David Papp Blog

What to do if you’re locked out of your phone

If you’ve ever been locked out of your phone, you know how frustrating that can be.  

In fact, there’s a new term for the anxiety people feel when they don’t have access to their phones – nomophobia. In a 2010 British study, a full 53% of participants experienced nomophobia after losing a phone, battery power, or access to mobile networks.

We all depend on mobile now, and we need security features like passwords, PIN codes, fingerprints and gestures to keep our data secure …

But what if you forget your PIN code and you are the one who’s blocked?

You may have to sacrifice data with a factory reset. However, with a little planning, you can have your security and continued access to your information.


If you’re locked out of an Android 4.4 or earlier and forget your PIN code, simply enter the wrong code 5 times in a row. Your phone will give you the option of signing in to your Google account to regain access.

If you are using Android 5.0 or later, your phone has a higher level of security. You’ll have the option of remotely erasing all the data.

  1. Find another device and sign into Google on the Android Device Manager
  2. You’ll see three options:  ring, lock, and erase
  3. Select erase to perform a factory reset – your data will be permanently deleted

If you’re unable to access Android Device Settings, you can still reset an Android one phone in recovery mode:  

  1. Turn off your phone
  2. Press and hold the volume up and power button at the same time until the phone power on
  3. Press volume down to toggle until you reach “Recovery mode”
  4. Press and hold volume up and power again and release
  5. Use the volume buttons to scroll to “Wipe data/factory reset” and select with power button
  6. Scroll to “Erase all user data” and select with power button
  7. After the reset, create a new PIN code
  8. Add your Google account to your phone to import data

If you have a Pixel or Nexus phone, the process is almost the same:

  1. Turn off your phone
  2. Press and hold the volume down and power buttons at the same time until the phone turns on.
  3. Toggle with the volume down button to the “Recovery mode” option
  4. Press the power button to select
  5. Press volume up and power and release
  6. Use the volume buttons to scroll to “Wipe data/factory reset” and select with power button
  7. Use the power button to select “yes – release all user data”
  8. Press the power button again to select “reboot system now”

To get the best results, visit Google online to find instructions for the exact phone and operating system you’re using.



If you have an iPhone and forget your passcode, you’ll need to wipe all your data and remove your current passcode to start fresh from the factory settings.

If you’ve synced your phone with iTunes:

  1. Connect your phone to the computer you synced with
  2. Open iTunes – and allow it to sync to your device and backup your files
  3. After the sync  and backup are complete, select “Restore”
  4. On the setup screen, select “Restore from iTunes backup”
  5. Select your current device and the best backup file

Using the “find my iPhone” option on another device or mac computer, you can erase and restore settings with iCloud:

  1. Go to https://www.icloud.com/find on another device
  2. Sign into Apple
  3. Click all devices and select the phone you want to reset
  4. Click “Erase” to reset the phone and delete the passcode
  5. Now you can start fresh from the factory settings or restore a backup if you made one

If neither of the above options work for you, you can still do a factory reset:

  1. Connect your phone to any computer and open iTunes
  2. Once connected, force a restart.  On iPhone 6 and earlier, press and hold the sleep/wake and home buttons simultaneously until the recovery mode screen appears. On iPhone 7 and later, use the sleep/wake and volume down buttons instead
  3. Select “Restore”
  4. After iTunes sends new software to your phone, go through setup as you would with a new phone


Your best defense is prevention

Even if you have perfect photographic memory for passwords and codes, it’s a good idea to have a back-up plan.

To make your Android phone automatically unlock in a secure place or with biometrics, follow these steps:

  1. Go to your phone’s settings (if you can’t find the right gear icon, sweep down the front of your screen with a finger and tap the grey date/time bar at the top … the settings gear will appear)
  2. Tap on “security” and select “smart lock”
  3. Tap “trusted places” to choose where you would like your phone to automatically be unlocked:
    1. Choose “add a trusted face” for facial recognition
    2. Set up Google voice recognition
    3. Choose to have it remain unlocked near trusted devices if bluetooth is enabled
    4. Or go for the new “on-body detection” to keep it unlocked when you’re holding it or keeping it in your pocket or purse


Back up data on Android

On some Android phones, you can protect data before problems arise with the “backup my data” option. Look for the “Backup and reset” menu under Personal Settings. It will save app data, Wi-fi passwords and other settings to Google servers automatically.  

If you have a Pixel phone, you’ll have automatic unlimited backup for Google Calendar, ontaccts, photos and videos. You’ll also get backup of up to 25MB of data from your apps and app data, call history, device settings, and SMS text messages. In addition, when you connect your Google account to your device, anything you already backed up to Google can be restored to your phone.

To set up automatic backups on your Pixel phone:

  1. Get into your phone settings by tapping the gear icon
  2. Under “Personal,” tap “Backup & reset”
  3. To backup data and settings, tap “Device backup” and then select “Backup to Google Drive”
  4. To backup your photos and videos, select “Photos backup” then chooses “Backup and sync”
  5. If you ever do have to wipe your data, you’ll be able to choose “restore settings” to get your app data and settings back


Backup data on an iPhone

To backup your iPhone with iCloud, get connected to a wifi network, go to settings, and select iCloud.  Select “Backup now” and stay connected to wifi until the backup is complete.

To backup with iTunes, connect your phone to your computer.  Go to iTunes, select your phone as the target device, and click “Backup now.”

Even with the newest tech, the old adage holds true – an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  In the end, writing down your passcode on old-fashioned paper may be the best solution of all.