Over the 10 year period I have been supporting the iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, and the Apple Watch I have encountered many iCloud locked devices. Even now, I still get requests from people desperate to remove the activation lock from their locked device.
This article provides some free techniques I used over the years to unlock the iCloud lock for my clients.
This article will teach you:
- 3 ways to unlock an iCloud activation locked device for free
- how to get a free trial of an unlocking tool
- what to do if none of the free unlocking options work
No technical knowledge is required with these solutions.
Table of Contents
Why am I qualified to talk about iCloud locked devices?
I have more than a decade of practical experience supporting Apple products including the iPhone and iPad range of devices. During this period I have successfully helped many users remove the iCloud lock from their locked devices.
I have also been an Apple Certified Independent Technician for 5 years for both iOS and Mac devices.
The 5-steps to unlock an iCloud locked product
If your device is iCloud locked then here are the steps to fix it:
- Check if your device is stolen goods so you know which of the steps below you should do next
- Ask the seller to remove the iCloud lock remotely
- Ask Apple to remove iCloud Activation
- Try unlocking the device yourself using a trial version of iBypasser
- Bypass the iCloud lock
The first 3 steps are officially endorsed and recommended by Apple.
If you find that you can’t unlock your device using these steps I also describe what to do next if these steps don’t work.
For some reason, they have not removed it.
This is quite common when buying used devices on eBay or Craigslist.
There are only 2 reasons why iCloud locks are not removed:
- The owner forgot or was unaware they had to do so
- You have bought a stolen device so the owner didn’t have the opportunity to remove it
Before you begin you need to find out which reason applies to your iPhone.
You can use the Stolen Phone Checker website to see if it was stolen.
This is a website that lets U.S. consumers check the status of any iPhone model by typing in its MEID/ESN/IMEI number (this is your device’s serial number). You can have up to 5 checks per day.
If you are elsewhere in the world you should use IMEI.info instead – although you can only check using the IMEI-based serial number on this website. These tools will give you some interesting information about the handset including the cellular network it is on.
IMEI.info works for English speaking countries – such as the UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand – and claims to work for 880 mobile networks from over 230 other countries too.
So it should be suitable for visitors from almost anywhere in the world.
If your device is confirmed as stolen then Apple will not help you. It is also unlikely that the seller will help either – considering they have just sold you stolen goods. If you paid using a card or PayPal you may be able to get a refund on your purchase.
If you still want to try to unlock the device despite this you should skip to step 4 (below) and try a trial version of iBypasser to see if it works.
If you are still unable to use your device after trying out iBypasser then you should read what to do if none of the steps worked for you.
How to find your IMEI number 
On these devices, you’ll find the IMEI number on the SIM tray.
- iPhone 12
- iPhone 12 Mini
- iPhone 12 Pro
- iPhone 12 Pro Max
- iPhone 11
- iPhone 11 Pro
- iPhone 11 Pro Max
- iPhone XS
- iPhone XS Max
- iPhone X
- iPhone 8
- iPhone 8 Plus
- iPhone 7
- iPhone 7 Plus
- iPhone 6s
- iPhone 6s Plus
- iPhone 3G
- iPhone 3GS
- iPhone 4 (GSM model)
- iPhone 4s
On these devices, you’ll find the IMEI number on the back.
- iPhone 6
- iPhone 6 Plus
- iPhone SE
- iPhone 5s
- iPhone 5c
- iPhone 5
Get in touch with the seller and ask them to unlock the iCloud lock on the iPhone.
If they have forgotten to do this before selling it this request shouldn’t cause a problem. 
You don’t need to worry about returning the iPhone for them to unlock it. They can remove iCloud Activation Lock remotely without physically having the phone in their possession.
So if you bought a device from a seller located on the other side of the country it isn’t a problem.
To make life easier I have created an email template you can use to send to the seller.
It explains the problem and tells them what they need to do to fix it.
Click here to create an email ready to send to the seller. It re-directs them to an article on this website that explains what they need to do.
Simply add their email address.
When the seller unlocks the iCloud account you will be able to setup your device as your own. It won’t ask for the previous owners’ Apple ID and password again.
If the seller refuses to help or doesn’t get back to you try the next step…
If you have a local Apple Store then you can visit them and request they unlock iCloud.
They will unlock it under some circumstances.
You will need proof of ownership such as the original receipt.
You will also need to prove that ownership has transferred from the previous owner to you. For example, show a print out of the eBay transaction and the payment confirmations.
Apple may also help if the owner has passed away and you want to gain access to the device.
They will check if it is a stolen iPhone first. If they see that it has been stolen they will not help you.
They will also refuse to help you if you can’t prove beyond any doubt that it’s your iPhone. Apple needs to be 100% sure you are the rightful owner and if they have the slightest doubt they are not allowed to help.
If you have tried to get Apple to unlock it and failed move on to the next step…
iBypasser is an App that can remove the iCloud lock screen on iOS-based devices. It can also help remove the screen passcode too if you have forgotten that.
You can download and install a complimentary trial version for Windows or Mac computers. Find out more about this tool in the promo video below.
Although the trial won’t allow you to finalize the unlock without buying a license it will allow you to test it out to see if it might work for your iPhone model, iPad, or Apple Watch.
Technically this isn’t a free method, but you can try it before you buy it. So you can see if it will work before you commit to the cost of buying the App.
Downloading the complimentary iBypasser trial
1. Go to the iMyFone website and click the Free Download button to get a complimentary trial version of iBypasser.
2. Once the software has been installed run it and select Unlock Apple ID.
The screenshots below are from my Mac computer – if you have a Windows computer they may look slightly different. Don’t panic, the software will work on your PC.
3. Attach your iOS device to the computer via a USB cable.
4. If your device is compatible the Apple ID and password will be removed (but only on the paid version). If it appears to work buy a license and activate it so you can fully unlock your iPhone.
Not technically minded?
If you aren’t technically minded, don’t have a computer, or want the unlock done quickly without your involvement then you would be better off using an iCloud removal service.
I know it is annoying to have to pay to unlock iCloud but it gets done without you having to get involved with the technological stuff described above.
You might not know this but you can do an iCloud DNS bypass instead of unlocking. It doesn’t completely unlock iCloud but it does allow you some functionality on your idevice.
You can bypass the lock screen so you can use your device for some things such as:
- Watch video
- Use social media
- Send SMS
This is a temporary ‘workaround’ so you need to set it up again after each time you reboot your phone. This may not be too much of an issue as I rarely reboot my iPhone.
The biggest limitation is that you can only use your iPhone via Wi-Fi.
Also, you can’t do some basic things such as:
- Make calls
- Download Apple Apps
If you are desperate after trying all the previous steps then it may be the best option for you.
Benefits and drawbacks of doing an iCloud bypass
- It is free
- You can do it immediately
- You can use the device in a limited way
- You can’t use your device normally
- It only works via a Wi-Fi connection
- You can only use some functionality
- Apps don’t work
- You can’t use the device as a phone
- It is quite technical to do
- It is only a temporary fix and has to be done each time you reboot your device
I’d prefer to be able to use my iPhone properly without any restrictions – so this would only be a last resort for me.
Try iCloud DNS bypass and see what you think.
If you feel the Bypass is too restrictive and you would like to try to permanent iCloud removal service so you can use your device normally then read on to see what you can try next…
Unfortunately, you have run out free options to try.
However, you might argue “there are loads of other free methods you can find online and on YouTube that claims to work”.
I would advise against these.
In my experience, none of these other methods remove the iCloud lock from a locked iPhone.
Instead, they have a variety of hidden dangers ranging from forcing you to click thousands of ads through to infecting your computer. Viruses, Trojan horses, and pop-ups are some of the hellish things you can expect from a removal service that costs nothing.
You can read more about why you should avoid these freebee unlock services in my in-depth article.
But there are still a couple of things you can try…
Use a removal service to unlock iCloud activation lock
If you want your Apple device working as quickly as possible I suggest you use an iCloud removal service. It may cost money but at least you know it will get done within a few days rather than chasing the seller, Apple, or messing around with software yourself.
It’s quicker and easier.
The iCloud unlock service works like this:
1. Provide iCloud locked device IMEI or serial number
The IMEI is a 14-digit number and the Serial is a 12-alphanumeric code used to uniquely identify your device
2. Pick model
Specify the model of iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, or Apple Watch.
3. iCloud activation lock removal is processed
Enter your details and pay and get your iCloud lock removed.
4. Apple device is unlocked and ready for you to use
Within 3- days your iCloud activation lock will be permanently removed.
What IMEIdoctor iCloud activation lock removal service clients say
DO NOT HESITATE to use this service! Reliable, great value, quick. Other services quoted me double the price or double the time frame to remove iCloud account from my iPhone. These guys aren’t dirt cheap, but don’t let that put you off – if you pay peanuts you get monkies.
I had an iPhone 4S unlocked successfully, just paid £39 pounds to remove the iCloud lock instead of buying a new phone
It was easy to order and the unlock came when it was promised to. Works fine, iCloud account is removed like a charm!
Try to get a refund from the seller
At best, the seller may be unaware they have sold you a dud. At worst they are a mugger or thief that has conned you out of your hard-earned cash.
Either way, they should refund you your money after selling you something that is not fit for purpose.
Getting hold of the seller may be hard, but if you paid using PayPal or a credit card you should be able to make a claim against them and get your money back. Or if you feel particularly aggrieved you might consider legal action against them to try and recover the money.
I am no legal expert and I can’t provide legal advice but if this is something you want to do I advise you to hire an appropriately qualified professional to advise you on your options.
Regardless of the option you pick I wish you good luck and have my fingers crossed you are successful.
People Also ask
What does iCloud locked mean?
When an iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, or iPod Touch is ‘iCloud locked’ it means that the activation lock security system has been triggered on the device.
If you try to use an iCloud locked device you will be presented with an on-screen message requesting the owner sign in with their Apple ID and password. Once the signed in the device is unlocked and can be used normally.
Issues occur when buyers of second-hand devices try to set them up and are asked for the original owner’s Apple ID . The device is unusable until the original owner’s details are entered.
Can an iCloud locked device be fixed?
The security system that locks an iPhone or iPad can be dealt with in a number of ways. You may be able to have your device unlocked by asking the original owner, or by downloading a software tool to help you get past the activation lock.
Regardless of the technique you choose to implement from this guide there will be a way to get your device up and running.
How does the iCloud activation lock work?
The iCloud activation lock stops unauthorized access, use, or reformatting of your Apple device. It was created to prevents thieves from stealing and reselling devices.
The iCloud Lock works in conjunction with another Apple tool called “Find My”, which allows you to locate your missing device. It shows your device’s location on a map making it easy to track down.
Both of these features come enabled by default on all iPhones, iPads, and some Apple Watch models and I recommend it is not disabled so your device and its contents are secured.
This 5 step guide explains what to do if you find yourself with an iCloud locked device.
Is it safe to buy an iCloud locked device?
You may find that an iCloud locked device is far cheaper to buy than an unlocked one. This is for a good reason. It is really hard, time-consuming, and awkward to get around the lock.
Indeed, in some circumstances, it may not be possible to remove the activation lock at all leaving you with a device that can’t be used properly. This means that it is risky buying an iCloud locked device as you can’t be sure that you can use it.
The risk can be managed to a certain extent, but there is still a possibility that you end up with a device you are unhappy with. If you are unwilling to take the risk then it would be better to buy a device that is not iCloud locked.
Is every iCloud locked device stolen?
No, not all devices displaying an activation lock screen are stolen. The lock may have been triggered accidentialy by the previous owner.
For example, it is quite common for sellers to forget to wipe and reset their old device properly before selling it resulting in you buying an iCloud locked product. The seller may have simply:
- Forgot to turn off Find My
- Forgot to sign out of iCloud
- Had their Apple ID disabled
All of these mistakes will triger the activation lock when trying to setup the device.
If you’re buying a used device be sure to ask whether the activation lock has been disabled. If possible get them to provide proof before agreeing to buy.
Some of the links in this article are affiliate links, which means that if you choose to make a purchase, I will earn a commission. This commission comes at no additional cost to you. Please understand that I have experience with all of these companies, and I recommend them because they are helpful and useful, not because of the small commissions I make if you decide to buy something. Please do not spend any money on these products unless you feel you need them or that they will help you achieve your goals.
 ^ Apple support article: Find the serial number or IMEI on your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch
 ^ Apple support article: What to do before you sell, give away, or trade-in your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch