iPhone and Mac users have to enter Apple ID details so frequently - when buying an app or iTunes music, accessing iCloud email or other services, updating an OS - that you wouldn't think we'd forget our passwords. But we do.

Maybe you got confused when Apple made us change to a new password; maybe you picked one that was just too complicated to remember. (Here's how to choose a good strong password.) Whatever the reason, forgetting the password to your Apple ID account can be a serious pain - so we're going to explain how to reset it.

One last thing before we get started: your password might not be working because it's been locked by Apple for security reasons - perhaps because an attempt had been made to hack it. Should this happen to you, try this tutorial: How to unlock a disabled Apple ID.

How to reset your Apple ID password

Assuming you can't just think really hard until you remember what the password is, your best bet is to reset it. Here's how to do that.

  1. Go to the Apple ID web page at appleid.apple.com and click 'Forgot Apple ID or password'.
  2. Enter the email address you use with your Apple ID and click continue (if you can't remember which email address you use we address that here).
  3. You will also need to enter some text to prove you are not a robot. (Tip: if you can't read the text, just keep clicking until you can.)
  4. The next step will depend on the type of security you have set up for your Apple account. If you have set up two-step verification or two-factor authentication this will involve receiving details via another device - we explain the difference between two-step verification and two-factor authentication here.
  5. If you haven't set up either of these extra levels of security it will be a case of getting an email or answering some security questions.

We look at the different ways you can reset your password in more detail below.

Answer security questions

When setting up a new iPad, iPhone or Mac, or when creating an Apple ID, you were probably asked to enter answers to some security questions: the name of the road where you grew up, perhaps, or the name of a favourite teacher.

If you choose to answer your security questions these are the steps you will need to go through:

  1. Start by entering your date of birth.
  2. Apple will then ask you two questions. Enter the correct answers and you'll arrive on a Reset Password page.
  3. Now enter your new password twice (so that Apple can confirm you've spelled it the same way each time). Your password needs to have 8 or more characters, upper and lowercase letters, and at least one number. It also cannot contain the same character three times in a row (or any spaces), and you're not allowed to reuse a password you've used in the past year.

How to reset forgotten Apple ID password: Reset password

What if you forget the answers to your security questions?

Remember that it's not just the answers, but also the way you wrote them: watch out for misspellings or shortenings (Avenue becoming Ave, for instance). It's has to be exactly the same as the way you answered during setup.

It's possible to change the questions and/or answers by going to appleid.apple.com, but you'll need to log on with your Apple ID and password. So that may not be useful for those of you reading this article.

Still, even if you've forgotten the answers to your security questions you should still be able to request that the link to change the password for your Apple ID is sent to the alternative email you registered to the account.

Send a password reset email

Rather than answering the security questions you can choose instead to have a password reset email sent to you. The password reset email will be sent to a second email address you have associated with your Apple ID - perhaps a work email.

Before you select this option make sure you have access to the email. Luckily you'll get a hint as to which email address Apple is using, because you'll be shown part of the address.

  1. From the Reset Password screen at https://iforgot.apple.com/password/verify/appleid choose Get an email and press Continue
  2. The email will arrive at the second email address associated with your account with the title "How to reset your Apple ID password".
  3. Click the 'Reset now' link in the email.
  4. The email will come from [email protected] and include a warning in case it wasn't you who requested the change of password.

How to reset forgotten Apple ID password: Password reset email

Two-factor authentication

Two-factor authentication is an extra level of security that Apple has been pushing since the roll out of iOS 10 and macOS Sierra. (Here's how to set up two-factor authentication, although here are some reasons why you might not want to use it.)

Essentially, if you've set up two-factor authentication as well as entering your password you will be required to enter a code Apple sends to your iPhone or Mac.

If you've set up two-factor authentication and you want to change your password, you'll still need to go to appleid.apple.com and click on 'Forgot Apple ID or password'.

  1. At the Apple ID page you'll be asked to enter the email address (and characters to prove you aren't a robot). Then you will be asked for the mobile number associated with your two-factor authentication.
  2. Once you've entered the correct number you'll see a screen offering to let you reset your password from another device or from a trusted phone number. Obviously you need to make sure you have access to these.
  3. If you choose to reset it from another device you'll receive an alert - in our case the alert arrived on the MacBook Pro we were using, and we were given a link to System Preferences > iCloud and the option to Reset Password.
  4. If you choose to reset it from a trusted phone number you will see a warning that Account recovery is require to reset your password from the internet. If you have access to a device running iOS 10 or macOS Sierra or later you will be able to use that to reset the password. If that's the case you should cancel and choose the 'reset it from another device' option as per step 3. Otherwise, choose Start Account Recovery.
  5. WARNING: It can take a few days or even longer to regain access to your account so we don't recommend you use this step unless it is a last resort! If you do go through this step Apple will send a text message to you once your account is ready for recovery. You will then need to enter a verification code sent by Apple in order to regain access to your account.

How to reset forgotten Apple ID password: Two-factor authentication

Two-step verification

Two-step verification is an older security system that Apple introduced a few years ago after there was a lot of negative publicity about iCloud security (celebrities were having their iCloud accounts hacked, which meant that personal photos were leaking online).

Apple users who were concerned about security at the time may have two-step verification set up for their Apple ID. If this applies to you, you would have been sent a 14-character Recovery Key that Apple advised you to print and keep in a safe place.

If you're using two-step verification (and this may be the best you can do, because older devices don't support two-factor authentication), every time you want to sign into iCloud you need to enter your Apple ID and password as well as a verification code that will be sent to one of your devices.

If you don't have both a verification code and password you will be locked out of your account, and should this happen you have to use your 14-character Recovery Key to gain access again.

With two-step verification, password recovery depends on whether you know the Recovery Key. If you don't, you won't be able to recover your account. Even Apple is unable to reset your password if you don't have this Recovery Key... so don't lose it!

If you have this form of security and don't know where your Recovery Key is then you can get a new one by going to your Apple ID account, signing in with your password and email address and choosing Replace Lost Key.

What if you forget your email address?

Along with your password you will need to enter your Apple ID, which is usually an email address you associate with the account.

Perhaps it's less likely to happen, but if you don't often sign in for Apple services and to buy things from Apple, you might forget which email address is tied to your Apple ID. Luckily, there's a quick way to find out which email address you need. You just need to find a device that is already signed on to your Apple ID.

On an iPad or iPhone:

  1. Go to Settings > iTunes & App Store. You should see your Apple ID at the top if you're logged in.
  2. Alternatively go to Settings and tap your name at the top of the page. If you're logged in here you will see the email associated with your Apple ID under your name.
  3. You may also see the email address in Settings > Messages > Send & Receive; Settings > FaceTime, or Settings > Mail.

On a Mac or PC:

  1. Go to System Preferences > iCloud. Again you should see your Apple ID if you're logged in.
  2. If you aren't logged in here you may find the email in Mail > Preferences > Accounts.
  3. Alternatively, if you've used them on the Mac, you may find the details in FaceTime (select FaceTime > Preferences > Settings) or Messages (Messages > Preferences, then click Accounts).
  4. Another way to find your Apple ID is to open iTunes and check for previous purchases. In iTunes find a purchase, right-click and choose Get Info then File. You may see the email address beside your name.

Online

If you fail to find your Apple ID after trying those methods, you will need to visit the Apple ID page online at appleid.apple.com. Below the boxes for Apple ID and Password, click 'Forgot Apple ID or password'.

Enter your first name, last name and email address. If you enter the wrong email address, you can try again with a different one until the email address is recognised. It doesn't seem to be completely foolproof, however: we entered the email address we know is associated with our Apple ID and we were greeted with the No Apple ID Found message. Hopefully you'll have more luck than we did.

Once you've changed your Apple ID password you will need to update it in the iCloud settings in any Apple devices you have.