Protect Your iOS Devices Without a Passcode

iPhone Lock Screen with a Passcode PromptIf you have an iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch, you’ve probably played around with your passcode lock. If you’re not familiar with the passcode, it’s a way for you to have to “log in” to the device using a four digit PIN or a passphrase. While there is a way to set the device to let you lock and unlock it several times without using a passcode (the “I text message constantly” setting), having an unprotected device is much easier to use.

If you’re like me, you’ve used a passcode sometimes, removed it other times, forgotten it on occasion, etc. This article will detail how I’ve set up my iOS devices to not use a passcode, but for me to still be able to track them down using Find My iPhone as well as preventing them from being wiped and restored should they be stolen.

A quick note before we continue: I am not suggesting that the data on iOS devices is more secure without a passcode. In fact, the opposite is true. All this article is offering is a way to keep your device unlocked while still allowing you to track it down using Find My iPhone should it get lost or stolen.

I’ll be using screenshots from an iPhone, but the iPod Touch and iPad follow an identical process to setting up this kind of protection.

One of the lesser known features in iOS is the Restrictions section of the settings. Restrictions is intended to be used by parents to keep their children from getting into trouble on the device. They can restrict the iTunes and App Stores, prevent in-app purchases, restrict content based on the Explicit tag, etc. There are a couple of options that make a phone impossible to restore and prevent a thief from turning off Find My iPhone.

Let’s take a look at how to do this now. These steps assume your settings app will launch to the main settings screen.

  1. Launch your Settings app.

    When the settings app loads, you will see the following screen:
    Settings Home Screen

    From here, we will be diving into the General category to find Restrictions.

  2. To see the General settings, Tap General.The General settings will appear. Scroll down the screen until you find the section with Auto Lock, Passcode Lock, and Restrictions:
    General Settings Screen Scrolled Down to Passcode Lock
  3. To see the Restrictions options, Tap Restrictions.When the Restrictions options load, they will all be disabled by default:
    Restrictions without a Passcode
  4. To be able to set Restriction options, Tap the Enable Restrictions button.You will see the Set Passcode screen:
    Set Passcode

    You will be asked to enter a passcode twice. After the second time, it will be permanent. I cannot stress the importance of this next phrase. Do not forget your passcode. If your passcode is forgotten, the only way to recover it is to put your device in DFU mode and restore. Again, do not forget your passcode.Once you enter the passcode twice, you will see the restrictions screen become active (not greyed out). Scroll down until you find Location, Accounts, and Find My Friends (assuming you have Find My Friends installed):
    Location, Accounts and Find My Friends Restrictions

    The next set of instructions can be done for Accounts and Find My Friends. We’re going to set up both of these sections to disallow changes. Once changes are disallowed, if you have to edit an account, you’ll have to come into Restrictions, disable the restriction, then make your edit. Disabling changes for Accounts and Find My Friends does two things: 1) it keeps your Find My iPhone email address associated with your phone so that, until it’s restored, you can track your device, and 2) it allows your friends to still see where your device is using Find My Friends.

  5. To disable editing for Accounts, Tap Accounts.You’ll see the following:
    Accounts Restriction Options
  6. To disable changes for your accounts, Tap Don’t Allow Changes.Changes are now prevented for your email accounts.
  7. Repeat steps 5 & 6 for Find My Friends.The last thing we’re going to disable is the ability to make changes to Location Services. This keeps Find My iPhone working as well as keeping all other location services active. If you’re tagging your photos with geolocation and using iCloud and Photo Stream, you’ll be able to see where the photos that are taken on your device have been taken when they’re uploaded (automatically) to Photo Stream. Of course, this requires another iOS device or a desktop computer running Mac OS X Lion.
  8. To view the Location options, from the Restrictions menu, Tap Location.The first thing we want to do is scroll down and make sure Find My iPhone is turned on:
    Location Services Disable

    Once we are sure Find My iPhone is turned on, we can scroll back up and disable changes to Location Services:
    Disable Location Services Changes

  9. To disable changes to Location Services Options, Tap Don’t Allow Changes.That pretty much ends our task as described at the beginning of this article. You can modify other changes in the Restrictions menu, but the important sections should look like this when finished:
    Changes Disabled for Location, Accounts, and Find My Friends

Remember, these changes do not protect the data on your phone; however, they do protect the device itself and keep it able to be found, should it be stolen. That’s all there is to it!

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