The iCloud Activation Lock status tells you if a device has Apple’s security system enabled on it. This is important when buying or selling a secondhand iOS device as the security system will stop you from setting up or using it.
The security system is called the iCloud Activation Lock. It is controlled from the owner’s iCloud account, or via the Find My App.
If the iCloud Activation Lock has been switched on then it must be switched off by the original owner before you buy it. Only they can do this. If it remains on, then you will be unable to use the device you just bought without a lot of hard work.
This makes it vital that you check the iCloud Activation Lock status before you hand over any money to the seller.
This guide shows 2 different ways you can check iCloud Activation Lock status so that you can be sure the device you are buying is safe.
Related article: How to check the Activation Lock status before buying an Apple device.
Table of Contents
Method 1: Check on the device
Before committing to buy a used iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, or M1-based Mac computer you must check Activation Lock status.
If you are buying a device in person you can check that Find My had been turned off for yourself.
If you are buying the device remotely then you can ask the seller to send you a screenshot proving that the Activation Lock has been disabled.
Follow the steps below to find out what to do:
On an iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch
If the lock screen or home screen appears on the device:
- Tap Settings.
- If the seller’s name appears at the top of the settings page then they are signed in to their iCloud. They need to sign out.
- Tap the seller’s name.
- Scroll all the way to the bottom and tap Sign Out.
- You will be prompted for their Apple ID password.
- Once provided they will be signed out of the device and the Activation Lock will be switched off.
On an Apple Watch
The Activation Lock is automatically switched on for an Apple Watch as soon as it is paired with an iPhone. The watch must be unpaired from the iPhone so the lock is switched off.
- Keep the watch and iPhone close together.
- Open the Watch app on iPhone.
- Tap the My Watch tab
- Next, tap All Watches at the top of the screen.
- Tap the i button opposite your watch.
- Tap unpair Apple Watch.
- When prompted the seller must enter their Apple ID and password to unpair.
On an M1 Mac
The Activation Lock can also be enabled on M1 Mac computers. You can check Activation Lock status by seeing if Find My has been turned on:
- Click the Apple menu at the top left.
- Choose System Preferences from the drop-down menu.
- Click Apple ID.
- In the left sidebar choose iCloud.
- On the list scroll down and find Find My.
- Remove the check to turn it off.
If you intend to buy a used M1-based Mac the seller should turn off Find My, sign out of their Apple ID on the computer, and wipe it.
Method 2: Check using an online tool
There are a number of Activation Lock status tools available online. They work by requesting the device’s serial number or International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI). This is then used to check the iCloud Activation Lock status for Apple devices.
Most tools charge money to check the status, however, you can get a free check at iUnlocker.
Simply enter your device’s serial or IMEI number and press Check. The tool will display the device model, if “Find My” is switched on, and if the product has been reported stolen.
If “Find My” has been turned on then the Activation Lock is on.
Methods that don’t work
Using the Apple Support website
An alternative way to check the iCloud Activation Lock status was found in 2017. It worked by creating a phony repair request.
If the device was Activation Locked an on-screen message would say it couldn’t create a repair as the device had “Find My iPhone” enabled. This meant the device had the iCloud Activation Lock turned on. If the repair had no warning message it meant that the iCloud Activation Lock was switched off and it was safe to buy.
The steps for this method were:
- Go to https://getsupport.apple.com.
- Scroll down and click get hardware help.
- Select the type of product you want to check, such as iPhone.
- Choose the Repairs & Physical Damage box.
- Select Cracked Screen (front only).
- Then tap Send in for repair.
- When prompted supply your IMEI code.
- If an on-screen message says that the device can’t be sent for repair because Find My is enabled then you know the Activation Lock is switched on.
A popular question I get asked is ‘Can you factory reset an iCloud locked iPhone?‘. The thinking is that if the device is factory reset all the settings are data, including the lock, would be removed.
It is possible to factory reset the locked device but that is only half the battle.
The question that should be asked is actually ‘Does a factory reset remove the Activation Lock?‘. After all, you want to know if a factory reset will actually unlock the iCloud Activation Lock.
Unfortunately, a factory reset will not remove the lock as it is not stored on the phone, it is part of the owners’ iCloud account. So this is another method that doesn’t actually work.
Another question I often get asked is ‘Can you jailbreak an iCloud locked iPhone?‘.
The idea behind this question is that the jailbreak will untether the iPhone from the owners’ Apple iCloud account. This is a good idea, but again this method does not offer a permanent solution.
How to remove the iCloud lock
It is possible to get rid of iCloud Activation Lock from a locked device in some circumstances. For more details, see Can iCloud activation lock be removed?.
If you find that the iCloud Activation Lock is enabled on an iOS device you bought then you have some options to help remove it:
- You can ask the previous owner to remove the lock. If you can’t get in touch with the previous owner we have some tips on How to remove Activation Lock without the previous owner.
- You can permanently get rid of the lock using a tool. For more information, see Bypassing iCloud lock.
- You can bypass the Activation Lock for a temporary fix.
After you check iCloud Activation Lock status on your iOS device and unlock it then it should work properly.
Can Apple get past Activation Lock?
Yes, Apple can unlock an iOS device for you in certain circumstances. You need to be able to prove you are the device owner by showing a valid receipt.
If the device belonged to a deceased relative then you need a court order showing that it has been left to you. You can then request assistance from Apple Support to remove the Activation Lock.
How long does it take Apple to unlock Activation Lock?
It takes between 3-7 days for Apple Support to unlock the Activation Lock after you raise the request.
This guides shows all of the possible ways you can check the status of the iCloud Activation Lock. Of all the options listed the best method is to check in person. That way you can see for yourself.
As long as you use a recommended company you can unlock and remove the iCloud Activation Lock from your device permanently.
If this doesn’t work you can claim. a refund using the money-back guarantee and try an iCloud bypass to get around the Activation Lock instead. It may not be as good but it is still a decent workaround.