iPhone and iPad Tips, Tricks, and Tutorials
Testing and Experimenting

My Experiment With The Passcode Lock Erase Data Option

– Posted in: Testing and Experiments

In part 1 of my series on locking your iDevice and setting up Find My iPhone, I told you about a test I was going to perform.  The test was, that I was going to trip the “Erase Data” function on my iPhone and tell you what happened.  If you didn’t catch that series you can find part 1 here.

So here is what I did.  I went to (Settings > General > Passcode Lock) and turned “Erase Data” to “On”.  I then backed up my iPhone to iCloud and to iTunes.  And finally, entered the wrong passcode 10 times.

Ok, I actually entered it 6 times when the big red “iPhone Disabled Try again in 1 minute” popped up.  After the minute passed, I tried it again and it locked for 5 minutes.  My 8th attempt got me a 15 minute wait.  And my 9th and 10th attempt both had a 60 minute “iPhone Disabled” wait time.  I had to enter a bad passcode the 11th time before it finally erased all of my data.

Just a side note.  I tried to disrupt the lockout by both a soft reset and a hard reset.  Neither worked.  I also checked the Find My iPhone status through iCloud and was successfully able to locate my iPhone.  I then activated the “Play Sound and Send Message” option from Find My iPhone.  The sound played, but no message was displayed.

So after about three hours of trying to trip the “Erase Data” feature, I was finally successful.  My phone rebooted to a brand-new-out-of-the-box iPhone.  Here is where it gets scary…at least to me.

I walked through the steps of setting it up.  Selected my language, Country, and Location Services preference.  It then brought me to a “Wi-Fi Networks” screen that allowed me to choose a WiFi network.

At the bottom of the “Wi-Fi Networks” screen was an option to “Connect to iTunes”.  This went away after my iPhone regained service.  It then changed to “Connect using cellular”.  I chose to connect using cellular.

I was then given three options: Set up as a new phone, Restore from iCloud backup, or Restore from iTunes backup.  I chose to set it up as a new iPhone.  I then entered my wife’s iCloud information.

Sure enough, my phone, or what used to be my phone, was now set up and useable to someone else.  I was able to make calls from it and use it just as anyone who had stolen my phone would have been able to use it.

Fearing the worst, I attempted to locate it via Find My iPhone.  Just as I thought, my iPhone was no longer capable of being located through my account.  Though, I was able to locate my phone under my wife’s iCloud account.

In order to get my iPhone back to, well, being mine again, I went to Settings > General > Reset and tapped “Erase All Content and Settings”.  After being asked if I was sure two times, the phone erased and rebooted.  I then set up my iPhone and restored it from my iCloud backup.

NOTE: If you ever sell your iDevice, be sure to follow the steps in the above paragraph.  You don’t want to sell your device with your personal information on it.


If you ever want even the slightest chance of retrieving your stolen iPhone or stolen iPad, leave this setting “Off”.  If left off, the thief would disable your iPhone or iPad in the same time-frames mentioned above.  Meaning that after the 9th failed attempt the jerk would have to wait an hour before trying again.  And yes, there is a chance that the thief could go through all 9,999 possible codes and gain access to your data.  That would take some serious patience though seeing that they would have to wait a few years to get through them all.

If your data is that sensitive, then I would suggest heading to Settings > General > Passcode Lock > Simple Passcode and that setting to “Off”.  This would allow you to set up a passcode that uses letters, numbers and special characters.  That will give you a lot more then the 9,999 possibilities of the simple passcode.

Have any neat tips or tricks of your own that you would like to share?  Leave them in the comments below.

Happy iOSing,


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