Restore access to your iPhone when you forgot your password and got yourself locked out (dur)

It happens sometimes. These tips can help.

Katie Teague Writer II
Katie is a writer covering all things how-to at CNET, with a focus on Social Security and notable events. When she's not writing, she enjoys playing in golf scrambles, practicing yoga and spending time on the lake.
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Maybe you forgot your  iPhone  passcode. Maybe a 3-year-old got ahold of your phone and locked you out for a gazillion minutes. Either way, your only hope of using your iPhone again soon might be to restore it.

Hopefully you've kept up with your iPhone backup reminders. If that's slipped (no judgment), you're probably getting "iPhone Not Backed Up" and "iCloud Storage full" messages on a daily basis.

Use this as your guide for restoring your iPhone back to the original settings. 

Make sure your phone is backed up

If you're already locked out of your phone, this step may be too late -- skip to the recovery mode section. If you're taking precautions, however, make sure you back up to iCloud or iTunes ASAP. If you don't back up, you could lose all your photos and videos.

Read now: Back up to prepare for your new iPhone

Go into recovery mode

1. Connect your iPhone to your computer and open iTunes.

2. Force restart your iPhone.

For the  iPhone 8 and newer: Press and release the volume up button and then press the volume down button. Next, press and hold the side button. You should see the recovery mode screen.

For the  iPhone 7 : Press and hold the side button and volume down button at the same time. The recovery mode screen will appear.

For older iPhones: Press and hold the home and top buttons at the same time until you see the recovery mode screen.

3. A screen will appear that says "There is a problem with the iPhone that requires it to be updated or restored." Select Restore.

restore iphone

Restore your iPhone.

Screenshot by Katie Conner/CBS Interactive

Restoring your iPhone

iTunes will begin restoring your device, which can take a few minutes. If it goes over 15 minutes, your phone will exit the screen and you'll need to start over. Do not unplug your device from your computer until your phone has completely been restored.

Once it's finished, you can set up your device and begin using it again.

If you backed up your iPhone, you can restore all of your information with your Apple ID -- this is your username and password you use to download from the App Store. Make sure you're connected to Wi-Fi before you begin.

1. Once you reach the Apps & Data screen, tap Restore from iCloud Backup.

2. Sign in to iCloud using your Apple ID.

3. Choose your most recent backup.

4. Log in to your Apple ID account to restore your apps.

5. A progress bar will appear and let you know how much time it will take to restore. This could take a while, depending on how much data you're recovering.

6. Finish the setup for your iPhone and begin using it again.

Watch this: How to use your iPhone's Instant Hotspot

What if I'm still locked out?

If you've restored your phone to factory settings and your phone still won't let you in, there's not much more you can do on your own. 

We suggest making an appointment at your nearest Apple Store where a specialist can try to help you get back into your phone. If there isn't an Apple Store near you, the next best move would be to contact Apple Support. We hope you can fix your issues at home, though. Good luck!

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Originally posted April 5 at 5:00 a.m. PT.