May 13, 2023
We all use devices (smartphones, tablets, or computers) that contain information we don't want strangers or thieves to access. We lock our devices with a username/password combination to protect our privacy. Since we'll be unlocking our device 5, 10, 15 and 20 times a day, we use our fingerprints, faces, passcode or PIN, or a lock screen pattern to unlock our device instead of our username/password.
This security is excellent, but what if you've got bandages on your fingers, bees stung your face, or you can't remember your PIN, passcode, pattern, or password? Now you're locked out.
The good news is, it is possible to get back into your device when everything fails, and you get locked out. The bad news is, it's complicated. If it were easy, then strangers or thieves could bypass your security.
Unlocking iPhones and iPads
Unless you run a national law enforcement agency or have deep pockets, you can't bypass the security on an iOS device. So a complete reset is the only way mere mortals can get back into a locked-out iPhone or iPad.
To reset a locked-out iPhone or iPad, find a Mac or PC running iTunes and connect the device with a USB cable. Then, search the internet and find the recovery key combination for your device
When you get into Recovery Mode, iTunes will figure out what's up and show you a Restore option. Click that, and iTunes will reset your locked-out device to factory fresh. Now, restore your most recent iCloud or iTunes backup.
Unlocking Android devices
As with Apple's products, the only option here is resetting the locked-out device, which will erase your apps and data-got a backup?
From another device, search the internet for how to get into Recovery Mode for your specific locked-out device (there isn't any standard method.) Once in Recovery Mode, choose the wipe data/factory reset option. When complete, restore your phone/tablet from your last backup.
Unlocking a Mac
On a locked-out Mac, you can reset a forgotten password using your AppleID, even on the locked-out computer.
When you enter the wrong password three times, you'll see an option to reset your password using your Apple ID on the lock screen. Click the link, log in with your AppleID credentials rather than your user account credentials, and reset your Mac account password.
That's handy if you're not using your Apple ID as your user account. If you are, then we're back to resetting your Mac. First, be sure you've backed up your data and settings (from Apple's Time Machine backup program, hopefully.) Next, restart your locked-out Mac and hold down Cmd+R. Next, choose Re-install macOS to wipe your system and make it factory fresh. Apple has details on the entire process. Search, and you shall find it. Once you've re-installed macOS, restore your backup.
Unlocking a Windows computer
If you're locked out of your Windows computer and using a Microsoft account to log in, go to another device and head to login.microsoftonline.com. Enter your login info, click Forgot my password, and set up a new one. Then, return to the locked-out computer and use your new password.
You can still get back in if you're not using a Microsoft account, but you should call somebody for help. Hey, I know a guy who can help...
If all else fails, you can re-install Windows. Hopefully, you've got your data backed up somewhere.
Don't do this.
Instead of using the same password everywhere, try using multiple variations of the same password, changing a letter or two, adding random words or maybe adding a number somewhere. This results in many super secure passwords that prevent you from logging in anywhere ever again.
Do you have a computer or technology question? Greg Cunningham has been providing Tehachapi with on-site PC and network services since 2007. Email Greg at email@example.com.