How to remove a previous owner's Apple ID from a used iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch

A reader asks:

“I got a used iPod touch recently, and everything seems fine except that when I attempt to log into iTunes, the previous owner’s Apple ID pops-up and it requests a password. How can I get rid of this so that I can use my own Apple ID?”

Apple’s iOS devices—including the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch lineups—use a security feature called Activation Lock that’s designed to keep anyone else from using your device in case it is lost or stolen. While this is a great anti-theft feature, it can make things very difficult if a device’s former owner is intentionally rehoming it.

If the Find my iPhone/Find my iPod feature was enabled—which is part of the Activation Lock process—Apple stores a device’s serial number along with the Apple ID in their database. Even after a clean restore, the device will register with Apple’s database and see the feature is enabled based on the serial number of the device. An Apple store can bypass this, but they are unlikely to do so unless you can prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that you own the device. Often, they’ll just turn you away and say they can’t do it.

The absolute best way to fix this is to reach out to the previous owner and have them remove the device from their Apple ID. They can do this by entering their password on the Activation Lock screen, or by accessing iCloud. Here’s what the previous owner should do if they opt for the iCloud reset: 

  • Sign in to
  • Go to Find My iPhone
  • Select “All Devices” to open a list of devices linked to their account, and select the device to be removed
  • Click “Remove from Account” 

After the previous owner removes the device, then you should turn the device off and turn it back on again to set up the device as new.

If you cannot reach the previous owner, you may be out of luck—or, if the person you bought this device from cannot or will not do this for you, it is possible that you have bought a stolen device and are in possession of stolen property.

This is a good reminder to anyone who wants to pass on an old device: Make sure you follow the proper steps to avoid this dilemma.

For more on iOS security:

This tip was originally published on IDG Answers, a reader-powered help desk for answering tech questions.

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