Apple's Activation Lock

With mobile technologies, there is a high risk that these may be stolen and used by others. This is why companies which manufacture wither have their own security features or allow third party apps which such features.

Recently, we have struck difficulties with the Apple Activation Lock.

One of our elderly neighbours recently gave our child their old iPod Touch (the device was about 5-6 years old). Our neighbour had stopped using the Ipod as she had been locked out as she could not remember her Apple account password which was needed to allow access to the device once the activation lock was triggered. She gave it to our child thinking that we would be able to re-establish access and out child could use it.

We hunted through Apple help and found out how to create a new password when one forgets it and also what to do when one sells/gives away a device which has the activation lock triggered (which was the case for the device in question).

We followed the instruction provided on the Apple website thinking that this would allow the activation of the device (able to get through the lock). No, this didn’t work.

Next option was to call Apple. While their call centre personnel were helpful, they did not know why the activation lock could not be removed. Discussions seem to indicate that it should have worked and there may have been an issue at Apple’s end.

Anyway, Apple said there were two solutions:

  1. our elderly neighbour tries to remember the Apple account password at the time that the device became locked as this password may be the one that may allow the device to be assessed.
  2. our elderly neighbour must have two accounts, not realising it, causing the issue…this was not possible as the Apple Account she has is linked to her only email address (a bigpond one) and she doens’t/can’t have another account.
  3. provide proof of purchase and Apple could disable the activation lock at their end.

I enquired what would happen if 1-3 was not possible, they said that if this was the case, they were not allowed to unlock the device due to their own policies, and the device won’t be able to be used in he future.

Well, in the end our elderly neighbour couldn’t remember her password from a few years ago when the device was activation locked, confirmed she only had one Apple account as she only had one email address *which we already knew as Apple had confirmed this) and also didn’t have a receipt or bank statement record as the product as bought using cash at Officeworks.

As a result, we now have a iPod Touch which is useless (is a digital brick) and will end up in the waste stream due to Apple’s rigid security polices and our forgetful neighbour.

While Apple is now unwilling to offer support, this is possibly a warning to others if one also falls into a similar situation. While we can understand why these security features exist, if a consumer forgets a password and changes it when a activation lock is activated, loses their purchase record and Apples troubleshooting doesn’t work. one’s very expensive Apple device will also potentially become a brick.

It is suggested that one thinks carefully about inbuilt security features which can’t be removed, even with a factory reset/restore. I personally would opt for third party apps which provide similar functionality and may also have a workaround such as a factory reset if one forgets password and is locked out. At least losing data is better than losing everything including the device.


After a few years this might be unlikely, but I’ve gone to two stores now (Bunnings was one) and asked them if they could find my receipt - I had the date and remembered and approximate time I was at a particular register. This was many months down the track.

Similarly, if Officeworks aren’t able to find the receipt, then they won’t be in any position to challenge a receipt you might ‘find’ :wink: Enter potential ethical issues, but as you rightly point out this prevents a rightful owner from using their own device - for me, it’s gloves off at that point …


A statutory declaration by your neighbour may be sufficient proof of ownership and transfer of ownership as they can also provide proof of their email account which is logged to their Apple account. Worth a try.


If you haven’t tried this already, the DNS fix may work. From WikiHow:

Scroll down till you get to the relevant section, method 2.

Does the old girl have a computer with iTunes on it? If so then the system may have an auto log-in app that allows you in. You can turn off activation from there.

A similar approach is to use iCloud via the browser, provided the browser’s auto password feature is turned on. Wiping and deleting the device from there should solve your problem.

Otherwise, it’s a brick. Bin it.

You can buy cheap refurbished iPod Touch models with warranty from reputable outlets. A new one from Apple will cost you $300 (ouch) - better off with a refurbished iPhone.


eWaste, please. :slight_smile:

From a security perspective, if the item was purchased for cash, I don’t see why having the receipt is a clincher. Obviously Apple is concerned that the item has been stolen. If someone steals the item then that someone could also steal the receipt.

At the end of the day, being able to recover the device is unavoidably in conflict with protecting the device against theft.

Another consideration is that it is only by ‘luck’ that Apple has any role in this. Imagine that you buy a standalone device, set a password on it, and then forget the password.

Does the design of the hardware allow this situation to be dealt with? Many devices have a ‘factory reset’ button. Some devices that I have seen have much more obscure and difficult mechanisms for doing a factory reset - but it can be done. Some devices simply may not have such a mechanism. If a device lacks such a mechanism, should we consider it defective?

Imagine that Apple claims or engineers it such that there is nothing that Apple can do? (Apple’s involvement is, after all, a two-edged sword. They can help you when you stuff-up but you are also surrendering some control and freedom to Apple.)

As an example, if you create a password-protected Microsoft Word document, and you then forget the password, I believe that Microsoft and everyone else in the world claim that you are out of luck. The document content is irretrievably lost. Microsoft can’t help you. The document will have to go into the waste stream. :slight_smile:


Thanks for the link…Unfortunately the iPod doesn’t have DNS edit at the step shown.

Tried the factory reset…from what I can work out is once you set up wifi through initial setup, it communicates with Apple servers and the Activation Lock then appears. I can’t bypass the wifi setup as it won’t proceed further in the initial setup until a wifi is selected and connected.

The Apple support guys spoke to didn’t assume this, but their hands are tied by rigid Apple policies.

The three options available for proof of purchase is…

  1. Receipt of purchase
  2. Email or online purchase confirmation
  3. Managed for them to agree to bank/CC statement due to time lag…not knowing at the time purchase was cash.

I have thought about fabricating dot point 2, but trusting my luck they will try and verify and tgus find out it is forged. I don’t want to have to explain to the boys in blue if they then assume it is stolen,


I don’t own an iPod so I probably can’t help with that.

The general problem … yes, it sucks. I have definitely seen devices that are absolutely rigid about how they work during early activation and unless you surrender lots of personal information, you simply can’t use the device. Should that be made illegal? …

It’s one reason why, as far as is possible, I avoid locked proprietary stuff and stick with open source.

The DNS may come via DHCP. If that is the case then you can temporarily ‘edit’ the DNS in your DHCP server (presumably your router). Keep in mind though that while you are futzing around with this, other devices on your network may be broken temporarily (so the fewer other active / on devices, the better).

However the IP addresses at Step 4 in Method 2 all look invalid to me anyway!?!? So that would leave me wondering exactly how you need to enter such an IP address in order to get it recognised by the iPod.


I sympathise with you @phb,
but I was very grateful for the activation lock and the lost mode in the Find my phone function. So much personal information could have otherwise be seen by anyone (and especially by someone who wasn’t honest enough to hand in a lost device) before I realised the loss and acted to put the phone in ‘Lost mode’.


While it is great security for when you lose the device, it is the limited ways that are available to overcome the lock when other what should be satisfactory proofs can be offered but are not accepted when ownership or proof of purchase are lost/unavailable. Imagine if all the proof of purchase had been lost in a flood or fire, what then for the owner who has forgotten their password?


It becomes an even worse situation than trying to establish loss for an insurance claim after ones house burns to the ground or is flooded to the roofline. A device with a lost password and no proof of purchase are technicalities that should have reasonable paths to overcome. Insurance companies make it difficult but not as impossible as the case in point seems.

Logic suggests requiring photo ID (a document such as driver license) confirmed by appearing on a video call, the serial number and perhaps some related traceable information to establish bona fides or prosecution should the device have been stolen, should suffice.


I would lament such extreme bad luck and hope that none of those calamities would happen to anyone, all at the same time.

I could not commit my password to memory, being one of many, and being a camouflaged jumble of letters and numbers and symbols.

I have heard that the activation lock can be forced on a iTunes site on the PC, but I wouldn’t really know how.
The lost mode is only turned on by the owner of a lost device, and it’s in the Find my phone feature. It needs the password to lock the device in lost mode and another password is created to unlock it, if and when it is recovered.
A phone in lost mode is completely useless to anyone without the password and I would wish that Apple wouldn’t help anyone to unlock it.


When I was trying to find a solution, found there are websites that indicate the lock can be bypassed…but, one can’t use wifi or connect to the internet as it will then reappear. There are also supposed to be crack software/apps, but, there are reports these are also full of malware, trogan etc and are very high risk. Others claim to allow limited access under a fee for service arrangement (maybe scams?). Either way, trying to bypass and if it did partially work, means the device becomes very difficult to use as functions would be limited.

The other question whidh I didn’t raise above is should a business like Apple have untimate control over ones device. They are acting as judge and jury and have policies which potentially infringe on a consumers rights. I have been left feeling like one doesn’t own an Apple device fully, but have a licence for its use. Apple have final say on how it is used.


You may want to read the contract that was agreed to on purchase. I suspect Apple does retain effective control over its devices. This is good when they are stolen or hacked, but bad when basic details are lost.

It is not just Apple, though. the Secure Boot feature in modern PCs - if turned on - effectively locks them in the same way (ignoring the dozens of errors in implementation). Windows has activation keys and locks. We are in a digital world, and no longer control what we thought we owned - but that has been the case for decades with movies, TV shows and music.


Isn’t that why Apple has a reputation for being more reliable than the ‘PC’ (eg Windows world), eg tight control over all aspects from software to drivers to […]? Apple users often see that as a feature not a failure, at least until it fails for them :wink:


Yes, and it’s why it is easy to play games on a console but you may need to fiddle with a few things on a PC. If you can control the environment, then you don’t need to include drivers for dozens of graphics cards, networking, and all the other stuff that can change from PC to PC.


I understand all the arguments/recommendations and also feel sad for the people involved. Something that I have not seen mentioned, and perhaps whilst it wont solve the current problem, will help any future problems for anyone who owns Apple. (or even an IBM Clone. Download a reputable Password Generator (I use 1Password 6), then the only password you have to remember is the password to open up the application. Even the ‘1 Password Company’ has no way of knowing what the password is, so by losing that password, yes you would lose all your passwords, but I’ve had it now for 6-8 years, and it’s brilliant. The other thing I found difficult to read about was the neighbour was ‘elderly and couldn’t remember the password’. I too am ‘elderly’ (in my mid 70’s) and I don’t believe anyone is ever too old to learn a new procedure to safeguard their digital belongings. I understand the reluctance of ‘making a fatal error that could impact whatever’ but the person helping must have infinite patience. I do agree with the comment about buying a refurbished iPhone in the end. Still hopefully a way round the current situation may in the end be found.
Love my Apple Products.


That’s reassuring.
Although there are some of us who are at risk from decline or mishap. Upon which the password or words are gone forever.

It’s a slight diversion. I do wonder about the solution, and what may be the best way of ensuring access is not lost forever in ones more golden years.

For access to assets previous experience as an Executor presented no problem. However for other records or when able to act with an Enduring Power of Attorney, it seems to have no great ability to unlock personal records. Before the need arises do you share the PW with a trusted member of the family you do not live with, or place it in a sealed document with your solicitor and will?

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Hello Mark,
Thank you for prompting me - I had intended to share that bit of information/knowledge, but obviously forgot. The answer is yes: one of my Executors on my Enduring Power of Attorney, My Advanced Health Directive, and finally as per my Will (all 3 are covered by the same executor and yes this person is a totally trusted family member) definitely has the ‘main password’ to not only my ‘Password 6’ application but also my Apple computer, and my iPhone (password is also the same as my iPad). I did this because of the fact that many (if not all) companies from whom the entire computer literate population download applications, still don’t have a provision for a person/executor to close accounts ‘after death’. I am still aghast at this fact - isn’t it time that someone, somewhere, in the making of ‘protection laws’ sorted this out?


You may recall the FBI in the US took on Apple but had to resort to a third party to break into the shooter’s iphone back in 2015.

As for passwords, I used to wonder how many numbers my grandparents ever had to remember. They were born in the late 1800s when many houses weren’t even numbered and there were no telephones. How times change.


Isn’t that an arguement for the password keeper functions/apps available. Particularly when we are meant to use different passwords for everthing. It doesn’t take long to run up a considerable list of passwords thst frankly is a challenge to remember by anyone of any age never mind someone over 70.