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Thread: Do I need third-party software to reformat an iPad without the original passcode?

  1. #1
    High Plains Luddite George's Avatar
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    Do I need third-party software to reformat an iPad without the original passcode?

    I have asked this question elsewhere on the web, including at r/ipad, but my question has either been ignored or deleted by moderators. I suspect this question is asked all the time by thieves, so I guess I don't blame discussion groups for not wanting that kind of talk at their forums. So, I thought I'd ask here.

    If it's inappropriate here also, I hope mods will delete it or you guys can just tell me and I will edit this post.

    I am the legal owner of an iPad that used to belong to my parents. They wrote down passwords for all kinds of other accounts but I couldn't find or guess the passcode to the iPad. Eventually the iPad locked itself due to too many incorrect guesses from me.

    Following instructions from Apple that I found online, I downloaded iTunes and installed it on my PC and then used iTunes to re-format the iPad. I forget the exact page where I found these instructions, but it seemed clear enough to me that this would reset the iPad to factory-new and then I could set it up for a family member with their Apple ID and password.

    It probably would have worked if I could have gotten into the iPad's settings and clicked on "Erase All Content and Settings". But I couldn't.

    Even after re-formatting and updating the iPad through iTunes, it still wants the original passcode before it will let me assign the iPad to a new owner. It is showing me just enough of the original email address that I can tell it was my father's email address, so that seems legitimate. Google searches turn up both free software and software to purchase to "jailbreak" the iPad. I'm suspicious of this because I have no experience in this area and assume these software providers are taking advantage of people's greed to reformat stolen iPads, so they're charging exorbitant prices and/or providing software full of spyware and who knows what else. Or, maybe using their software won't let the iPad work as it should. How? I don't know. I'm just imagining what could happen.

    Maybe I'm being paranoid. But that's why I'm asking here. Does anyone have any experience with this? Thanks.

  2. #2
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    Yeah you will need the original passcode. Apple is very good at locking down devices as part of theft prevention. If it was easy to break, iPhone theft would be rampant, but it isn’t.

    One option would be to try your luck at 3rd party software to hack into it (costly, with the risk of having malware piggybacking into your PC and iPad). But I think your best bet might be with Apple itself. If you can present to an Apple Store with sufficient evidence to say that you legally own it, they might be able to do something for you.

  3. #3
    High Plains Luddite George's Avatar
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    Thanks RWA. There is an Apple store near me that I could try if it comes to that.

    I found the link with the instructions I followed: https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT211078

    I followed their instructions exactly, but the iPad still wants the passcode. Why doesn't Apple mention that the password is still required?

    If you enter the wrong passcode too many times, you’ll see a message that your iPad is disabled. If you can’t remember your passcode, you need to erase your iPad, which deletes your data and settings, including the passcode.
    (bold text mine for emphasis)

    And this...

    If you never backed up your iPad before you forgot your passcode, you won't be able to save the data on your iPad. Follow the steps below to remove your passcode.

  4. #4
    High Plains Luddite George's Avatar
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    Well, I just got off the phone with Apple. That was amazingly easy, compared to other huge companies that I have to call as part of my job and on whose phone lines I often sit on hold for an hour or more.

    Turns out it's asking me for my father's Apple ID password, not the device's passcode. I didn't realize the difference and I don't have the iPad in front of me now.

    The lady on the phone said if I can't find his Apple ID password, there's nothing that can be done and the iPad cannot be used. I asked her if there's a way to reset the password, like at websites where you enter your email address and click a button to send an update code or a link or something. She said no. I got the strong impression that she wanted to tell me more but isn't allowed to.

  5. #5
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    Ok, sounds promising but also not promising.

    If you need to do an account recovery (password reset) that might get tricky if it asks for a secondary device to authenticate. I wouldn’t know for sure.

    See how good they are at locking down devices? They’re towing a fine line between ease of use, legal matters (hello FBI!) and absolute security.

    If that fails then maaaaaaybe try your luck with Apple and see (with sufficient evidence) if it can be exchanged or traded against a new device. And if that fails then see if someone will buy it for spare parts…

  6. #6
    High Plains Luddite George's Avatar
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    Yes, they obviously know what they're doing. And, at the risk of sounding like a kook, that's why I don't use my fingerprint or my face to unlock my iPhone. I hardly live a life of crime, but if I ever were arrested, I don't want the cops or the FBI or whoever busted me to be able to get into my phone that easily, just on general principle.

    No major loss if we can't make it work - and the iPad can't be newer than 2018, so it's not like it's brand new - but my wife uses her iPhone more than her PC for web-surfing at home and I keep thinking she'd enjoy the larger screen.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rare White Ape View Post
    They’re towing a fine line between ease of use, legal matters (hello FBI!) and absolute security.
    One of the few things I like from Apple is they've been pretty insistent on not having backdoors and such for law enforcement.

    It does seem weird as hell that a full reset wouldn't open it up though. Ideally that's deleted all the information on the device, so that no longer is a worry.

    As for George's worry, I know at least Android has "lockdown" mode that you can enable really quickly that will disable any method for unlocking the device outside of the passcode/PIN, expressly made for any situation where the phone might go out of your possession. Like, say, if the TSA wanted a look. I assume iPhone has the same.

  8. #8
    Severed Member JoeW's Avatar
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    Do you have their email account passwords or access to their email? Just have it send a reminder to the email address attached to the apple id.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Servo View Post
    It does seem weird as hell that a full reset wouldn't open it up though. Ideally that's deleted all the information on the device, so that no longer is a worry.
    That would make it attractive to thieves - if they knew they could wipe and reuse/resell it.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by George View Post
    And, at the risk of sounding like a kook, that's why I don't use my fingerprint or my face to unlock my iPhone. I hardly live a life of crime, but if I ever were arrested, I don't want the cops or the FBI or whoever busted me to be able to get into my phone that easily, just on general principle.
    Face/finger id is only a secondary system, they are only enabled after the device has been unlocked by passcode.
    If your device has been turned off then its back to fully secure

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