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Screen locks on smartphones are a vital way to keep the contents of your device private. In an age when you have personal, professional, and financial information on your phone, locking your mobile has become a necessity instead of a choice.
But if you forgot your phone passcode, you can get locked out of your device. There’s a greater risk of forgetting thanks to the fingerprint scanners on modern devices that render passwords as a backup.
Here are some ways that you can regain access to your Android phone if you forget the password.
Are You Sure You Forgot It?
Before you proceed, it’s wise to take a moment to make sure you’ve actually forgotten your passcode. Unlike the iPhone, which used to feature four-digit passcodes and has recently moved to six-digit codes, Android lets you choose any number of digits for your PIN.
If you’re trying to recall a four or six-digit code, consider whether your passcode is actually a different length. This may help you remember it.
1. Unlock With Smart Lock
Smart Lock is an Android feature that lets you specify certain conditions that bypass your lock screen security. You’ll find it under Settings > Security & location > Smart Lock.
You’re required to input your current lock password to make changes to the feature. Then you can choose five possible options to unlock your smartphone without a password:
- On-body detection: The phone senses that you’re carrying it automatically stays unlocked while it’s on your person.
- Trusted places: Uses your location to unlock your phone when you’re near an address that you’ve selected.
- Trusted devices: Keeps your device unlocked when connected to a trusted Bluetooth device, like your fitness tracker or car.
- Trusted face: Uses facial recognition to unlock your phone. You should know that this facial recognition technology invades your privacy.
- Voice match: Unlocks your phone when it hears your trusted voice.
If you’re already set up one or more of these options before you forgot your password, you can use it to get back into your phone. However, you can’t change Smart Lock or password settings without entering your current password. Thus, you may still need to factory reset, but at least you can back everything up first.
2. Options for Samsung Devices
Have a Samsung device? The company offers a couple of ways to reset your lock code if you forget it.
Using Backup PIN (Older Android Versions Only)
If you have an older Samsung phone running Android 4.4 KitKat or earlier, you may have set a backup PIN. After entering your password or pattern incorrectly, follow these steps:
- Tap on the Backup PIN option if you can remember it.
- Type in your PIN code, then tap Done.
- You will be redirected to the Screen Unlock settings to reset the lock screen pattern.
Find My Mobile (All Android Versions)
For all of its phones, Samsung offers a feature that lets you remotely manage the device if you lose it. You’ll need to be signed into your Samsung account on your phone, and must have either a Wi-Fi or mobile data connection.
To reset your phone’s passcode through Find My Mobile:
- Open findmymobile.samsung.com on your computer.
- Log in with your Samsung account.
- Go to the Unlock my Device option and follow the instructions.
3. Use the Forgot PIN Prompt (Android 4.4 or Earlier)
If you have an older phone with Android 4.4 KitKat or earlier, you can reset your passcode through the lock screen. This uses your Google account, and requires the following steps:
- Input the wrong pattern into the lock screen until you see a You have made several unsuccessful attempts. Try again in 30 seconds message.
- Tap on Forgot Pattern and you’ll see a prompt to enter your Google account information.
- Type in your email address and password.
- You now have the option of resetting your lock screen pattern. Simply tap on the Sign in tab, then go to the Screen Unlock settings and set a new lock screen pattern.
Unfortunately, Google removed this option in modern versions of Android.
4. Try Some Workaround Hacks
If you haven’t set up Smart Lock, don’t have an old phone, or don’t use a Samsung device, the above methods won’t help. In those cases, you’ll have to take more drastic measures.
These essentially have you hacking into your phone. They’re not guaranteed to work, and could potentially mess up your phone if you’re not careful. Thus, you should only try them if you have no other options available.
Delete the PIN File With ADB
Using the Android Debug Bridge (ADB) utility, you can access your phone’s files through your computer. You can utilize this to delete the file that controls the phone’s lock screen security.
However, this method will only work if:
- USB debugging is enabled on your phone. If you’ve never dove into the Developer Options panel, then you don’t have it enabled.
- You’ve allowed your computer to connect to your phone via ADB. We have a guide to using ADB if you’re not familiar.
- Your phone is not encrypted. Starting with Android 6.0 Marshmallow, Google requires all Android phones to ship encrypted. Thus, this won’t work for newer devices.
If your phone meets these requirements, you can unlock your phone with the following steps:
- Connect your phone to your computer via USB cable.
- Open a Command Prompt or Terminal window to your ADB installation directory.
- Type in adb shell rm /data/system/gesture.key and hit Enter.
- Reboot your phone. Once you do, the secure lock screen should be gone.
- This is a temporary condition, so reset your PIN or pattern lock before rebooting again.
Crash the Lock Screen
This method works for encrypted devices running Android 5.0 to 5.1.1. Thus it’s only suitable for a small subset of phones, but is worth a try if you happen to fit into this.
To crash the lock screen and gain access to your phone:
- Tap the Emergency Call option on your lock screen.
- Use the dialer to input 10 asterisks.
- Double-tap to highlight this text and select Copy.
- Paste the selected characters next to the original copied characters.
- Keep repeating this process of adding more characters to the password space until double-tapping no longer highlights the characters.
- Open the camera shortcut and pull down the notification shade.
- Tap the settings icon, where you will be prompted to enter the password.
- Long-press the input field and choose the Paste option. Then repeat the process several times to copy and paste more characters.
- Eventually, the lock screen will crash and allow you to access your device.
5. Perform an Android Factory Reset
If none of the above worked for you, you’ll have to resort to a factory reset. Of course, this erases all data on your phone as well. If you’ve signed into your Google account and backed up to it, you can sign back into that same account after the reset and restore a lot of it.
Since you’re locked out, you’ll need to use another method to do the reset. The easiest way is to use Google’s Find My Device website. As long as you’ve enabled this feature on your phone, you can click the Erase Device option on this page to reset it.
If you can’t use this method, you’ll need to factory reset manually. To do so:
- Power your device off.
- After the screen goes completely black, press and hold the volume down and power buttons simultaneously to bring up Android’s bootloader menu. This button combination may be different depending on your phone.
- Press the volume down button twice to highlight the Recovery Mode option, then press the power button to select it.
- Hold the power button and press the volume up button once to enter recovery mode.
- Use the volume buttons to go to the Wipe data/Factory Reset option. Proceed with the steps to perform a factory reset.
- Once the device reboots, walk through the setup again. You’ll be prompted log back into your Google account, which will restore any backed-up data.
Preventing Future Lockouts on Android
These methods can get you back into Android phone, but they won’t help you remember your password for future logins. You don’t want to have to go through these steps again, so it’s better to take precautions so you won’t forget your passcode in the future.
Here are a few tips for remembering your Android password for the future.
- Keep a physical copy of your password in a place that only you can access, like in a safe or password manager.
- Follow our tips for creating a strong password you can remember. Don’t choose something obvious, but do make it memorable.
- Make sure you’re signed into your Google account (and Samsung, if applicable) accounts, and have enabled at least one Smart Lock option.
- Back up your Android data to soften the blow if you have to factory reset again.
Remember that Android offers several ways to lock your screen, so you might do better with a different option.