How to unlock an Apple device when its owner dies

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If you have recently lost a friend or family member, you may be looking to gain access to the loved one’s phone, computer or tablet to get personal data left behind. Whether you’re looking for photos, passwords or other information, it’s frustrating when you don’t know a passcode to simply access it.

I’ve gathered the steps you should follow to unlock an Apple device if its owner dies.

A man holds an iPhone

A man holds an iPhone in his hand in December 2022 in Baden-Wuerttemberg, Rottweil.

How to unlock an iPhone, iPad or Mac without the passcode 

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This first step will only work if the device’s late owner backed up data to iCloud. While it’s easy to turn on automatic backups, sometimes Apple users forget to do this and photos and data may only live on a phone, tablet or computer.

If you don’t know the owner’s passcode or password, check to see if you have their iCloud login. An iCloud login uses email, so try common passwords or see if they left a list of passwords.

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If you have access to an iCloud login, and they backed up their information, you may be able to access a lot of data, including photos, via iCloud.com. Check if any of the owner’s devices log in to iCloud automatically, and, if not, follow the steps below.

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Using iCloud.com to access data 

Go to iCloud.com on a different device. It’s best to do this on a computer

Log in using the owner’s Apple ID

If you successfully log in, you’ll likely be able to access the user’s Mail, Contacts, Calendar, Photos, Cloud Drive, Notes, Reminders and a few other apps if they used them

You can download photos directly from iCloud.com

If you don’t have access to an Apple ID but have access to the user’s email, check if their login was auto-saved on any of their devices like another computer or tablet

iPhone

A woman using a smartphone at a desk.

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Using an email to access iPhone, iPad, Mac data

Go to iCloud.com on a different device; it’s best to do this on a computer

Click Forgotten your Apple ID or…

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