Tech Talk #192–December 3, 2022
We all use devices (smartphones, tablets, or computers) that contain information we don’t want strangers or thieves to access. Therefore, we lock them with a username/password combination to protect our privacy. However, since we will unlock our device 5, 10, 15, 20 times a day, we use fingerprints, faces, passcodes, PINs, or lock screen patterns to unlock our device instead of our username/password.
But what if you’ve got bandages on your fingers, your face got stung by bees, 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’re locked out. The bad news is it’s difficult. 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 the only way mere mortals can get back into a locked-out iPhone or iPad is by a complete reset.
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 specific 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 is resetting the locked-out device, which will erase your apps and data—got 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 from your last backup.
Google’s Find My Device service is easier to wipe your locked-out device if you set it up, probably when you first got your phone. From another device, head to https://myaccount.google.com/security, log in with your Google account, scroll down to Your devices and click on Find a lost or stolen phone. Choose your device from the list, then click Consider erasing this device to wipe the device. When complete, restore your phone 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.
You’ll see a reset link on the lock screen when you enter the wrong password three times. Click the link, and you get the option to log in with your AppleID credentials rather than your user account credentials, and you can then reset the account password.
That’s handy if you’re not using your AppleID as your user account. If you are, then we’re back to reset your Mac. First, be sure you’ve backed up your data and settings (from Apple’s Time Machine backup program, hopefully.) Restart your locked-out Mac and hold down Cmd+R. Choose Reinstall macOS to wipe your system and make it factory fresh. Apple has details on the entire process. Search, and you shall find. Once you’ve reinstalled macOS, restore your backup.
Unlocking a Windows computer
When you get locked out of a Windows computer, if you’re using a Microsoft account, it’s pretty easy. Go to another device, enter your login info, click Forgot my password, and set up a new password. Then, return to the locked-out computer and use your shiny 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 reinstall Windows. Hopefully, you’ve got your data backed up somewhere.
Dentist: So, are you flossing?
Me: Are you using a unique password for every account?
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.