If I were to ask you what was the center of your Apple universe, you’d probably say it’s your iPhone, iPad or maybe even your Mac. While all of those play a key role in your happiness, your Apple ID is what makes everything work in unison. In most cases, your Apple ID is used for iCloud, iTunes Store purchases and often it’s also your primary email account. When you are logged into the various services, everything just works and it’s part of lure of using Apple products. It can also create a ‘set and forget’ mindset. When you get a new iPhone, iPad or Mac, it’s not uncommon to misplace or forget your Apple ID password. It sets in motion a series of events that result in being locked out of your account for hours, if not days. If your account hasn’t been disabled, there are steps you should take to make sure that never happens. If you’re having trouble with failed security questions, we’ve outlined steps on how to recover your account.

Apple ID account was disabled

What happens when you reset your Apple ID password

If you’ve forgotten your Apple ID password, there is an option to reset your password. Let’s say you’ve just picked up a new iPhone and forgot your password. This often sounds like a good idea. Apple resets the password and sends out directions on how to login and change your password. If you have an iCloud mail account, your account is no longer accessible, because the password has been reset. Herein lies the problem. You’ve effectively locked yourself out of your own account. The very same email account that is receiving the reset password email from Apple is disabled. If you happen to have a secondary email account associated with the account, that email will also receive instructions from Apple. The same can be said for folks who don’t use iCloud email accounts for their Apple ID.

Time to play, what are the answers to my security questions

Once you realize the dilemma, Apple does offer an online option for recovering your account. If you’ve setup security questions, answering these questions correctly will allow you to gain access to your account. I’ve experienced situations where security questions were never setup, yet appear to be associated with an account. It’s almost as if they are setting you up for failure. Apple will ask for your birth date to begin the process. Again, despite having the correct answers, they come up as being incorrect.

The temptation is to repeat your attempts, hoping you might win at Apple ID Jeopardy. I’ll take, “What was my first car?” for $200. Once you reach a certain number of failed attempts, your account will become locked for 8 hours. At that point, you can restart what could become an exercise in frustration.

When All Else Fails, AppleCare Can Help

If you’ve never setup security questions or failed to answer them correctly, the next step is to contact AppleCare. Typically, AppleCare phone support is good for 90-days after purchase of an Apple product. That’s not the case with lost Apple ID passwords. On Apple’s site, you can request a call-back, usually within the next 12-24 hours. From my experience, Apple representatives will coach you through the process of answering your security questions. They can’t answer the questions for you. They need two points of confirmation in order to confirm ownership of the account before they can reset your password.

If you don’t have a secondary email setup and fail to correctly answer two of your security questions, you do have one final option. The credit card used with your iTunes account can be used to confirm your identity. Apple will ask for the first 6 digits and the last four digits of the credit card on the account. If you get this correct, you still need the second point of confirmation. Your iPhone or iPad should satisfy this request. The customer service representative will send a code to your iOS device that you’ll need to confirm with the representative. That’s it, you’ve successfully met the requirement and now they can start the recovery process.

The Apple ID Recovery Process

Once they have verified your account, the recovery process can begin. In 24 hours, you’ll receive instructions on how to reset your Apple ID password and reclaim your disabled account. The representative can take a secondary email and attach it to your account. Again, if you’ve been using an icloud.com, me.com or mac.com address, you still won’t have access until you reset your password. If you don’t have another email address, you can setup free email accounts at Gmail, Outlook, Yahoo and others. Again, make sure you note your password on those accounts.

How to secure your account and prevent it from becoming disabled

Whether you’ve never had your account disabled or just regaining access, there are steps you can take to prevent your account from being disabled. For basic security, you should do the following:

  1. Visit Apple’s website and select Manage Your Apple ID.
  2. Setup security questions.
  3. Make sure and include a secondary email address.

If you want a higher level of security, you should read our article on how to setup 2-factor authentication. Apple’s password requirements are also getting stricter, which can make them difficult to remember. Using a third-party password manager is a great way to keep a digital record of your passwords. You can also setup strong passwords, all of which get entered with ease, thanks to the application. Applications like 1Password, DashLane and others can offer you excellent security, while retaining access to your passwords. They often use a master password and can be used on Macs, PCs and iOS devices.

A Familiar Story

The information shared in this article comes from personal experience. For years, I managed my parent’s MobileMe account. Having the master password, I could prevent calamities like lost passwords. When Apple provided everyone with free accounts, they were on their own. During a recent visit, I noted that all of their accounts (save for one) had incorrect passwords. iCloud wasn’t backing up their iPhone. Apple TV kept asking for a password. The next step was to gain access to the account. To do so, we needed to enter a birth date. Easy enough, or so we thought. Not a single birthday, all of which were correct, worked. The next step was a phone call, since the mail account wasn’t working. To my surprise, there were a set of security questions. My father, now 85, didn’t get a single question right. With their credit card in hand, I figured that was their saving grace. Wrong, again. Like so many consumers, their credit card company had re-issued a new card in the last year, which didn’t match the number on file. At this point, the representative suggested a second call-back, giving us a few hours to work on our answers. Like clockwork, they called back and we proceeded to try our hand at the security questions. Not a single one correct, thankfully they were able to locate their old credit card number. With that information, Apple was able to send a verification code to Mom’s iPhone. If they didn’t that credit card number, their account would have been lost. Save for a Johnny Cash album, they don’t have many purchases. For them, losing the email account they’ve used for the last 10 years or so would have been the worst of it. Sure there are plenty of free options out there, but as seniors, updating their email address with friends wouldn’t have been an easy task. Their son, had almost failed them. Almost.

Your Apple ID is center to most everything you’ll do on your iPhone, iPad or Mac. It’s the account that allows for syncing your email, documents, images and more over iCloud. It’s also the account used for purchases through the iTunes Store, including the history of your purchases. Movies, music and apps are all part of your account. When you consider the importance of your content, it’s vitally important that you take the proper steps to safeguard your account. It’s just as important to setup your Apple ID so that in the event of a lost password, you alone can reset your disabled Apple ID.

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