iPad or iPhone Disabled? The 4 Best Ways to Unlock Your Device (2020)

If someone unsuccessfully attempts to unlock an iPhone or iPad too many times, an "iPhone is Disabled" message will inevitably pop up. Prior to macOS Catalina, an "iPhone is Disabled, Connect to iTunes" message would appear. iPhones are disabled for security reasons—otherwise a hacker could sit there and try every possible combination until they got in. But just because your iPhone is disabled doesn’t mean someone tried to unlock your device without permission. An iPhone or iPad may become disabled if a child plays around and gets locked out. If you forgot your iPhone passcode, you may enter too many digits and end up with a disabled iPhone. Luckily, there are multiple solutions to this problem. Here’s how to fix a disabled iPhone by using Finder, connecting to iTunes or iCloud, or using Recovery Mode.

Related: iPhone Virus Warnings: How to Get Rid of Fake Security Alerts on Your iPhone

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Why Is My iPhone Disabled?

An iPhone will become disabled after six different failed passcode attempts. That means you can try to unlock your device five times before it will lock you out. On the sixth attempt, your iPhone will be disabled for one minute. The seventh attempt will lock you out of your disabled iPhone for five minutes, the eighth attempt for fifteen, and the tenth for sixty minutes. But if you reach attempt number ten and have still not successfully entered the correct passcode, you’ll receive the message that your iPhone is Disabled. Unless, of course, you have your iPhone set to erase after ten failed passcode attempts.

iPhone Disabled? Which Method Should You Use to Unlock It?

Unfortunately, there is no way to unlock a disabled iPhone or iPad, which means we’ll be using Finder, iTunes, iCloud, or Recovery Mode to erase your device. You'll then need to restore your device with an iTunes or iCloud backup. Once we’ve erased your device and gotten it out of disabled mode, we can focus on restoring your device. Here are some guidelines on what method might work best for you:

  1. If you're using a Mac updated to macOS Catalina, you'll use the Finder.
  2. If your Mac isn't updated to macOS Catalina or you have a PC, you'll use the iTunes method.
  3. If you’re signed into iCloud and have Find My iPhone enabled, use the iCloud method.
  4. If you don’t use iCloud and can’t use the Finder or iTunes, Recovery Mode is for you.

iPad or iPhone Disabled? First Fix: Connect to iTunes

If you have a locked or disabled iPhone or iPad and have a PC, or haven't updated your Mac to Catalina, this is the first solution you should try.

  1. Plug your iPhone into your computer using your USB cord. If it doesn’t automatically open, launch iTunes.
  2. In iTunes, click on the icon of your device, located near the top and toward the left side of the screen. This will open all the information about your device and what’s on it.
  3. Tap Summary. There, you will see the option to Restore iPhone. Click on that.


     
  4. If you get an error message that Find My iPhone must be turned off, use the iCloud method or Recovery Mode instead.
  5. Follow the on screen instructions. This will completely erase your iPhone, so it’s important you know you have a recent backup either in iTunes or iCloud.
  6. Once your iPhone has been restored, it will start up like any new iPhone would. Follow the set up process. When it’s time to restore from a backup, use either the most recent iTunes or iCloud backup available.

If, for whatever reason, this doesn’t work for you (and you don’t meet the iCloud method requirements) skip to using Recovery Mode.

Fix Your Disabled iPad or iPhone Using Finder

If you have a Mac that's been updated to Catalina, use Finder to unlock your device.

  1. Connect your device to your computer with a USB cable. Your computer may initiate Trust This Computer or ask for a passcode.
  2. Choose your device from the Finder menu, then choose Restore Backup.
  3. Choose your backup (the most recent before your device locked). If your backups are encrypted, you'll need to enter a password. 

    restore from finder
     
  4. Keep your device connected to your computer until it restarts and syncs

Fix Your Disabled iPhone or iPad with iCloud

  1. On your computer, open a browser and visit icloud.com/find.
  2. Log in with your Apple ID and password.
  3. Select All Devices at the top.
  4. Click on the device (iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch) of yours that is currently disabled.
  5. Click Erase iPhone, then confirm.


     
  6. Enter your Apple ID password to authenticate.
  7. Once your device has been wiped, it will power up as any new iPhone would.


  8. Go through the set up process. When it’s time to restore from a backup, use your most recent backup via either iTunes or iCloud.

Use Recovery Mode to Fix Your Disabled iPhone or iPad

If your computer doesn't recognize your iPhone or iPad, or says it's in recovery mode, you can use recovery mode to set up your device from scratch.

  1. Plug your iPhone into your computer with your USB cable. If it doesn't automatically, launch iTunes. If you've updated your Mac to Catalina, open the Finder
  2. From here, you’ll need to force restart your iPhone.
  3. For iPhone 6s or earlier, iPad with a Home Button, or iPod Touch 6th Generation and earlier: Hold down the Top (or Side) and Home buttons simultaneously. When you see the Apple logo on your screen, do not let go of the buttons. Keep holding both until your device enters Recovery Mode.
  4. For iPhone 7 or 7 Plus and iPod Touch 7th Generation: Hold down your Top (or Side) and Volume Down buttons at the same time. When you see the Apple logo on your screen, do not let go of the buttons. Keep holding both until your device enters Recovery Mode.
  5. For iPhone 8, 8 Plus, X, or 11 models: Quickly press and release the Volume Up button, followed by the Volume Down button. Next press and hold the Side Button until your device enters recovery mode.
  6. For iPads with Face ID: Quickly press and release the Volume Up button, then the Volume Down button. Now, press and hold the Top Button until your device begins to restart, keep holding until your iPad goes into recovery mode. 


     
  7. Once your iPhone or iPad enters recovery mode, find your device in iTunes or the Finder and click on it. A box asking if you want to Restore or Update your device. Select Restore.
  8. It may take some time for your iPhone to download its restored iOS or iPadOS software. If your download takes more than fifteen minutes and exits the recovery mode screen, let the download complete, then try over with the force restart and enter recovery mode again.


     
  9. Once your device has been restored, it will start up like any new iPhone or iPad would. Follow the set up process. When it’s time to restore a backup, select the most recent backup you have, either from the Finder, iTunes, or via iCloud.
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Conner Carey's picture

Conner Carey's writing can be found at conpoet.com. She is currently writing a book, creating lots of content, and writing poetry via @conpoet on Instagram. She lives in an RV full-time with her mom, Jan and dog, Jodi as they slow-travel around the country.