Apple’s security system called the iCloud Activation Lock, found on iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, iPod Touch, and some Mac computers, was created to prevent stolen devices from being used by anyone but the original owner.
I have created this simple 5-step process explaining what to do when your device is iCloud locked.
This guide includes 2 free methods that require no technical knowledge, plus another 2 low-cost methods which are perfect if the others don’t work.
The iCloud Lock works in conjunction with another Apple tool called “Find My iPhone”, 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 it should not be disabled so your device is secured.
Issues occur when an iPhone is sold with both of these anti-theft tools enabled preventing the new owner from setting up the device as their own.  This 5 step guide explains what to do if you find yourself in this situation.
The 5-step iCloud lock removal process
This process is completely legal, indeed the first 3 steps are the officially endorsed method recommended by Apple.
- 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 complimentary trial version of iBypasser
- Bypass the iCloud lock
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 it.
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 claims it will remove the iCloud activation lock screen on some 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.
If this method looks like it will work for you then use code XFR-I7E to claim a 20% discount on the software.
Not technically minded?
If you aren’t technically minded, don’t have a computer, or want the unlock done quickly and easily then you might be better off biting the bullet and paying to have the device unlocked.
I know it is annoying to have to pay for it but it just gets it done without you having to get involved with the technological stuff described below.
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.
5. If this method doesn’t work read on to find out what to do now…
You might not know this but you can do an iCloud DNS bypass on any iPhone to get some functionality.
You can bypass the lock screen so you can use your device to 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 having tried all the previous steps then it may be a suitable 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…
The fastest & most reliable: Use an unlocker
If you want your device working as quickly as possible I suggest you pay to have it unlocked. 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 legal route: 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.
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.
People Also ask
 ^ 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