You can reset an iPhone to factory settings using Recovery Mode and a Mac or Windows PC running iTunes. However, you’ll still need the owner’s Apple ID password to remove Activation Lock before you can use the iPhone.
When you try to reset an iPhone to factory settings, you’ll be asked in most cases for an Apple ID password before the iPhone erases. If you don’t know the password you can try recovering it. Here’s how.
Why Your iPhone Is Asking for a Password
Whenever you try to erase your iPhone using Settings > General > Transfer or Reset iPhone > Erase All Content and Settings, you’ll be prompted for your Apple ID password to disable Find My (and by extension, Activation Lock).
Activation Lock is a safeguard put in place to prevent a stolen iPhone from being reactivated without the previous owner’s express consent. Entering your Apple ID password as part of the reset process removes the device from your account, disables the Find My service which allows you to track missing devices, and makes it possible for a new owner to activate the iPhone.
You’ll need to remove Activation Lock from the iPhone before it can be used. You can do this with the password, by asking the previous owner to remove the device from their account, or by proving to Apple that you own the iPhone and submitting an Activation Lock support request.
Assuming the iPhone is yours and locked to your own account, solving a password issue should be straightforward. If you don’t know your Apple ID password you can recover it using iforgot.apple.com.
Set a password that you know, or record the password securely using a password manager. Your Apple devices may prompt you for your new password after you’ve reset it. You can enter your new password the next time you attempt to reset your iPhone to deactivate Find My (and Activation Lock).
Erase Your iPhone Without a Password on Mac or Windows
You can also reset your iPhone to factory settings without a password using a Mac or Windows PC, but this won’t remove Activation Lock. This requires the use of Recovery Mode, a safeguard put in place that allows you to update or restore the iPhone firmware in case something goes wrong.
Even once you’ve erased your iPhone using recovery mode, you won’t be able to use it unless you enter the password associated with the Apple ID to which the iPhone was locked. When you reboot the device you’ll be invited to activate it by entering the password.
If you understand this and still want to proceed, learn how to put your iPhone into recovery mode and how to restore or update the software.
Activation Lock Enabled? Contact the Previous Owner
If you’ve bought or been given an iPhone that has Activation Lock enabled and you’re unable to use it without the password, you’ll need to contact the previous owner and ask them to remove the device from their account.
To do this, ask them to log in with their Apple ID credentials at iCloud.com/find and then select the iPhone in question under the “All Devices” drop-down followed by the “Remove from Account” option.
Making sure Activation Lock is disabled is one of the many important things you should check when buying a used iPhone.