I backed up my last iPhone a few months ago, before purchasing a new XR so I could move all of the info from my past phone on to the new one. At the Apple Store, I ended up just connecting the two phones together to do the data transfer, so I didn't end up needing the iTunes backup from my PC after all.

Fast forward to last week, my iPhone stopped working, and since shelter in place is still in full effect in CA, I had to send my phone in and they sent me a new replacement today. Since it stopped working suddenly, I wasn't able to get my current data back, but I fortunately still have the backup I made in February. Problem is, it is asking for a decryption pass code that I never created (at least not within the last 10 years).

I have called Apple Support, and they told me that they have no way of accessing or resetting this password, does anyone have any idea what it could have been? Could it have been a password that I entered when I first setup my Apple ID in 2008? Could it have been a password I set on another computer?

This backup contains years of photos of travelling, life events, and moments with those who have passed away. Any help would be graciously appreciated.

  • Welcome to Ask Different. Can't you just set this iPhone up as new and restore all that important data from another backup source? I'm assuming you have another backup somewhere? Maybe iCloud?
    – fsb
    May 30, 2020 at 4:45
  • The encryption password is not related to any other - you enter it specifically in iTunes when you first switch on encryption. It may, of course be the same as one you used elsewhere, but it doesn't have to be.
    – Tetsujin
    May 30, 2020 at 7:01

1 Answer 1


Some good news and some bad news.

Good news is the password is one you entered. It’s not reused or picked up from anywhere else. You (or your agent at the keyboard) could choose the same password as was used elsewhere, but they are not automatic or linked in any way.

To elaborate, iTunes does not encrypt backups by default, so someone typed in this password. That means you can think back to the first device you ever had that was an iPod shuffle, Classic iPod or iPhone and start making a list on paper or electronically.

List out the passwords you or someone with access to your computer may have ever used. Maybe start with easy things like the PIN you and your household use for gates, doors, devices, bank accounts. Me methodical and record which PIN you type. Also, go slow. If you want to try the pin 0000 and think you entered it but typed 00000 it may be a long time before you go back and try 0000.

Last good news is you are not really rate limited or at risk of destroying the backup by guessing wrong. You only lose time.

Bad news - the PIN or computer could be misbehaving - this is rare, but can happen. If the PIN was truly 1234 and that doesn’t work, your backup might be lost.

Neutral news - there is cracking software you may choose to pay for or trust. Like any internet software, even if the author didn’t plant malware, someone else could so consider care getting any software - but there are options to try and brute force passwords on backup files.

Apple isn’t offering to unlock it since they don’t set a default password and don’t want to get tricked into unlocking someone else’s private information let alone offer that sort of service. They do document how to move on if you exhaust your time or resources and can’t get into the backup you made.

  • 1
    Listing out old passwords and PINs to try is an excellent idea. The backup encryption password carries forward in the settings when you set up a new iPhone from an iCloud backup as well, so this is likely a very old password. Also several years ago, the prompt to add a backup password was confusing to read, and many people set their backup password to their lock screen PIN, so try those. I wrote a blog post a while ago with my various ideas for helping people remember their backup password: deciphertools.com/support/knowledge-base/…
    – Kelly
    May 30, 2020 at 16:50
  • That is a fabulous blog post @Kelly. Please feel free to edit my answer, add pictures of keychain, make it better. A link to your post would be totally appropriate in an answer or an edit to mine. Thank you!
    – bmike
    May 30, 2020 at 17:14
  • I got the exact same problem and just tried every password I might have ever used. This is super bad UX if such an old password is used and I have no chance to retrieve either my data nor my old password. This just sucks big time.
    – Redbeard
    Sep 23, 2020 at 16:49

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .