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You may not know that your iPhone has an “Erase Data” setting that will erase all of your phone’s data after 10 failed passcode attempts. This is to prevent an unauthorized user from accessing your data including passwords, contacts, photos, and other sensitive info.

John Gruber of Daring Fireball conducted a poll of more than 4,000 users; two-thirds said they had not activated this feature for fear of their data being erased after 10 failed login attempts (such as a child typing random numbers over and over).

However, this feature can be an excellent security measure that any user should consider enabling, as it’s designed to protect private data in the event of theft. And as detailed below, it takes some work (and time) to erase an iPhone based on 10 failed password attempts.

Understanding Failed Passcode Attempts
According to Apple, “If you enter the wrong passcode on an iOS device six times in a row, you’ll be locked out and a message will say that your device is disabled.”

John Gruber notes, “After the 5th failed attempt, iOS requires a 1-minute timeout before you can try again. During this timeout the only thing you can do is place an emergency call to 911. After the 6th attempt, you get a 5-minute timeout. After the 7th, 15 minutes. These timeouts escalate such that it would take over 3 hours to enter 10 incorrect passcodes.”  It’s unlikely that someone could attempt 10 incorrect passcodes without your knowledge. After the 5th failed attempt, your device is locked and a notification is emailed to you; further notifications are sent for the 6th through 10th failed attempts. So there may only be a small likelihood that a child could randomly erase your data using this method before you were able to retrieve your phone. However, if by some chance your data does get erased, you can restore it from a backup.

Backups are Critical
Before you enable the “Erase Data” feature, ensure that your iPhone is being backed up. You can automatically back up your iPhone using iCloud — follow these instructions. You can also manually back up your iPhone on your Mac via iTunes — follow these instructions. With a backup in place, you’ll be able to easily restore your data if your phone is erased. Apple provides 5GB of free storage with your iCloud account. If you need more space for backups and other data, you can upgrade the storage. Apple’s storage pricing plans are 99 cents a month for 50GB; $2.99 a month for 200GB; and $9.99 a month for 2TB.

Enable the “Erase Data” Feature
After you’ve confirmed that your iPhone is configured for regular backups, enable the “Erase Data” feature by going to Settings > Touch ID & Passcode (or Face ID & Passcode). Scroll down to “Erase Data” at the bottom and tap the toggle switch, turning it to the on position (green visible).

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What About Forgotten Passcodes?
So what if you forget your passcode? The only way to reset it is to erase the device. Apple explains, “Unless you made a backup before you forgot your passcode, there isn’t a way to save your device’s data. You’ll need to erase your device, which deletes all of your data and settings.” (Click here to read more.) This is another reason that regular iPhone backups are critical.

If you’d like assistance restoring an iPhone backup on an erased device, or erasing a device to remove your passcode, please contact us and we can assist you.