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How to Make Sure You’re Never Locked Out of Your Apple Account

by Suzanne Kantra on October 08, 2021

Your Apple ID is the key to accessing your personal data on all of your Apple devices. However, with Face ID and Touch ID as the standard way of authorizing your Apple ID, it becomes easy over time to forget your Apple ID password. And resetting your Apple ID password when you’ve forgotten it can be extremely difficult, especially if you have two-factor authentication turned on (which you should) and you don't have access to your second authentication method.

With a new feature in iOS 15, though, there’s a simple way to get back into your Apple account: designate someone (or up to five people) as a Recovery Contact who can verify your identity. Similar to the Trusted Friend feature of Facebook, a Recovery Contact’s role is to provide you with a recovery code that you can use to reset your password if you get locked out of your Apple account. Your Recovery Contacts won’t have access to your account, their role is simply to provide you with that code when you need it. Of course, you need to set up your Recovery Contacts before you get locked out, so it's a good idea to do it sooner rather than later.

How to set up an Apple ID Recovery Contact

1. Update your Apple Devices to the latest version

Before you invite someone to be your Recovery Contact, you need to make sure your own devices are updated to iOS 15, iPadOS 15, and WatchOS 8. If they're not already upgraded, go to Settings > General > Software Update on your iPhone or iPad. For Apple Watch, go to the Watch app and then General > Software Update.

iPhones that can be upgraded to iOS 15 are the iPhone 6s and newer and both iPhone SE models. iPads that can be upgraded to iPadOS 15 are the iPad mini 4 and later, the iPad Air 2 and later, and all iPad Pro models. Apple Watch 3 and later and Apple Watch SE models can be upgraded to WatchOS 8, as long as they are paired with an iPhone 6s or later that is running iOS 15.

2. Backup any devices that can't be updated to the latest OS

IMPORTANT: If some of your devices can’t be updated to the latest OS, Apple won't let you designate a recovery contact unless you sign out of iCloud on those devices. However, once you do, you will permanently lose iCloud functionality on that device and access to the associated data (you'll still be able to access iCloud from your other updated devices). So make a full backup to your computer of the device and then, when signing out of iCloud, select the option to save your data to your device.

3. Designate a recovery contact

Your Recovery Contact must be over 13 and own a device running iOS 15 or iPadOS 15. In addition, their Apple ID account must be protected by two-factor authentication and their device must be passcode protected. Have someone in mind? Here’s how to invite someone to be a Recovery Contact.

  1. Go to the Settings app.
  2. Select [your name] > Password & Security > Account Recovery > Add Recovery Contact.
  3. Reconfirm by selecting “Add Recovery Contact.”
  4. Confirm your identity with your Apple ID password, Face ID, or Touch ID.
  5. Select someone from your family group or “Choose Someone Else.”
  6. If the person in your family group has upgraded to iOS 15, they will automatically be added as your Recovery Contact. If they have not upgraded, you'll see a text message with an invitation link that you can send as is or edit before sending. The link will send them to the home page, and you’ll see their name with “Request sent” underneath in your list under “Recovery Assistance.” Once they have upgraded to iOS 15, the link will work.

    If you “Choose Someone Else,” you’ll see a text message with an invitation link that you can send as is or edit before sending. The person will have to accept the request before becoming your Recovery Contact. If the person has not upgraded to iOS 15, they too will be sent to the home page. Once they have upgraded, the link will work.

How to reset your Apple ID with a Recovery Contact

The method for resetting your Apple ID depends on how you have security set up for your Apple ID and whether you have access to another Apple device (check out all of the ways in my story on resetting your Apple ID password). Each method requires you to verify your identity, and one of the options can be to use a code provided by your Recovery Contact.

When you need the code, you will need to get in touch with (call, text, email, meet for coffee) your Recovery Contact, and ask them to generate a recovery code. On your Recovery Contact's Apple device, they should go to Select [your name] > Password & Security > Account Recovery. At the bottom of the screen under “Account Recovery For,” they will see your Apple ID. When they tap your name, they will see the option to “Get Recovery Code.” Thank them profusely for their help and promise to use a password manager in the future so this won't happen again.

[Image credit: Techlicious]

For the past 20+ years, Techlicious founder Suzanne Kantra has been exploring and writing about the world’s most exciting and important science and technology issues. Prior to Techlicious, Suzanne was the Technology Editor for Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia and the Senior Technology Editor for Popular Science. Suzanne has been featured on CNN, CBS, and NBC.


Tips & How-Tos, Phones and Mobile, Mobile Apps, iPhone/iPad Apps, Privacy

Discussion loading


From Carrie A Cleveland on October 08, 2021 :: 2:41 pm

My father had an iPad but after his passing we realized that none of us had his recovery ID. Apple won’t assist us because we have no idea where he purchased it. Those in the family that have Apple computers have been unable to unlock it via the work arounds available throughout the internet.

Its proven to be a brick! UGH!



From Darron on December 30, 2021 :: 5:03 pm

My Facebook got hacked trying to get it back



From Scott Andersen on December 20, 2022 :: 4:55 am

Using my passcode to reset my password (as I’m supposed to be able to do), when I entered the correct passcode on the first attempt I was immediately rushed into recovery. If it was the wrong passcode it would have said try again but no it didn’t give me any option. Just recovery. So 3 calls and 3 chats to apple support (2senior support staff members). No solution! Actually I got extended 2 days when I entered the 6 digit code! Hacked definitely! Apple doesn’t care not one bit


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