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How to bypass Activation Lock (step-by-step fixes)

Over the last 10 years I have been tracking down, verifying, and testing all the ways the claimed to successfully bypass the Activation Lock screen on Apple products.

So if you buy a used Apple device and it:

  • asks for the previous owner’s Apple ID and password, or
  • it displays the “Locked to owner” message when you try to use it

you can be sure your device has been activation locked and you need to bypass the lock screen before you can use it.

I have written this guide to help you solve this issue on personal, corporate, and educational devices.

activation lock message on Apple device screens
Above: Activation locked Apple devices

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My guide shows you all the tried and tested ways I currently use to remove the iCloud Activation Lock from iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Mac Computer, or Apple Watch right now.

These step-by-step fixes include techniques, services, hacks, and online tools I use to help my clients.

Read on to find out all the methods I use that can help you unlock the iCloud lock screen on your device in 2024.

For a copy of this guide you can print and keep, download the PDF file. No signup is required. You don’t even need to provide your email address.

Key takeaways

You can bypass iCloud Activation Lock instantly if you know the ex-owners’ Apple ID, or by using a software tool. Or within 24-hour by using a service.

Here is a quick summary if you’d like to know how to switch it off – if you need a bit more help, you can read our full guide below:

  1. Using an IMEI unlock service is the easiest. You don’t need any technical skills or a computer. You provide some basic information, pay the fee, and have your device unlocked in as little as 24 hours. I found DirectUnlocks is the best removal company.
  2. Using a security bypass is a good option for computer experts. If you are computer-savy and are happy to download, install, and use DIY unlocking software then iBypasser is a decent option. Unfortunately, these tools don’t iCloud unlock a Mac.
  3. It is cheapest to bypass iCloud Activation Lock using DNS. However, this method of getting around iCloud is fiddly, and only allows some basic functionality on your device, and only works on some Apple products. For more information see how to bypass iCloud using DNS.
  4. Removing iCloud Activation Lock is simple IF you know the Apple ID and password used to set up your device. Just follow the on-screen instructions when prompted. You can reset your Apple ID if you forget your details. If you don’t have these details you need to use the tools or services discussed above.
  5. NEVER use a free service to unlock iCloud activation lock. None of the free tools work and they can permanently damage your hardware.
  6. You can remove the Activation Lock without the previous owner. There are a number of tools and services that can help bypass the iCloud lock if the last owner can’t to turn it off. In corporate and educational settings, you can use the Activation Lock bypass code.

Be aware that if you erase the iPadOS or iOS device it will not remove Activation Lock. It will remain activated until it is turned off properly.

The iCloud Activation Lock has been added to Mac making this issue even more widespread.

Activation Lock bypassing methods for personal devices

My techniques, last verified in 2024, will help you to unlock an iCloud account linked to the Activation Lock on your personal Apple device.

Follow these steps:

  1. If you have an iPhone, cellular iPad, or cellular Apple Watch find out the IMEI and serial number. You will need it later. The IMEI is a unique id for your iOS device and you need to provide it so the correct handset gets unlocked.

    You can find the IMEI and serial number on the barcode on the device’s original packaging.

    imei on original packaging
    On these models, you’ll find the IMEI and serial number on the SIM tray:

    • iPhone 13 Pro Max, iPhone 13 Mini, iPhone 13, and iPhone 13 Pro.
    • iPhone 12 Pro Max, iPhone 12 Mini, iPhone 12 Pro, and iPhone 12.
    • iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, and iPhone 11 Pro Max.
    • iPhone XR.
    • iPhone Xs, and iPhone Xs Max.
    • iPhone X.
    • iPhone 8, and iPhone 8 Plus.
    • iPhone 7, and iPhone 7 Plus.
    • iPhone 6s, and iPhone 6s Plus.
    • iPhone 3G.
    • iPhone 3GS.
    • iPhone 4 (GSM model).
    • iPhone 4s.
      IMEI code location on a SIM card tray so you can remove iCloud Activation LockIMEI or MEID code on a SIM card tray to allow Activation Lock removal

      On these models, you’ll find the IMEI and serial number on the back:

    • iPad Pro (Wi-Fi + Cellular models)
    • iPad (Wi-Fi + Cellular models)
    • iPod Touch (all models)
    • iPhone 6
    • iPhone 6 Plus
    • iPhone SE
    • iPhone 5s
    • iPhone 5c
    • iPhone 5
      iPod and iPad IMEI location on the rear of the device
  2. For a WiFi-only iPad, iPod Touch, or Apple Watch, you only need the serial number. For help finding the serial number, see find the serial number on your iPhone or iPad
  3. You need to find out the exact model of iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, or Apple Watch you want to be unlocked. For more information, find out how to identify your iPhone model by its model number and other details.
  4. Pick a trustworthy supplier. I found DirectUnlocks the fastest, easiest, and most reliable company.
  5. Request an unlock for your device. To ensure the correct device is unlocked, you will be asked to supply the IMEI or serial number, and the model.
  6. The iCloud Activation Lock will be removed from your iOS device in 1-5 days. You will be able to set it up without being asked for the preceding owners’ Apple ID.
  7. Optional: If you prefer to attempt the unlock yourself using a software app, use a trustworthy unlocking tool. You can perform the unlock procedure straight away using your own computer, as long as you are computer literate.

Using a tool or service

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After researching over 30 top-rated iCloud unlockers online and negating the poorly rated ones (the ones that have a 1 star or less rating on review sites), I purchased the top 10 services and tools and tried them out for ourselves.

I then spent over 30 hours testing each service, or tool even going as far as to employ the help of members of the iChimp community to get opinions directly from the target market. During the tests, I measured customer service, speed, reliability, cost, and the ability of each unlocker to actually get rid of the iCloud Activation Lock. To find out more, see Tools that bypass iCloud.

After the process was completed, I crowned a winning service and winning software tool. Both offer the best balance of features for the price.

iCloud unlock service

DirectUnlocks is a notable service if you want to bypass Activation Lock on your iOS device. During our tests, it successfully worked for every Mac, iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, and Apple Watch I sent them.

Based on price, support, and reliability, they emerged as the best service I tested that can remove Activation Lock.

Summary box: DirectUnlocks

DirectUnlocks is an unlocking service that can get any iCloud locked device working without previous owner involvement.

  • Price: £29.99 GBP ($36 USD)
  • Speed: 24-84 hours
  • Customer Services: Quick and helpful
  • Rating: 9 / 10
icloud unlock

Pros

  • Hassle-free iCloud bypass service
  • Responsive and helpful customer support
  • From 24 – 48 hour turnaround
  • Good selection of payment methods
  • Money-back guarantee
  • High success rate

Cons

  • New supplier – so no long-term track record
  • Some negative reviews
  • Two-part payment process can feel misleading, with some users feeling blackmailed by the additional finalization fee

This service is best for people who want to bypass iCloud Activation Lock from iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch without any involvement beyond asking for it to be done.

In common with every service I tried, the payment is broken down into two parts. You are asked to pay a deposit, followed by a finalization fee. This is the worst aspect of the service as it can give the impression that the service is cheaper than it really is. Some buyers reported feeling blackmailed as they didn’t realize there would be a second payment. This is why I specifically mention the odd payment structure.

Independant reviews say Direct Unlocks is trustworthy and reliable

Direct Unlocks has been receiving positive reviews on Trustpilot since its launch in 2012.

Customers praise the company for its fast, reliable, and affordable unlocking services. Many customers have written that they had their phones unlocked without any hassle, and some have even said that they were able to get their phones unlocked in under an hour.

direct unlocks review

However, some users have reported less satisfactory experiences. A few customers mentioned delays beyond the promised timeframe and occasional issues with customer support responsiveness. Additionally, the two-part payment process has been a point of contention for some, leading to feelings of being misled about the total cost.

Direct Unlocks Trustpilot Reviews

At the time of writing, DirectUnlocks is rated great on Trustpilot.

People have noted that the team is quick to respond to any queries and are willing to help find a solution to any issue. Some customers have even said that the team is willing to go the extra mile to find a solution to their problem.

Overall, while most customers have had a positive experience with Direct Unlocks and would recommend the service, there are some areas where improvements could be made, particularly in terms of transparency about pricing and consistent customer support. Many have written that they would highly recommend the company to their friends and family, but prospective users should be aware of the mixed feedback regarding the payment process.

direct unlocks trustpilot reviews
Above: At the time of writing, DirectUnlocks is rated great on trustpilot

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Using DirectUnlocks

To bypass Activation Lock using DirectUnlocks, use the following unlock process:

  1. If you have an iPhone or cellular iPad, find out the IMEI code. You need it later. For help finding the IMEI, see find the IMEI on your device.
  2. For a WiFi-only iPad, iPod Touch, or Apple Watch, find out the serial number. You need it later. For help finding the serial number, see the preceding link.
  3. To request the unlock, go to DirectUnlocks.
    DirectUnlocks website
  4. If you have an iPhone or cellular iPad, enter the IMEI in the box. For a Mac, WiFi-only iPad, iPod Touch, or Apple Watch, enter the serial number in the box.
  5. In the device model dropdown, select your product. 
  6. To continue, press the Unlock iCloud! button. The order details and price will be shown on the order summary page that opens.
    DirectUnlocks checkout page
  7. Where it says I agree to the terms and conditions, tick the box.
  8. Choose the payment method you prefer to use and pay securely. DirectUnlocks gets your contact details from the payment screen.
    DirectUnlocks payment
  9. In your email, you will receive a confirmation of your order.

Lock screen removal tool

Who it’s best for: A software tool is suited to competent computer users that don’t mind trying to bypass iCloud activation themselves. If you are not tech-savvy avoid this option and use a service instead.

Summary box: iBypasser

iBypasser is a software tool that can remove Activation Lock without previous owner helping.

  • Price: Between $40 – $70 USD, depending on the license selected
  • Speed: Immediate, after download and installation of the tool
  • Customer Services: Fast 
  • Rating: 9 / 10
iBypasser website

Pros

  • Free download
  • Responsive support
  • Can be done immediately
  • Works on Mac and Windows
  • Good selection of payment methods
  • Money-back guarantee
  • Well designed and frequently updated

Cons

  • Some features still won’t work after unlocking
  • Requires a computer
  • Complex process
  • Jailbreaks your device which invalidates the warranty
  • Software license automatically renews so be careful of additional payments

The verdict: iBypasser is a strong option for computer enthusiasts happy to bypass Activation Lock themselves. The ability to start removing the iCloud account immediately after download is a significant advantage, and the free trial makes it a good way to try before you buy.

However, it’s important to be aware of some drawbacks. The process is complex and requires a computer, which may not be suitable for all users. Additionally, the tool works by jailbreaking your device, which invalidates the warranty and could lead to potential issues down the line. Some features may not function even after unlocking, and the automatic renewal of the software license can result in unexpected additional payments if not monitored closely.

Overall, while iBypasser offers a fast and effective solution for tech-savvy users, those less comfortable with technology or concerned about warranty issues may want to consider alternative methods such as a done-for-you unlock service.

Using iBypasser

To bypass iCloud Activation Lock using iBypasser, use the following unlock process:

  1. Download iBypasser app, and install and launch it.
    iBypasser install
  2. Click Bypass iCloud Activation Lock Screen.
    Click Bypass iCloud Activation Lock Screen.
  3. On the Bypass iCloud Activation Lock Screen, click Start.
    On the Bypass iCloud Activation Lock Screen, click Start.
  4. Connect your locked iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, or Apple Watch device to the computer using a Lightning to USB Cable. For more information, see connect iPhone and your computer with a cable.
    Connect your locked iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, or Apple Watch
    iPhone connected to computer
  5. To jailbreak your device ready for unlocking, follow the on-screen prompts.
    • To jailbreak a Mac computer:
      1. iBypasser will automatically download the Mac compatible jailbreak package for your iOS device. You don’t need to install an Apple driver.
      2. To begin the process, click Start Jailbreak.
        click Start Jailbreak
      3. Follow the on-screen instructions, and click Next.
        The tool will jailbreak your device
      4. The tool will jailbreak your device.
    • To jailbreak a Windows computer:
      1. There is no automatic method to jailbreak iOS devices on Windows computers. Instead, follow this tutorial.
      2. Once completed, click Finished Jailbreak.
  6. The iOS devices details appear on the computer. Confirm they are correct, then click Start Bypass.
    Confirm device's IMEI number , iOS version, IMEI number and more
  7. The iBypasser bypass tool will remove the current iCloud account and activation screen. It only takes take a few seconds to bypass Activation Lock.
    iBypasser unlocking device
  8. Once you have removed iCloud Activation Lock, you can use a new Apple ID account, iCloud password, erase iPhone, do a factory reset, or set up any iPhone feature you want.
    Successful removal of the activation lock

Via DNS server hack

iPhone & iPad iCloud unlock bypass screen

If you would like to know how to bypass Activation Lock using DNS, there is a very clever hack that allows you to do so.

It gets around the security on your iOS device when it is locked to someone else’s Apple ID password. It works by setting up your device to use a DNS server that doesn’t use the inbuilt iOS security system.

You don’t need a SIM card inserted to get the iCloud Activation Lock bypass to work as it uses Wi-Fi settings to connect. It is a little fiddly but this hack isn’t that difficult to do. It does have its limitations tho. For example, you can’t make conventional phone calls.

On the plus side, it is a free solution.

To get past the Activation Lock with no help from the last owner using a DNS server bypass, do the following:

  1. Power up your Apple device.
  2. Follow the on-screen instructions to setup your product until you reach the Choose WiFi network screen.
  3. Select More WiFi Settings.
  4. Tap the i symbol next to the WiFi network.
    remove Activation Lock without previous owner dns
  5. Choose Manual on the Configure DNS screen.
    remove Activation Lock without previous owner dns server
  6. Next, tap +Add Server and, input the server address that corresponds to your location:
    • USA: 104.154.51.7
    • Europe: 104.155.28.90
    • Asia: 104.155.220.58
    • Oceania: 104.155.220.58
    • Other locations: 78.100.17.60
  7. Once done, tap Back to return to the WiFi page.
  8. Your device will now connect to the local bypass server.

This server bypass method does have some limitations, such as:

  • Not all functions and features will work on your device.
  • This won’t work on devices running iOS 10 or newer, so it is unlikely to help you bypass the iCloud lock in 2024.
  • It’s fiddly to do.
  • You will need to go through this process each time you reboot your device.

For more detailed information, including other techniques, see how to remove the Activation Lock without the previous owner.

Without previous owner helping

The Activation Lock is enabled because the previous owner has turned on Find My and forgot to switch it off before selling it to you. This is quite a common issue resulting in buyers ending up with devices locked to the previous owners iCloud Apple ID.

Asking the previous owner to turn off Find My will bypass the lock and allow you to setup the device normally.

But what if you can’t get hold of the last owner?

Well, you need some options to allow you to remove the Activation Lock without the previous owner helping.

Luckily, if the ex-owner of your Apple product can’t turn off the iCloud Activation Lock there are still a few of things you can try to remove it yourself:

For more information, see how to bypass iCloud Activation Lock without the previous owner.

When you don’t have the Apple ID password

If you don’t know the Apple ID or password of the account that has iCloud locked your iOS device, you can’t enter it when prompted. This means you can’t switch off Find My and disable the Activation Lock easily.

There are a few things you can try to bypass iCloud Activation Lock if you don’t know the Apple ID, such as:

  1. Ask the last owner to turn off Find My iPhone remotely.
  2. Ask Apple’s Support to help. Be prepared to prove your ownership with a reciept.
  3. Using the iForgot website to unlock or find out the Apple ID or reset the account password.
  4. If you are not a computer expert, try a recommended unlocking service.
  5. If you are computer savy, try a recommended tool.

To find out more, see how to bypass Activation Lock without the Apple ID.

Free iCloud unlocking

Disabling the iCloud Activation Lock for free is possible by entering the Apple ID and password on the iOS device when prompted.

For example, to turn off iPhone iCloud Activation Lock for free, use the following unlock process:

  1. Select Settings.
    tap settings
  2. Then, tap [your name].
    Tap your name
  3. Next, tap Find My.
  4. Then, tap Find My iPhone.
  5. Tap the toggle to turn off Find My iPhone.
  6. When prompted, enter your Apple ID password.
    confirm apple id password
  7. Next, tap Turn Off.

If you don’t know the Apple account details, you can Reset your Apple ID.

For more zero cost methods to get rid of Activation Lock, see 12 tools and services that claim to unlock iCloud for free.

Clearing iCloud Activation Lock on organizational devices

In my experience of dealing with corporate tech, managing Activation Lock on company or educational devices is a different ballgame when compared to personal gadgets.

Let me walk you through how it works.

Using Mobile Device Management (MDM) solutions

First up, Mobile Device Management (MDM). It’s been a game-changer in my line of work.

MDM solutions are like the Swiss Army knife for overseeing Activation Lock on a bunch of devices. I use it to keep everything from iPhones to MacBooks secure yet accessible. Basically, MDM lets us remotely control Activation Lock on all our company devices. So, if someone leaves the company, or you need to shuffle devices around, it’s not a headache.

You don’t have to chase down former employees for their Apple IDs or deal with locked devices gathering dust.

Supervision and enrollment in MDM

Supervision and Enrollment are the 2 key features within MDM:

  • Supervision
    Supervision gives me extra control over devices, more than what’s available to personal Apple products. It’s like having administrative superpowers. I can set restrictions, push necessary apps, and manage Activation Lock.
  • Enrollment
    Enrollment is about adding devices into the MDM system. When I enroll a device, it’s officially part of our corporate fleet, and I can start managing it with all the MDM tools at my disposal.

Clear Activation Lock via bypass code

Removing Activation Lock through MDM isn’t just clicking a button and calling it a day. It’s a bit more involved, but still pretty straightforward by using Profile Manager.

Here’s how I usually do it:

  1. MDM enrollment
    I ensure the device is enrolled in my MDM system. If it’s not enrolled, it can’t be managed.
  2. Initiate removal request
    If the device is in my MDM, I can start the process of removing the Activation Lock. This usually involves going into the MDM dashboard and selecting the device
  3. Send bypass code
    After selecting the device, I send a command from the MDM to clear the Activation Lock. This command communicates with Apple’s servers and initiates the unlocking process.
  4. Verification and Completion
    Sometimes, I might need to provide additional verification, like proof of purchase or corporate ownership. Once everything is verified, the lock is removed, and the device is free to be reset, repurposed, or assigned to a new user.

For more information, see organisation-linked Activation Lock for Apple devices.

Permanent vs. temporary Activation Lock removal

In the world of Activation Lock bypass methods there are permanent and temporary solutions.

Permanent solutions will remove the Activation Lock completely, making the device work as if it were never locked in the first place. This is typically achieved using methods like MDM solutions in a corporate or educational setting. On a personal device you can use an IMEI iCloud unlock or an iCloud Bypass tool to achieve the same thing.

These permanent methods work directly with Apple’s systems or leverage authorized bypass techniques to clear the lock.

On the flip side, there are temporary solutions, like the DNS bypass hack. These don’t entirely remove the Activation Lock but rather bypass it for a limited time or under specific conditions.

This means that you will have to repeat the unlock process from time to time in order to continually use your device.

What is Activation Lock?

In short, the iCloud Activation Lock, is like a guardian for your iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, iPod touch, or Mac. If someone steals and tries to use your device, they can’t without your permission.

The moment you turn on Find My on your device, Activation Lock springs into action. Together, they join forces to link your device to your Apple ID. So, even if your device gets erased and reset, it’s still protected, thanks to these features.

The good news is setting up and using Find My is not complicated.

In a corporate setting, Activation Lock becomes even more crucial if you have a fleet of company iPhones, iPads, or Macs – each one potentially holding sensitive corporate data. If a corporate device is misplaced or is held by an employee that is fired, the data can be secured.

For IT departments, managing Activation Lock across multiple devices is streamlined with Mobile Device Management (MDM) tools. These tools allow admins to remotely enable or disable Activation Lock, ensuring both data security and ease of device redistribution within the company. It’s a win-win: keeping company assets safe while also making device management a breeze.

Why is bypassing needed?

Maybe you’ve bought a second-hand iPhone or inherited an iPad from a family member, only to find it’s locked to their Apple ID. Or perhaps you forgot your own Apple ID details. If so, removing the Activation Lock is essential to regain full use of the device.

In the corporate and educational world, organisations often repurpose devices for new a employees or newly enrolled student. This can be a huge issue when devices are linked to former owners Apple IDs, and the credentials are no longer accessible. The ability of the organisations IT Department to bypass or manage the Activation Lock is crucial as it ensures devices remain both usable and secure.

In both scenarios, the goal is to maintain the security and integrity of the device while ensuring its usability. Whether it’s a personal iPhone, a fleet of corporate MacBooks, or student iPads the ability to get rid of Activation Lock is a vital part of device management.

Wrap up

In my research creating this guide I gained valuable insights into effectively handling the iCloud Activation Lock on various Apple devices.

The key takeaway is the reliability of using a recommended company to permanently bypass the lock – a process deeply intertwined with the iCloud unlock method. If this approach doesn’t yield results, there’s a safety net in the form of a money-back guarantee, ensuring no you are not out of pocket.

I also went in-depth with the iCloud bypass strategy. While it may not match the effectiveness of a full Apple ID Recovery or delving into iOS Security, it serves as a practical solution.

My guide extended to IMEI Unlock Services and the impact of Firmware Updates on locked devices, providing more depth of the issue.

I also emphasized the importance of navigating these solutions within legal and ethical boundaries, particularly when considering Security Bypass Tools and Jailbreaking Software. I highlighted the balance between achieving Locked Device Recovery and maintaining proper Account Authentication.

My guide should have provided you with a comprehensive perspective on the complexities of bypassing activation locks, emphasizing the need for informed and responsible action.

If you have any further questions on this issue, feel free to leave a comment below or get in touch using the contact form.

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