password you've set on your lock screen but most of them are ineffective. Older versions of iOS had a bug that allowed you to sneak in by making a fake emergency call. This no longer works. Other tutorials suggest that you can delete the passcode file from your iPhone's keychain directory using iExplorer, iPhone Browser, or SSH on your jailbroken device. That no longer works either. We even tested to see if Find My iPhone's passcode lock tool would allow us to set a new passcode lock and overwrite the one you'd forgotten. It does not.

While you're welcome to try out any methods you do find online, we've tested as many as we could locate and only one works. If you'd rather not spend your time trying tricks that no longer work, read on for instructions on the official method that does.

The Method That Always Works

Restoring your iPhone is a surefire way to wipe out the passcode or password you can't remember, but performing a normal restore won't work as your passcode will prevent it. (Arrgh!) Fortunately, this is easy to override. Just follow these steps:

  1. Even when your iPhone is locked up, you can still sync it with your computer. Do that first so all your data is backed up in iTunes. If you're using iCloud, you might want to switch it over to your computer for now just to be sure your information is safe.
  2. Put your iPhone into DFU mode. To do this, reboot your iPhone by holding down the power and home buttons simultaneously for about 10 seconds. When you see the Apple logo, let go of the power button but continue holding down the home button. Soon you will see an image displaying a USB cable, the iTunes icon, and a message that says "Connect to iTunes."
  3. Assuming you still have your iPhone connected to your computer with iTunes open, you'll also see a message telling you iTunes has detected an iPhone in recovery mode and needs to restore. Now you can click the Restore button in iTunes and then wait for iOS to download and install on your iPhone.
  4. Sync your iPhone with iTunes to restore all your data and you'll have it back to normal with no password!

It would be great if there were a simpler method, like some of the non-working options mentioned earlier, but unfortunately you have to go through this DFU restore process in order to get things back to normal. On the plus side, you know your iPhone's data is pretty securely locked down—so much so that even you couldn't get in.


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LAST UPDATED 10/25/2011