So you bought or inherited a used iPhone, iPad or Apple Watch that you want to iCloud unlock.
You know the symptoms…
…when you try to set it up it keeps on asking for the iCloud login details of the previous owner…
…you have no idea what they are and you can’t contact them to find out.
This makes your device unusable, and you frustrated.
How to do an iCloud unlock
If you have a locked device I am sure you’ll agree with me when I say:
The iCloud activation lock is a complete pain.
It makes your device unusable if you forget, or don’t know the iCloud password.
What was Apple thinking when they introduced something so strict?
Luckily, it turns out that there are a couple of ways to get your iCloud locked device unlocked.
One of them is completely free!
This article will explain what they are, and how to do them.
Do you want to use a SIM from a different carrier in your iPhone or iPad? If so, you want to do an iPhone network unlock.
iCloud lock removal is possible!
There are 2 proven fixes.
You have the choice of performing an iCloud unlock to remove the activation lock permanently. Or an iCloud bypass to ‘get round’ the security and use some features.
You can find out how to do these below:
What is the purpose of the lock?
This is actually a good idea in some ways – it puts people off stealing your device as it will be unusable by anyone else.
However, almost 50% of second-hand iPhones bought and sold legitimately have iCloud activation locks left on by accident.
This means buyers can’t use them.
The easiest way to have your iCloud unlocked is by contacting the seller, or original owner of the device and asking them to remove it from ‘Find My iPhone’ iCloud removal is a simple process and can be done from any computer or smartphone that can connect to the internet via iCloud.com.
- Sign in to iCloud.com or the Find My iPhone app on another Apple device
- Select the device
- Click Erase
- After the device has been erased, click Remove from Account
Read the full article describing the steps an owner should follow before selling their device
This will remove the lock on your device.
The next thing you need to do is check the status of the device you just bought to see if it has been stolen. This used to be possible using Apple’s activation lock tool but is no longer possible as they disabled it.
You have 2 options now that Apple has removed the tool:
- Inside the US: You can use the CTIA website to check the device has not been stolen.
- Outside the US: Contact your local Apple store and ask them to check
Device not stolen? Great! You can iCloud unlock it!
Apple removed the tool from their website on January 29th 2017 without any warning.
Rumour has it that Chinese hackers had been using the tool to find unlocked devices serial numbers and used them to reset iPhone serial numbers remove locks on an industrial scale. This means you can’t check the status of your Apple device online for now. It is unknown if the tool will ever return.
If it is locked due to theft you may still be able to bypass the iCloud activation as described later in this article and get some functionality. But you won’t be able to unlock the iPhone completely.
Don’t know how to find your IMEI for your iPhone?
Before you can unlock your iCloud account you need to know the IMEI for your device.
- Option 1: Dial *#06#
- Option 2: If you have an iPhone 5 or newer, your IMEI is printed on the back of the device
- Option 3:If your iPhone is not activated, there will be a little “i” button on the screen, tap it and you’ll see the IMEI
In future, it is best to request this number from the seller before you buy it to make sure the item has not been stolen or locked by the previous owner.
You simply ask Apple to check the device on your behalf and can then buy it safe in the knowledge it hasn’t been stolen and locked permanently.
How does iCloud lock work?
If the original owner of your iPhone turned on a feature called ‘Find My iPhone‘ then it will automatically link their iCloud account to the iPhone.
The idea is to help them find their device if it is lost or stolen. If the worst comes to the worst and they can’t get their iPhone back then they can use ‘Find My iPhone‘ to erase the contents of the phone and lock it permanently.
Obviously, the idea behind this is to deter theft which is great. However, if you buy a used iPhone, iPad or even Apple Watch and the previous owner forgot to remove it from their ‘Find My iPhone’ account then it is locked to the old owner’s iCloud account.
This means you can’t use it. So the security on iCloud may disable the iPhone you bought in good faith and make it unusable.
However, there is a solution – using either an iCloud bypass or an iPhone unlock.
How do thieves hack the iCloud activation lock?
After the large scale hack of celebrity iCloud accounts there has been an increased awareness of this issue.
For those of you that haven’t heard about this…
…back in 2014, 500 private photographs of celebrities were published.
These pictures were mainly of woman, and many contained nudity.
It was thought there was a breach of the iCloud security which allowed hackers unlimited attempts at guessing passwords.
Analysts questioned the security of iCloud. There was particular concern about the safety of private information in the iCloud environment.
Subsequent analysis showed that it was more likely that the hack was done using a phishing attack.
However, the incident proved that iCloud had it weak spots when it comes to tracking and remote locking.
Criminals are now using the same ‘phishing’ techniques against you and I.
Analysis carried out by Trend Micro shows that iCloud ‘phishing’ is being done on an industrial scale to allow the resale of stolen iPhones.
The process works like this:
- The criminals steal your iPhone and examine it to get your iCloud email.
- They send an email pretending to be from Apple saying that your device has been recovered.
- Within the email they ask you to click a link to login to your iCloud account to verify it is your device.
- The link you clicked actually takes you to a spoofed website that looks like iCloud, but isn’t.
- Your login details are stored on the website and used by the gang to unlock your iCloud account from your iPhone.
- The criminals then have the ability to look at all your private data, including pictures and your Apple Wallet.
- They can also sell your iPhone as it no longer has an iCloud lock on it.
If you are considering buying a used iPhone you should check if it has been blacklisted. In the US you can use the CTIA website to check the iPhone’s IMEI to ensure it has not been stolen. Elsewhere in the world contact your local Apple store.
“These Apple iCloud phishers run their business using a set of cybercriminal tools that include MagicApp, Applekit, and Find My iPhone (FMI.php) framework to automate iCloud unlocks in order to resell the device in underground and gray markets,” the researchers say.
The FM1.php script allows phishing, Applekit creates a network of hijacked devices, and MagicApp automates iPhone unlocking.
These tools can be used to block Apple’s services, remove the iCloud lock and it’s link to the original owner, and setup the device for sale elsewhere.
The criminals gangs behind these services seem to be based in Kosovo, India, North Africa and the Philippines.
So there are no bugs or vulnerabilities in the iCloud security itself but by the use of phishing and some clever coding the criminals can hijack stolen phones and iCloud unlock them.
Apple is aware of these issues and will being using this information to improve iCloud security to make it harder to exploit.
Which models of iPhone, iPod, and iPad can you do an iCloud unlock on?
You can iPhone unlock any phone or iPad apart from the 1st generation, 3 and 3GS models using the process in this article.
Why can’t these models be unlocked?
Well, the iPhone lock is a combination of 3 elements – the device, iOS and iCloud working together.
The older models of iPhone and iPad didn’t support iOS 7 – and this software was the glue that stuck the 3 elements together.
So older iPhones and iPads don’t have the capability of being iCloud activation locked. So because they can’t be locked, they don’t need for iCloud removal.
However, the other models in the Apple range do have all 3 elements and will be iCloud locked. Especially since Apple has configured the setup process on iOS to request you add an iCloud username (email address) and password.
This means that all newer models of iPhone and iPad tend to get locked.
How to unlock iPhone X
The iPhone X was announced on September 12, 2017, and was released on November 3, 2017.
The iPhone X has a 5.8-inch “Super Retina HD Display” which runs edge to edge with a notch in the top. The OLED screen has a typical contrast ratio of 1,000,000:1 and a fingerprint-resistant coating. Face ID replaces the Touch ID on this model.
This model also has dust and water resistance together with wireless charging.
The iPhone X comes with a tweaked version of iOS 11.1 and can be unlocked.
How to unlock iPhone 8 (Plus)
The iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus were announced on September 12, 2017, and was released on November 3, 2017.
The new iPhones are very similar in design to the iPhone 7 that proceeded except for the addition of a glass rear to improve scratch resistance and allow wireless charging.
This model also has dust and water resistance. There will be 3 colour options: Gold, Silver, and Space Gray.
The iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus is preinstalled with iOS 11 and can be unlocked.
How to unlock iPhone 7 (Plus)
The iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus were announced on September 7, 2016, and were released on September 16, 2016.
The iPhone 7’s overall design is similar to the iPhone 6S, but introduced water and dust resistance and controversially removed the 3.5 mm headphone jack.
The iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus was preinstalled with iOS 10 but supports iOS 11 and can be unlocked.
How to unlock iPhone 6S (Plus)
The iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus were announced on September 9, 2015, with the official release on September 25, 2015.
iPhone 6S had a mostly positive reception with its updated hardware, including a strengthened chassis and upgraded system-on-chip, a 12-megapixel camera, improved fingerprint recognition sensor, and LTE Advanced support.
The iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus came preinstalled with iOS 9but supports iOS 11 and can be unlocked.
- How to unlock an iPhone 6s Plus from iCloud →
- Network/SIM unlock iPhone 6s Plus to use another GSM carrier →
How to unlock iPhone 6 Plus
The iPhone 6 Plus, like the iPhone 6, was announced on September 9, 2014.
It included a larger 5.5-inch display, a faster processor, upgraded cameras, improved LTE and Wi-Fi connectivity and other improvements.
The iPhone 6 Plus was pre-installed with iOS 7 but does support iOS 11 and can be unlocked.
How to unlock iPhone 6
The iPhone 6 is part of the iPhone series announced on September 9, 2014, and released on September 19, 2014.
Despite their positive reception, the iPhone 6 was the subject of several hardware issues including being susceptible to bending.
The iPhone 6 came with iOS 7 but supports all iOS versions including iOS 11 and can be unlocked.
How to unlock iPhone 5
The iPhone 5 was unveiled on September 12, 2012, and released on September 21, 2012.
It had the shortest lifespan of any iPhone produced with only twelve months in production.
The iPhone 5 supports iOS10 but not iOS 11 and can be unlocked.
How to unlock iPhone 5s
The iPhone 5S includes major internal upgrades but maintains almost the same external design as its predecessor.
The reception was generally positive, with some considering it to be the best smartphone available on the market.
The iPhone 5s came pre-installed with iOS 7 but supports iOS 11 and can be unlocked.
How to unlock iPhone 5c
The iPhone 5c was part of the iPhone series unveiled on September 10, 2013, and released on September 20, 2013, along with the flagship version the iPhone 5S.
The iPhone 5C is a variant of the iPhone 5 but with a hard-coated polycarbonate shell.
The iPhone 5c supports iOS 10 but not iOS 11 and can be unlocked.
How to unlock iPhone 4
The iPhone 4 was first unveiled on June 7, 2010.
The iPhone 4 had the longest span as Apple’s flagship iPhone model at fifteen months.
It was available to buy up to 2015.
iOS 7.1.2, is the last version of iOS to support the iPhone 4 and it can be unlocked.
How to unlock iPhone 4s
Announced on October 4, 2011. This iPhone was named “4S” where “S” stood for Siri.
It is the last iPhone to have the original 30 pin connector. Reception to the iPhone 4S was generally favourable.
Reviewers said Siri, the new camera, and processing speeds were significantly better.
The iPhone 4s supports iOS 9 but not iOS 10 or iOS 11 and can be unlocked.
How to unlock iPad
If you want to unlock an iPad then the same process can also be used although this article does focus more on the iPhone.
Testing wasn’t specifically required because the iCloud locking process is the same for both iPhone and iPad.
It also applies to both the Wi-fi and wi-fi plus SIM versions of the Apple iPad.
Now here is how to:
Remove iCloud lock with jailbreak?
When you ‘Jailbreak‘ an iPhone or iPad you remove some restrictions imposed by Apple. For example, you can download different applications or customise the way the interface looks or operates.
There are some websites that claim that you can remove the iCloud lock by jailbreaking your iPhone. This is not true. Jailbreaking will only unlock your iPhone after the lock has been removed by another method.
How to bypass the iCloud activation lock
There are 2 options available to you if you end up with an iCloud lock.
- An iCloud bypass to get limited functionality back for free
- Remove the iCloud lock completely and get full functionality back for a fee
iCloud bypass hack (so you have some functionality)
If you bypass iCloud then you can use your iPhone to do a variety of things but not use the standard apps you find on an iPhone or iPad.
Instead, you are bypassing the device’s software and using a different interface to allow you to do a variety of things such as watch video, send SMS, login to social media.
Unfortunately, you can’t use the device as a standard phone. 🙁
How the iCloud bypass works
However, the iCloud bypass tool is free, with no fee involved.
This is a very clever hack that allows you to bypass the iCloud activation lock by setting up your iPhone to use different software on it using a thing called “DNS bypass”.
You don’t need a SIM card inserted to get this to work as it uses Wi-Fi to connect.
It is a little fiddly but this hack isn’t that difficult to do if you follow the video or written instructions below.
- Reboot your iPhone ready to set it up as a new device.
- Start the setup process and select your country and language
- On the “Choose a Wi-Fi Network” screen press the “i” next to Wi-Fi symbol for the Wi-Fi network you want to connect to.
- Scroll down to where it says ‘DNS’ and type in one of the following
- USA/North America: 18.104.22.168
- Europe: 22.214.171.124
- Asia: 126.96.36.199
- In rest of the world: 188.8.131.52
- Tap “Back >” at the top left of the screen.
- Click your Wi-Fi network
- Type in the Wi-Fi password and click “Join” at the top right
- The iPhone will try to activate by going to a new screen. Don’t let it, hit the Back button at the top right to return to the WiFi page where you will be logged in.
- Once logged in you will see a screen which will say something like “iCloudDNSBypass.net” at the top.
Before reading the review on the companies I know and trust below, an important disclosure:
Some of the links below are affiliate links, which means that if you choose to make a purchase, I will earn a commission. This commission comes at no additional cost to you. Please understand that I have experience with all of these companies, and I recommend them because they are helpful and useful, not because of the small commissions I make if you decide to buy something. Please do not spend any money on these products unless you feel you need them or that they will help you achieve your goals.
iCloud Unlock & Bypass For iPhone, iPad & Apple Watch (The 2018 Guide)
iCloud unlock – remove the activation lock permanently & use your device normally
If you do an iCloud unlock then you can set up the iPhone, iPad or Apple Watch as if it were a brand new device and use all its features.
However, in my experience, if you want to have your iCloud permanently unlocked properly you will have to pay someone to do it.
Unfortunately, there is no free iCloud unlock solution that works. 🙁
The free options I tried were confusing. They were inaccurate. Many are scams. Some are simply dangerous.
Some article suggests jailbreaking your iPhone or iPad. But it does not work as it will only unlock your iCloud after the lock has been removed by another method.
Software downloads don’t work either as the lock is kept on Apple servers, not on your computer.
Having software on your computer and iPhone won’t help. It will make things worse. Especially if it includes hidden viruses within it that infect your computer.
Websites that appear to interface with Apple servers are also a scam.
They are designed to make you believe your unlock will work if you click a bunch of ads.
Websites with PDF books full of instructions don’t contain the ‘secret’ either…
…but you don’t find this out until after you paid.
The only way I have found to permanently remove the iCloud lock was by using paid removal service.
It worked for me.
However, be careful as there are some scammers that charge as much as $300 USD (£220) and don’t unlock your device.
How do I know?
I tried them out…
…and after my experiences, I decided to write this article to try and help others.
Hopefully, like me, you will successfully unlock your device.
In a hurry: If you don’t want to read the complete review of the iCloud removal companies the best one was iPhone IMEI (this link doesn’t work on iPhone/iPad so scroll down ↓to see results).
They unlocked all the iPhones I supplied within 2 days.
Some suppliers charge £250 (approx $300 USD) so their £39.99 fee (approx $50 USD) was very reasonable.
Read more about why I thought they were the best option here (this link doesn’t work on iPhone/iPad so scroll down ↓). I also include testimonials, and step-by-step instructions.
iCloud unlock service reviews
Firstly, I needed to find out who to try. So I did a Google search to find as many iCloud removal companies as possible.
I reviewed each of their websites carefully and if they had a download or online tool I tried it out.
If it didn’t work then it was cut from my short list.
If they offered an unlocking service I tried to get in touch with them and verify there was someone actually in control.
If the website had no contact details, or I didn’t get a reply then I didn’t trust it. After all, if nobody is there how could I ensure the service worked?
If they did reply, they made it to the next stage.
Next step in finding the best iCloud unlocking service
After figuring out the scammers I then concentrated on the ones that were left.
I reviewed their websites thoroughly and noted that they made the following claims:
- A rapid unlock process
- Dedicated customer support team
- Responsive support – with email’s answered quickly.
- Competitive pricing
- No fix, no fee with a full refund policy
- Official unlocks verified by Apple iCloud servers
This all sounded good.
I checked each of the remaining candidates in RipoffReport, TrustPilot, and TrustmarkReviews to evaluate their feedback.
I removed the lowest scoring services to give me a list of 3 that I wanted to thoroughly check by using them myself.
Real world test: Can they really unlock iCloud locked iPhones and iPads?
I reached out to my community here at iChimp to track down people who wanted to unlock iCloud on their iPhone or iPad.
I picked a wide sample of iPad and iPhone models located worldwide to test each service and get ‘real’ feedback from real people.
I ended up with 18 community members with the following types of device:
- iPhone 4
- iPhone 4s
- iPhone 5
- iPhone 5c
- iPhone 5s
- iPhone 6
- iPhone 6 Plus
- iPhone 6s
- iPhone 6s Plus
- iPhone SE
- iPhone 7
- iPhone 8 Plus
- iPad Air
- iPad Mini 2
Each individual emailed me their iPad or iPhone model and IMEI code so I could place orders with each of the top 3 suppliers.
After evaluating the claims listed above I decided to judge each supplier based on the following:
- Did it work?
- Customer Service
Did it work?
Did they actually manage to unlock iCloud, yes or no. Simple. If they can’t do the task they claimed to do then they failed.
Some of the scammers charged as much as $300 USD (£220) however the remaining 3 services I reviewed all charged around $50 USD (£39.99).
I wanted each of the iPhones unlocked as quickly as possible. Waiting 14 days isn’t good enough, I wanted it done in 2 or 3 days.
I wanted to feel comfortable that when the payment was made that I would know what was going on at each stage of the unlock process.
I was also keen that each service would have customer support so that I could contact them if I wished.
I wanted to feel confident and comfortable with what was going on.
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