How to unlock an Android phone if you’ve forgotten your passcode

Have you manged to lock yourself out of your phone? Don’t panic, we’ve all been there before and we’ll probably be there again at some point. We’re going to show you how to get yourself back up and running.

If you’ve forgotten your pattern, pin, or password and can’t get into your phone – don’t worry, all is not lost. While lock screens are deliberately hard to get into by design, we’ve got a couple of potential ways you can get around them.

Most phones these days give the option to use biometrics to login – so try using the fingerprint scanner or facial recognition software first. If you don’t have this set up, then there are some other things you can try. 

Google Find My Device

The most immediate solution that springs to mind is to use the Google Find My Device (formerly Android Device Manager). You’ll need to log into your Google account for this, and it will only work on the more modern devices  – but you can access this service from any device you’d like.

You will also need the location turned on and be connected to data/Wi-Fi.

Click on the device you want to unlock and then click on Secure Device. Then tap Erase Device, and confirm your choice. From there, you’ll be able to set up a brand new password. 

You may lose some of your photos and apps initially, but these will be backed up via your Google account.  

If the Device Manager isn’t picking up your device, then refresh the page or app a few times. It should get there eventually. You can also try a hard refresh on PC (CTRL + F5) which will clear your cache too.

Check if Smart Lock is enabled

Smart Lock is a feature on Android phones which allows your phone to open without a password if its in a location it recognises. However, this feature must be enabled before you lose access to your PIN. 

If you’d like to future-proof your device, you can turn on smart lock by heading to Settings > Security & lock screen > Smart lock.

You can choose from three options for Smart Lock:

  • On-body detection – Keep your device unlocked whilst it’s on you
  • Trusted places – Add location where device should be unlocked
  • Trusted devices – Add device to keep this one unlocked when it’s nearby

The ‘Forgot Pattern’ Feature

If you’re using an older version of Android, namely 4.4 or lower, then you’ll be able to use the ‘Forgot Pattern’ feature. If you’ve failed to unlock your phone 5 times, you’ll have a message pop up. At the bottom right of your screen, you’ll see a “Forgot Pattern?” button. Tap it.

You can then enter your Google account details and Google will send you through an e-mail with your new unlock code.

Samsung’s ‘Find My Mobile’ Service

If you have a Samsung device then this would be a good option, however if you haven’t set up your Samsung account prior to this then it’s not going to work.

Tap the device you wish to reset the password of, and then click on Unlock. This will wipe any other passwords you have set up on the phone. Confirm your choice and sign into your Samsung account if prompted. Your device should now be unlocked.

The Factory Reset

We’re moving into some slightly more drastic measures now, but if you have all your data backed up and there is nothing on your phone that you can’t live without, a factory reset is a good way of starting over.

There are checks to stop Factory Resets however so you’ll need your Google log in information to complete this step. Here’s what you need to do:

  • Ensure your phone or tablet has at least 30 percent charge
  • Open the Settings app
  • Scroll down to and select Backup & reset
  • Tap Factory data reset
  • Select Reset phone
  • Select Erase everything
  • If you have a Google password you will be prompted to enter it now

You can then log in to your Google account to restore any lost data, and set a new password that you’ll remember (or set up biometrics for your password to avoid getting locked out in the future). 

Bypassing a non-stock lock screen with Recovery Mode

If the lock screen you’re having trouble with is from a third-party app, and not the stock lock screen that comes with the phone, then you can bypass this by booting the phone into recovery mode. 

This method will differ depending on what device you have. We suggest searching for your device on the manufacturer’s website for exact instructions. 

In most cases, you can bring up the option by long-pressing the power and volume buttons down together. You’ll then see a mascot and options appear on the screen. You can cycle through the options by using the volume keys for up and down.

When you reach recovery mode, click on the power button to confirm your choice. When the phone boots up the lock screen will be disabled.