What to Do If You Forgot the Screen Time Passcode on Your iPhone or iPad

* This post is part of iPhone Life's Tip of the Day newsletter. . *

Forgot the Screen Time passcode (formerly known as the Restrictions passcode) on your iPhone or iPad? Don't panic! Although Apple hasn't set up a way to turn off iPhone restrictions when you forgot your restrictions passcode on your iPhone or iPad, this article has a sure-fire way to recover it without restoring your device or losing your data. We’ll also cover how to reset the restrictions passcode on your iPhone and how to turn off Screen Time restrictions completely. Here’s what to do if you forgot your Restrictions passcode on your iPhone or iPad.  

Related: How to Use Screen Time to Set Content Restrictions on Your iPhone & iPad

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What's in This Article:

What Is a Restrictions Passcode? What Is a Screen Time Passcode?

If you had Restrictions enabled on your iPhone or iPad before iOS 12, your Restrictions passcode is now your Screen Time passcode, without any extra effort on your part. If you have an older device running iOS 11 or earlier, you still have Restrictions and a Restrictions passcode rather than Screen Time. The steps are the same for recovering either type of passcode.

A Screen Time passcode prevents unauthorized changes to Screen Time settings. Screen Time replaced Restrictions starting with iOS 12 and is Apple's way of letting parents set limits on their child's iPhone and iPad use and also of helping its users monitor and reduce their iPhone and iPad use. It allows users to set limits on which apps they can use on their device and for how long. If you choose to set a passcode when setting up Screen Time, that passcode must be entered in order to change the Screen Time restrictions or to turn off Screen Time altogether. Most adults choose not to set a Screen Time passcode on their own devices. Most parents prefer to set a Screen Time restrictions passcode when enabling parental controls on their children's iPhone or iPad. 

Ultimately, this has come back to bite a lot of people who either set up the restrictions passcode so long ago that it is now forgotten. Or who didn’t even realize they had a restrictions passcode set up until they tried to set up Screen Time for the first time. And if you forget the Screen Time passcode, it’s nearly impossible to reset the it without restoring your iPhone or iPad and losing your data. Unless you use the work-around in this article.

What to Do If You Forgot Your Screen Time Passcode

If you forget the Screen Time or Restrictions passcode on your iPhone or iPad, you will need to recover it. After that you may want to reset or turn off the passcode. You may even want to turn Screen Time off completely. Here's how.

How to Recover Your Screen Time (Restrictions) Passcode

To reset a forgotten Screen Time passcode on your iPhone, you will first need create an encrypted back up of your iPhone on a computer, download the free online software that we recommend, and then use the software to recover the forgotten passcode from your backup. If something goes wrong, you can also use the backup to restore your iPhone. 

Back up your iPhone to your computer:

  1. To back up your iPhone to a PC or Mac running macOS Mojave, simply plug your iPhone into your computer and open iTunes.
  2. To back up your iPhone to a Mac running macOS Catalina, plug your iPhone into your Mac and open Finder
  3. Select the little phone icon that appears when you plug in your iPhone.
  4. Under Backups, select This computer and make sure Encrypt iPhone Backup is checked. (The Screen Time passcode will only be saved in encrypted backups.)
  5. If you haven’t encrypted your iPhone backup before, you'll be asked to set a password. Make sure it is something you will remember. If you think you won't remember it, come back and turn off backup encryption right away after recovering your passcode.
  6. Click Back Up Now.

Download Decipher Backup Browser:

I was able to use Decipher Backup Browser to recover my Screen Time passcode without problems; however, there is always a risk when downloading software from the internet, so keep that in mind.

  1. Open https://deciphertools.com/download-decipher-backup-browser.html in a web browser on your computer.
  2. Download the free trial version you need: PC or Mac.
  3. Open the file that downloads and drag the software icon into your Applications folder (on Macs).
  4. Open Decipher Backup Browser


     
  5. The first time you use Decipher Backup Browser you will see a screen called Getting Started that explains how to allow Backup Browser to access your iPhone’s backup


     
  6. To grant Decipher Backup Browser access to iPhone backups on your Mac, go to System Preferences. 


     
  7. Click Security & Privacy > Privacy > Full Disk Access.
  8. If Necessarey, Click the lock icon and enter the administrator username and password


     
  9. Drag the Backup Browser icon from the open Backup Browser window into the list of applications with full disk access.


     
  10. Quit Decipher Backup Browser and then relaunch it.
  11. Click on the backup of your iPhone.


     
  12. Enter your backup encryption password and click OK.


     
  13. The contents of your iPhone backup will appear in the center column.
  14. Click on Screen Time Passcode (or Restrictions Passcode Cracker for iOS 11 and earlier.)
  15. Your passcode will appear in the right hand corner.

Now you can open Screen Time on your iPhone, enter the passcode, and change what you need to or turn Screen Time off.

Once you have successfully recovered and removed or changed your Screen Time passcode, I recommend returning to System preferences > Security & Privacy > Privacy > Full Disk Access and unchecking the box next to Backup Browser. You can also delete the software from your computer by opening the Applications folder on your Mac and dragging Backup Browser to the Trash.

How to Reset the Screen Time Passcode on Your iPhone

If you no longer want to use the recovered Screen Time passcode, you can change it in the Screen Time settings.

  1. Open the iPhone Settings app.
  2. Tap Screen Time.

    Settings app iconScreen Time settings
     
  3. Tap Change Screen Time Passcode.
  4. Confirm by selecting Change Screen Time Passcode from the menu that pops up.

    Change screen time passcodeConfirm change screen time passcode
     
  5. Enter the forgotten Restrictions passcode you just got using the information above.

    Enter old screen time passcode
     
  6. Enter your new passcode and then re-enter to verify.

    Enter New Screen Time passcodeverify new screen time passcode

How to Turn Off the Screen Time Passcode on Your iPhone

  1. Open the Settings app.
  2. Tap Screen Time.
  3. Tap Change Screen Time Passcode and select Turn Off Screen Time Passcode from the menu that pops up.
  4. Enter the passcode you just recovered.

    Turn off screen time passcodeEnter screen time passcode

The Screen Time passcode has been turned off.

How to Turn Off Screen Time

  1. Open the Settings app.
  2. Tap Screen Time.
  3. Tap Turn Off Screen Time.

    turn off screen time
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Jim Karpen's picture

Jim Karpen holds a Ph.D. in literature and writing, and has a love of gizmos. His doctoral dissertation focused on the revolutionary consequences of digital technologies and anticipated some of the developments taking place in the industry today. Jim has been writing about the Internet and technology since 1994 and has been using Apple's visionary products for decades.