- Activation Lock is a feature on Apple devices that’s meant to prevent theft.
- To disable the Activation Lock on your device, you need to log into the device’s Apple ID account.
- If you don’t have access to the Apple ID account, you’ll need to ask Apple for help.
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Activation Lock is a feature that has probably done more to prevent iPhone, iPad, Mac, and Apple Watch theft than any other security measure. Once locked, it’s nearly impossible to use the device without knowing the right Apple ID password. You can’t even erase its data — it’s totally locked down.
But while this is great for protecting your data if the device gets stolen, it’s a problem if you legally own a device that’s still got an Activation Lock.
There are only two ways to disable the Activation Lock on your own, and you’ll need the Apple ID password for both. Here’s how it works.
How to bypass the Activation Lock with an Apple ID or passcode
To do this, you need the Apple ID email and password for whatever account is associated with your iPhone, iPad, Mac, or Apple Watch. If you don’t have it, contact the seller or former owner to get it.
The screenshots below show how to do this on an iPad, but the steps are about the same on all devices.
1. Turn on the iPhone, iPad, Mac, or Apple Watch and go through setup. When you see the Activation Lock screen, enter the Apple ID email and password.
2. Alternatively, if you’re given the option, tap Unlock with Passcode and enter the passcode that the device used to use. This lets you set up the iPad without connecting to any Apple ID.
Once you get past the Lock and have your device set up, you can disable the Activation Lock by heading to your device’s Apple ID menu and signing out of the account you’re logged into. Create a new Apple ID for yourself and log into that instead.
And if you ever plan to sell your device in the future, be sure to sign out of your Apple ID again so the next owner doesn’t face an Activation Lock of their own.
How to bypass the Activation Lock remotely using Find My
If the person who knows the password isn’t nearby, they can unlock it remotely through the iCloud website.
1. Have the password owner log into their Apple ID account on the iCloud website, and then select Find iPhone.
2. Click All Devices at the top of the screen and select the device that needs to be unlocked.
3. Click Erase iPad or Erase iPhone and confirm by clicking Erase again. The owner might have to enter their Apple ID password again.
4. When asked if you want to enter a phone number and message for people who find the iPad, just click Next without entering anything.
5. Click Remove from Account.
This will reset the device to factory conditions, without the Lock. You can set it up for yourself now.
Ask Apple to bypass the Activation Lock
If you simply can’t get access to the Apple ID password, then unfortunately you don’t have a lot of other options.
It’s possible that Apple will help erase the device and unlock it for you. You’ll need to have some proof that you’re the legal owner of the device, and that proof needs to include the device’s serial number, IMEI or MEID.
If you’ve got the documentation and are ready to erase the device, head to their Activation Lock support page and fill out the forms. Just note that there’s no guarantee that they’ll help you, even if you fill everything out correctly.
Dave Johnson contributed to a previous version of this article.