Navigating the murky waters of restoring an iPhone with a lost passcode

I guess this is intentionally kind of hard to figure out, it kinda makes sense but even a visit to the Apple store didn’t illuminate enough light on how to do this.

So, a little history. I set a restriction passcode on a phone we had in the house for my kids to use, and I didn’t want them to just buy and add apps willy nilly, I set a restriction passcode. To be clear this is not the same passcode to unlock the phone. This is an additional 4 digit code that I thought I would remember, but after a couple of years of not using it, I totally forgot. Which means I needed to find a way around it.

First I tried some of the backup sniffers, and they didn’t even find the backups. No dice. Then I tried a few dozen more codes writting them down as I went. I even had to continually advance the clock by 1 hour increments to get past the wait times. No dice. So I head to the Apple store, since I had an appointment already, I figured I would just piggy back this on.

The first person just sort of tells me to go to icloud.com and remove Find my iPhone from there, but you can’t. The next tech gives me a little more hope and tells me this laundry list of things to do, but it still didn’t work as he left out 1 crucial step, so I’ll break it down here.

Put your phone into Recovery Mode.

Following the instructions on this support page, I force restart my iPhone and put it into recovery mode. Step 3 is the crucilabit here:

While your device is connected, force restart it with these steps, but don’t release the buttons when you see the Apple logo, wait until the connect to iTunes screen appears: 

  • On iPhone 8 and later: Press and quickly release the Volume Up button. Press and quickly release the Volume Down button. Then, press and hold the Side button until you see the connect to iTunes screen.
  • On an iPhone 7 or iPhone 7 Plus: Press and hold the Side and Volume Down buttons at the same time. Keep holding them until you see connect to iTunes screen.
  • On an iPhone 6s and earlier, iPad, or iPod touch: Press and hold both the Home and the Top (or Side) buttons at the same time. Keep holding them until you see the connect to iTunes screen.

Remove your device from your iCloud account.

Next you need to log in to icloud.com and remove the device from your account. This is really pretty simple, after you log in, got to Find my iPhone or Devices, with your device powered off, then remove it either by clicking the circle X next to the device or these will be a text link to remove depending on where you are in the settings when you remove it.

There is also another way to remove the device through your Apple account, but it’s pretty similar to removing the way I described.

Finishing up

Now, with the phone erased and removed from your iTunes/iCloud account you can finish the setup of the device. Once you get to the part where it asks you for your iTunes account, you should also have an option to unlock the phone with the last passcode used to unlock the phone. This IS NOT the restriction passcode and just the lock passcode. Choose this option, and go through the steps until it asks you to restore from backup, or set up as a new phone. Set it up as a new phone. If you restore from the backup it will reinstate the passcode lock on restrictions and you’ll have to start all over again.

You can use the same iTunes account after you select to setup as a new phone, and the phone will be open to setup normally without that pesky restriction passcode that you forgot.

Viola! No more passcode and your device is unlocked again. To be clear though, this won’t work if you’ve obtained the phone other than by buying it legally.

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