Q: My daughter was playing with my iPad. Somehow, she figured out how to change my password (I already had a simple password installed) and now she doesn’t remember what that password was. Cardinal sin, I know. How do I reset? It’s set to my iOS password, so if I had to do a hard reset, I can use that, if that helps. I know this is the baseline defense against hacking/thievery. How can I help defend against stupidity? Or am I screwed?
A: Don’t worry—as fathers of iPad-savvy toddlers ourselves, we can completely relate. The problem is actually quite solvable as long as you have a current backup, but unfortunately you will need to erase your device completely and then restore that backup from either iTunes or iCloud.
The key here is that the passcode itself is actually not included in your backup, so when you restore your device, all of your data will be back, but you will no longer have a passcode on your device—you would simply need to set it again manually (to one that you actually know, of course).
If you have iCloud Backups enabled, these will still occur automatically once every 24 hours even when your device is locked with a passcode, as long as it is on a Wi-Fi connection and connected to a power source.
You can also still make a manual backup to your computer using iTunes from a locked iOS device, provided you have an iTunes library that you normally sync with; iTunes will only sync to a locked iOS device if it already has a pre-existing sync relationship with that device.
You can easily check the status of your backups and manually create a backup by connecting your iPad to your computer, selecting your device in iTunes, and looking at the Summary screen.
This will show you which method is selected for automatic backups and when the last backup was made using that method. You can also toggle between using iCloud and iTunes backups from here, and doing so will show you the last date and time for each. Clicking on Back Up Now will make a new, manual backup to your computer via iTunes regardless of which method you have selected for automatic backups.
Once you’re satisfied that you have an appropriate backup, you can erase your device and return it to factory settings by clicking the Restore iPad button found on the same screen.
This will erase everything on your device, returning it to basically the same configuration it was in when you took it out of the box. You can then go through the standard iOS setup wizard and use either iTunes or iCloud to restore your backup, which will restore all of your data and settings and resync your apps and media content. For more information check out our article on Transferring your Content to a new iPhone, iPad or iPod touch, which provides additional details the backup and restore procedures.
When all of this is finished, your iPad should be setup the same as it was before you restored it, except that it won’t have any device passcode set. At this point you can choose to set a new passcode or simply leave it without one.