What Happens if You Enter the Wrong Password Into an iPhone Too Many Times?
By Matt Koble
Much like your Internet passwords, your iPhone's passcode protects your device from unauthorized access. It can also prevent you from using the device if you've forgotten the passcode. Too many failed attempts and your iPhone automatically locks itself for a brief period of time. If you continue entering the wrong passcode, the phone will either disable itself until connected to iTunes or automatically erase all your data if you have the option enabled.
After six failed attempts at entering your iPhone's passcode, you'll see a message saying "IPhone is Disabled." While disabled, you can't use the phone or access the data on it. Under the message you'll see the duration of time the phone is locked for, telling you to "Try Again" when enough time passes. If you continue getting your passcode wrong, you'll be instructed to connect the phone to iTunes.
The iPhone's Passcode Lock settings have an option to completely erase the iPhone after 10 failed passcode attempts. This option is disabled by default. While this is a good security measure to prevent your data from falling into unwanted hands, it can also mean loss of your personal data if you've forgotten your passcode and get it wrong too many times. Access this option by opening "Settings," tapping "General" and selecting "Passcode Lock." Enable the "Erase Data" option.
Recovery Through ITunes
After enough improper passcode attempts, you'll see a message telling you to connect the iPhone to iTunes. If you've used iTunes before to sync your phone, plug the phone into the computer and open iTunes. Right-click the iPhone and select "Back Up." When the back up completes, choose the "Restore" option. If you've never synced with iTunes, turn the device off, plug the USB cable into the computer and open iTunes. While holding the iPhone's home button, connect the device to the USB cable and keep the home button pressed until the iPhone displays "Connect to iTunes." In iTunes, select "OK" and "Restore."
Find My IPhone
If you use the "Find My iPhone" app but not iTunes, you can restore the iPhone through the iCloud website. Log into iCloud and select the iPhone from the "Devices" list and choose the "Erase iPhone" button. Type in your Apple ID password and select "Erase." The next time the iPhone is connected to the Internet, the wipe will initiate. Wiping restores the iPhone to its factory setting, before you set a password. This method also erases all of your personal data, contacts, apps and other content.
Back Up Data
If you don't end up remembering the passcode, all roads lead to wiping the device clean. Consider keeping your data backed up through iTunes or iCloud so that when you wipe the device you can easily retrieve your apps, entertainment and phone data. If you have to reset and don't have a backup, any paid-for content is still available to you through iTunes, connected to your account instead of your device.
Matt Koble has been writing professionally since 2008. He has been published on websites such as DoItYourself. Koble mostly writes about technology, electronics and computer topics.