Enable Passcode for iPhone / iPad

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Virtually all iPhone and iPad users must set an iOS passcode for their individual devices. This forces anyone trying to use the device to enter a password before it can be unlocked or access anything on the device, and it also requires the same passcode before a user can adjust certain system preferences. Setting a passcode for a device is really easy, and unless an iOS device never goes away home, work or school, whether or not it has personal data on it, it should be considered a simple but essential security tip for all users to protect their devices and data.

This guide is for those who are not yet using passcodes to protect their iPhone, iPad or iPod touch (hi mom!). If you’re already using a passcode, you can skip the initial setup section and check out the time frame for the required passcode, or consider using some of the more advanced security methods, ranging from complex passcodes to the more extreme security methods to avoid mandatory destruction of data after multiple incorrect attempts.

How to Enable lock screen passcode on iPhone and iPad

This enables the passcode that is displayed up when someone ‘slide to unlock’ a protected iPhone or iPad, entering the passcode becomes mandatory before granting access to the iOS device.

  1. Open the “Settings” app on your device and go to “General”
  2. Select “Face ID & Passcode”, “Touch ID & Passcode” or “Passcode Lock” then choose “Turn Passcode On” (the exact labels depend on the iOS device features)
  3. Enter a passcode using the on-screen numeric keypad then reenter the same passcode to confirm and set

Enable Passcode Lock in iOS

Of course, don’t pick a passcode that you forget or that is too cumbersome to enter or you’ll just get annoyed. If you forget it, you can go to Apple Support to get it done for you or restore the device with one of your backups to reset it.

Now that the passcode is set up, you’ll want to adjust the idle time before the device needs to be used again.

Set a reasonable time frame for passcode

This basically means how long a device is inactive or how long the screen is locked before needing to re-enter a passcode to regain access. Shorter times are safer.

  1. In Settings> General> Passcode Lock, select the option “Passcode Required”
  2. Set the timeframe most suitable for your use (generally 1 minute or 5 minutes immediately is recommended)
  3. Exit the settings as usual

Require a passcode immediately or after a minute to use the iOS device

The shortest times are the safest. My personal preference is ‘immediately’ to prevent unwanted use of a device that has been temporarily abandoned, in a public place, or if a device is accidentally lost. Since the password is required immediately after the screen is locked, you don’t have to worry about someone getting immediate access to personal information or adjusting settings on the device. 1 minute is also a fairly safe time frame, and 5 minutes is nearing the end of what I comfortably recommend for iPhone users or those who often carry devices in public places. Anything 15 minutes or longer (let alone the 4 hour setting) is too much time to be considered particularly safe, but such settings can be used in a variety of environments and for many users. If you like maximum security or are paranoid, use the “Immediate” setting.

Assuming you’ve used the ‘instant’ setting, you can now test if it works by pressing Power / Lock button on the device and slide to unlock as usual. You will see a screen like this:

The passcode entry screen on a locked iPhone

In fact, use complex passcodes for extra iOS security

Another option is to toggle the setting to use a stronger complex passcode for added security, allowing the entire set of alphanumeric keyboard characters or even accent characters to be used as a possible device password.

The complex passcode means that when a user goes to unlock the iOS device, the full default keyboard will be displayed up, instead of the fast number pad that is visible with a normal access code. While complex passcodes offer much more security, they can also be more difficult to enter, making them impractical for some iOS users who want faster access to their devices. Ultimately, it is a matter of individual user preference whether to trade off security or convenience with a standard number versus complex alphanumeric characters.

Extreme: Erasing data after unsuccessful passcode attempts

Another option is to use what I like to call the “James Bond self-destruct setting” which will literally wipe everything on the device after too many unsuccessful passcode attempts. This is very high security feature that’s not practical for most users, and it’s really not recommended for forgetful individuals or iOS users who have children using (or trying to use) their iPhones and iPads. Either way, make regular backups of all devices that have this set up.

Don’t forget to set up Find My iPhone as part of iCloud. This provides the ability to remotely lock a device with something called ‘Lost Mode’, and also provides physical map-based tracking of an iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch or Mac configured to use the feature. These two features can make all the difference in recovering or not recovering a lost device, and at the very least provide added peace of mind. Just think about how much personal information is stored on our smartphones, tablets and computers and you can imagine why each of these security measures is a good idea.

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