How To: Recover iOS Device With Forgotten Passcode

How to Backup, Restore, and Recover any iOS device with a forgotten passcode.

Have an iOS device that’s currently being used as a paper weight due to a forgotten passcode? Don’t worry, we’ve got the answer to your iOS passcode woes.

This guide is for informational purposes to help proper owners of iOS devices recover their device with a forgotten passcode. PocketMeta does not condone the actions of someone using these methods to access a stolen device, such actions can be punishable by law. You should not attempt any of the following unless, you are the owner or are performing such actions with permission from the owner of the device.

Working as a support analyst I often work with people in situations where data is lost due to hardware failure and forgetting important passwords. I can’t stress enough the importance of maintaining a backup to help prevent the loss of data. The method below will involve restoring your device either to a prior backup or a complete factory reset. If you have not made a backup for your iOS device or do not have a recent backup, don’t worry, I will include steps on how to recover data from the device prior restore or factory wipe.

Table of Contents:

  • Recovery Mode
  • Recover Data
  • Backing Up

Recovery Mode:

This is where the actual recovery will take place, so before you proceed make sure that you have either a complete backup or that you have saved all the data needed on your device. If you have not created a backup or a have data you need saved that was created after your backup, look at the “Recover Data” section prior to performing these steps.

  1. Make sure that you have iTunes open on your computer.
  2. Power your device completely down, make sure that it is not in sleep mode by attempting to wake the device up.
  3. Once the device is completely powered down, hold down the home button.
  4. While holding the home button down, connect your device to your computer with a USB cable and continue holding the home button until you see this screen on your device.
  5. Once the recovery screen appears you can release the home button and you should see this message in iTunes.
  6. From this screen, choose to Restore iPad. You can then choose to do either a factory reset or restore a previous backup.
    Note: You may be prompted to download firmware for your device when choosing to do a factory restore. Follow the on-screen prompts for download and continue with restore.

Recover Data:

If you do not have a backup of your device or you have new data since your last back that you want to keep, you can use a application called iTools to recover data from a locked device. You may have seen me mention iTools in the past and you will most likely see me mention it again. iTools is a extremely useful management application for iOS devices that is available for PC and Mac and is also free to download. I’m only going to cover a few of the related features in iTools for this guide. iTools does not require a jailbreak device, though jailbroken devices will allow you to view the entire storage device.

Download: iTools

Once you have downloaded and installed iTools, connect your device while powered on to the computer. iTools will detect the device and allow you access to the data stored even while the device is locked. You are able to click and drag items from iTools to your computer or right-click and copy files within iTools. Here are a few sections in iTools where you can copy data from your device prior to doing a factory reset or restore.

  • Select the Photos tab within iTools. From here you’ll be able to copy any pictures saved in Camera Roll or Albums and move them to your computer.itools01
  • You can do the same with books by clicking and dragging or copying book files from the Books tab to your computer.itools02
  • The Media tab covers several other types of formats stored on iOS devices. You’ll be able to copy Music, Video, Podcasts, TV Shows, Audio Books, Videos, Music, and even Playlists.itools03
  • If you’re looking to save non-media type formats like configuration files, game saves, etc you can check in the FileSystem tab. You’ll have a fair amount of access to data like your notes, projects, and voice memos. If you have a jailbroken device, you’ll have 2 file systems to choose from: FileSystem and FileSystem(Jailbreak).itools04
  • This is a tab that I never even noticed until writing this guide and would be extremely useful in a situation where I didn’t have a backup. The information tab allows you to view all of your contacts, messages, notes, bookmarks, and calendar entries. Each category has a option to export the data to your computer.itools06
  • The last one I want to touch on is the Desktop tab. From here you can view all the applications listed on your devices desktop. You can take screen shots of each page on your device so that you have a record of all the apps you had. The tab has plenty more features in it, but none that are really useful to a locked device.itools05

It’s obviously a lot more work and effort required backing up and restoring your data this way, but if it’s between manually backing up data or losing it all together, I’d say this is obvious choice. iTools has plenty of other features and tools within the application, so feel free to play around with it once your device is unlocked. I may do a more in-depth review of the application in the future to go over more useful ways to use it with your iOS device.

Backing Up:

As I mentioned before, having backups for your device is a crucial piece to making sure that your data is safe. You can set your iOS device to back up automatically to the iCloud, which is what I do and what I recommend. It’s a really nice feeling when you purchase a new iOS device and shortly after you power it on it has all the data, contacts, and configurations of your last device. Your other option is to create backups manually through iTunes.
Note: If you choose to encrypt your backup you will need to choose a password to associate with the backup and will need that password in order to restore with it. This is a good option if you are creating a backup on a public computer where others would have access to your data. If you choose to create a encrypted backup, I would suggest also having a iCloud backup or a non-encrypted backup stored somewhere in case you forget the encryption password as well as your passcode. I mean, you’re here because you forgot your passcode right? Probably best to play it safe and have a backup that’s not password protected somewhere.


There you have it, a complete guide to saving your locked iOS device from becoming a total loss claim. Hopefully this guide has helped you restore your iOS device to working order without having to lose any of that precious data. There are a few other ways to getting around a locked device, but these are most legitimate and straight forward solutions that I’ve found. As always, if you have any questions or comments be sure to post them below.