A friend's father died a couple of weeks ago. He usually used the same numeric password on all devices. But not on his iPad. I can't even reproduce the password via the fingerprints. The lock time is already at 60 minutes. Is there some kind of an exploit or process at Apple which can help us to retrieve the information from the iDevice or is a full reset the only way to use it?

PS This isn't a question about morals or ethics. The friend has reasons to try to recover the data. The loss of her father left a million questions open and she thinks there might be answers in his personal data. I appreciate any answer, but please, don't judge over a fate or a question, before you are sure what the reasons may be.


3 Answers 3


I'm not sure a general answer can be given with the lack of details in this specific case, but like any data recovery situation, it pays to stop and get some professional help to at least understand your options.

  1. How valuable is the data? Give an order of magnitude guess. $10, $100, $1000, $10,000, or more? The solutions for each involve different timescales and tools.
  2. STOP trying to guess the passcode - it could have a 10 guess and the iPad erases itself trigger set. The trigger could even be less than 10 incorrect guesses. Your next attempt to unlock it could be your last chance to save the contents.
  3. What else is available? In almost all cases, a computer exists that will unlock each iOS device - so rather than trying to guess the passcode - see if you can locate that computer instead.

Here are support articles that should help anyone in this situation:

Once you realize that time is on your side and that the system is designed to not be compromised by someone that finds the device, your chance of success will increase with the added care you bring to the task. That design notwithstanding, there are often circumstances when a passcode gets forgotten or not handed to the device's current owner and you have a few avenues to get the passcode reset or bypassed without erasing the device's contents whether you try to crack the PIN with a tool or work around the security by locating the computer that can unlock the device for you.


Apple provides access to law enforcement with a warrant. This access is typically done through password guessing in a manner that does not risk resetting the iPad. I do not know if Apple will provide this service in the situation that you describe, but it's possible that they will if they are contacted by an attorney or ordered to do so by a court (for example, if there is material on the iPad that is required for probate.)

What do you hope to find on the iPad? Most information on the iPad is simply a copy of what is in cloud-based services, and you can usually get access to those directly.

Another option that you have is to go after the backup. This is a useful option if the iPad was synched with a desktop. Frequently the backup can be accessed directly (if it is not encrypted).

Finally, if it is an iPad 1 or 2 the security is not as strong as on an iPad 3. You may be able to get a computer forensics professional to get you access. Many investigators have such services available. You may be able to get the iPad opened for a few hundred dollars.

  • 1
    Could you explain how Apple knows the passcode to an arbitrary device? I'm sure personal records are provided via subpoena, but a warrant is to confiscate or search certain property as opposed to request information in the US. I think you just can ask Apple support nicely and they would help - for options resetting an Apple ID password perhaps or how to get at the computer to unlock iOS.
    – bmike
    Commented Jun 23, 2013 at 1:25
  • Apple doesn't know the passcodes. It tries them all.
    – vy32
    Commented Jun 23, 2013 at 2:12

you can probably be hopeless now... sorry for ya but if he updated it to IOS7 you are in really big trouble. try doing this: hold down the close button until you see the slider, dont slide it. then close your smart cover. open and press cancel

  • Is that some sort of lock-screen exploit? Is it documented somewhere?
    – Dan J
    Commented Oct 30, 2013 at 1:35

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