You can’t get far in the world of Apple without an Apple ID, and here’s not only how to set up an Apple ID, how to find out what your Apple ID is, how to find out (or change) your Apple password, but also how to get the most from your Apple ID account.
An Apple ID is your passport into ever-expanding Apple universe, and it takes the form of an email address and a password.
You’ll need an Apple ID for everything from booking an appointment at the local Apple Store’s Genius Bar, to making a FaceTime call, to setting-up Apple Pay, to buying music, movies and apps. An Apple ID is also used to access your iCloud data and services, which includes tools like iMessage, email, Reminders, Notes, Calendars, Photos storage, and so on.
More than this, however, is the fact that the Apple ID links your Apple devices or computers to each other, and to you. By logging in to Apple hardware with your Apple ID, you’re telling Apple that it belongs to you, and that your shared data, apps and services can be made accessible on it.
It’s possible to use a Mac or iOS device without an Apple ID but it’d be a significantly diminished experience. For example, without an Apple ID you can’t log in to the App Store, so won’t be able to download new apps on your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch.
In fact, if you own anything Apple then you almost certainly already have an Apple ID. If not then read on, although you might like to read on in any case to learn more about what an Apple ID can do for you.
How do I get an Apple ID?
You can sign-up for an Apple ID by visiting Apple's ID section of its website here and clicking Create An Apple ID.
https://appleid.apple.com is your gateway to managing and creating Apple IDs online
There’s no requirement to have an Apple product to link the ID to, allowing anybody to create an account in preparation for purchasing – or even if you’re merely a curious Windows or Linux user.
A free unlinked account provides limited access to iCloud, in order to use the online versions of Pages, Numbers and Keynote, and you’ll get 1GB of free iCloud storage to boot. However, aside from accessing this storage space from the aforementioned web-based apps, you can’t access it any other way – for example, via the iCloud Windows for Windows app – unless you first link the Apple ID to a Mac or iOS device by signing in there.
If you don’t link your Apple ID to an iOS device or Mac then you’re limited to accessing online iWork tools
When creating an Apple ID you need to provide an email address for your username. Rather perversely, this can’t be for an existing email account that’s provided by Apple, and it can’t be an address previously used for an Apple ID.
Don’t be tempted to provide false details here because a confirmation email will be sent to the address, and you’ll need to click the link within it before your Apple ID is opened for business.
Further down the application form you’re required to enter a second, different email address for rescue purposes, such as resetting your password. This address will be used very rarely and this time around the address can be one already used for an Apple ID. You could provide the email address of your spouse, for example, although again there’s a requirement to confirm by clicking a link in an email sent to the address.
To create an Apple ID you’ll need to provide your date of birth, fill in some security questions, and give your mailing address. Don’t be tempted to enter false details here either because Apple will be using all the details later to confirm you are who you say you are.
In particular, ensure you enter the correct country details because Apple runs separate Music, Movie and App Stores for different territories. If you live in Birmingham but pretend to be living in Antigua then it will become tricky when you come to enter credit card details in order to make purchases. Not only will your billing address not be within that beautiful Caribbean island, but you’ll also be limited to items sold through Antigua’s local iTunes and Apps Stores.
Signing in with an Apple ID
Actually signing in with the Apple ID you created is simple.
Sigining into Apple ID on a Mac
iTunes: Click the Sign In link at the top right of the app window.
App Store: Click the Sign In entry under the Quick Links listing at the right of the window.
iCloud: Open System Preferences, click the iCloud icon, and then provide your login details.
iBooks: To read purchases click the Store menu entry, then Authorise This Computer. To sign in to purchase books, open the iBooks Store (click the Store button at the top left if viewing your library), then click the Sign In entry under the Quick Links listing at the right of the program window.
To activate iCloud on a Mac you’ll need to open System Preferences, then click the iCloud icon
Sigining into Apple ID on an iPhone/iPad/iPod touch:
iTunes Store, App Store: Scroll to the bottom of the listing and click the Sign In button.
iBooks: You’ll be prompted to login as soon as you start the app. If you opt not to, you’ll be prompted to sign in should you attempt to make a purchase in the store or view your existing purchases.
iCloud: When setting-up your iOS device you’ll be prompted to login to iCloud but should you wish to do so later, open the Settings app and click the iCloud link.
Using two (or more) Apple IDs
Although creating an Apple ID also creates an iCloud account, Apple lets you use two separate Apple IDs concurrently – one just for accessing iCloud, and one for everything else, such as purchasing apps, music, movies and iBooks. This can be wise because sometimes your main Apple ID used for purchasing can be locked because of fraud. Additionally, some people just don’t like having a credit card linked to their iCloud account.
There’s a very important note here: Apple does not let you merge two (or more) Apple IDs into a single account, or transfer purchases or data between Apple IDs. Additionally, once an Apple ID is logged into iTunes Store on a Mac or iOS device, you can’t log in with a different Apple ID for a 90 day period.(You can luckily add multiple Apple IDs to an Apple TV so your family can share that device without the 90 day limitation.)
In other words, Apple is pretty keen for you to use a single Apple ID. It’s certainly the least problematic option. However, when setting-up an iOS device you’ll be offered the option of inputting two different Apple IDs – one for iCloud, and one for iTunes (see screenshot below) - and on a Mac you can enter different Apple IDs within iTunes, the Mac App Store, iBooks, and the iCloud configuration panel within System Preferences.
Apple lets you use two Apple IDs on your iOS device, although frowns upon the practice<
Creating an Apple ID for a child
Children under the age of 13 are unable to create Apple IDs themselves, although a parent or guardian can create one for them as part of the Family Sharing system, detailed below. This also allows a parent or guardian to put a credit card against the account for the child to use to make purchases – supervised, of course.
Once you’ve Family Sharing setup, on your iPhone/iPad/iPod touch, tap Settings > iCloud > Family, and then Add Family Member. then click the link marked Create An Apple ID For a Child. On a Mac, open System Preferences, click the iCloud icon, then click Manage Family. Click the plus button at the bottom left, then select Create An Apple ID For A Child Who Doesn't Have An Account.
Using the Family Sharing element of iCloud you can create Apple IDs for children under 13 years old
Notably, you can’t setup a child’s Apple ID if there’s no credit or debit card associated with your own Apple ID. You will need to provide the card’s CCV number as part of the setup process. Apple says this is in place to conform with online child protection laws in that it provides verifiable proof of your home address.
Securing your Apple ID
Once you’ve setup your Apple ID the first thing to do is secure it, and this is done by setting-up two-step verification (sometimes called two-factor authentication, or TFA).
Doing this means that you won’t be able to use your Apple ID for purchases on a new device or Mac, or for iCloud login, or make changes to your account details, without entering a one-time code that Apple sends you. The code isn’t usually required in other circumstances and on Apple hardware upon which you’ve already confirmed your details.
You can choose for the code to be texted to your mobile phone (and not necessarily an iPhone), or sent to one of your iOS devices. You’ll also be given a failsafe recovery key that can be entered if two-step authentication isn’t possible – perhaps if you’ve switched mobile numbers, or sold the iOS device.
The idea behind two-step verification is that while a hacker might feasibly get details of your Apple ID and password from somewhere – perhaps a Trojan virus, or fake website – it’s unlikely they’ll also get physical access to your phone or iOS device in order to receive the authentication code. Without it, they won’t be able to do anything significant.
To setup two-step verification, again visit the Apple ID website here but this time click Manage Your Apple ID, and login when prompted. Then click the Password and Security link at the left, and answer the security questions to proceed. Then click Get Started under the Two-Step Verification heading.
Two-step verification makes it virtually impossible to hack your Apple ID account, so should be considered mandatory
After a handful of caveats explaining how two-step works, you come to the first setup step, which is to add trusted device. At the very least you’ll need to register one mobile number that can receive texts (that is, SMS) – and that’s pretty much every mobile since the mid-90s. Again, don’t enter false details here because Apple will test it immediately by sending you a text with a number you must type to continue setup.
Following this you can add a second mobile number – a useful insurance measure – or if you’ve already signed in with the Apple ID on any iOS devices you can choose from them in the listing beneath. These devices don’t necessarily need to be able to receive texts because Apple sends the two-factor codes magically, via a feature built into iOS. The code pops-up in a dialog box when requested.
Click Continue when you’re ready, and you’ll be provided with a recovery key – a series of letters and numbers. This needs to be written down somewhere secure. We suggest the back page of a favourite book. Don’t skip writing down the key because in the very next step Apple will ask you to type it in! Once you’ve done that, however, and confirmed the subsequent second set of caveats, two-step verification will be enabled.
From now on using your Apple ID on a new Mac or iOS device, or if logging into the iCloud website, will pop-up a second authentication box after you’ve entered your password, asking you to enter the code that’s been sent to you.
Two-step verification makes it impossible to change your Apple ID details without providing a code sent to a trusted device
Using app-specific passwords for non-Apple products
If after setting-up two-step verification you need to use your Apple ID with third-party software – for example, a non-Apple app that receives and sends iCloud email – you’ll need to create an app-specific password.
This is because the app most likely won’t offer an option for two-step verification, and without that you simply can’t login. The app-specific password is entered within the app instead of your usual Apple ID password.
You’ll need to generate individual app-specific passwords for each and every app that’s incompatible with two-step verification. You can share one amongst several apps.
To do so, again open the Passwords and Security section of the Apple ID website and click the link. Enter a name for the app (this is for your reference only), and then you’ll be provided with the password.
Generating an app-specific password will be required for apps or websites that aren’t compatible with two-step verification
Notably, app-specific passwords can be deactivated at any time, which essentially will deny that app further access. For example, if you used an app-specific password to access iCloud email via Microsoft Outlook on a Windows laptop, and that laptop got stolen, you could revoke the password and thereby stop the thief accessing or sending emails. To do so, click the History link under the Generate an App-Specific Password heading, and click Revoke alongside the app name.
Editing your Apple ID information
Changing most details of your Apple ID account is as simple as clicking the Manage Your Apple ID button on the Apple ID webpage, logging in, and clicking Edit alongside whatever detail you’d like to chance.
You can also do this on a Mac by clicking the Account Details button within the iCloud section of System Preferences, or on an iOS device by tapping your name and icon entry within the General > iCloud section of the Settings app. To change any details, just tap the Edit entry at the top right.
Adding payment details to your Apple ID
Should you attempt to buy something, or even download something that’s free, then you’ll be walked through the process of adding a payment card – either a debit or credit card.
If you don’t want to add a card then simply click or tap the None entry in the list of possible payment types. For most everyday tasks there isn’t a mandatory requirement to have a payment card associated with your Apple ID.
There’s no strict requirement to enter associate a credit or debit card with your Apple ID, and if asked you can simply click None
However, you can add a card in advance the following ways:
iPhone/iPad/iPod touch: Open the iTunes Store app, then scroll to the bottom and tap your Apple ID. Tap the Payment Information entry in the list, and input the details.
Mac/Windows: Open iTunes, tap the Music icon at the top left, then tap the Account entry under the Music Quick Links heading at the right. Tap the Edit entry alongside the Payment Information link, and input the details.
Family Sharing: Sharing an Apple ID
Once upon a time some people created an Apple ID in and then allowed other family members or friends to use it to log into their own device. Thus, an app could be bought once and used on multiple devices, as could music and movies.
Mums and dads also shared their Apple ID with their children, who were too young to have a payment card on their account in order to make in-app purchases.
Sharing in this way never worked satisfactorily. Unwanted data synced across the shared devices, such as iMessages, but in any case it’s become somewhat redundant since Apple introduced Family Sharing. This lets up to six separate Apple IDs share apps and iTunes purchases with no strings attached.
As its name suggests Family Sharing really is built for families. For example, it creates a shared family calendar, reminder list and photo stream that you can’t unsubscribe from. Any member of the family can track the location of another member via Find my Friends and within iMessage – although each person must first opt to be tracked like this.
Family Sharing provides many benefits, including a shared calendar that all the family can use to organise their lives
There are also benefits. The head of the household – or Family Organizer, as Apple dubs him/her – can create accounts for kids under 13, as described previously. They can add a payment card that family members request to use. Annoyingly this card has to be a credit card - a particular frustration to people that don't have one.
Setting up Family Sharing is easy. The person who elects to be the Family Organizer
iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch: Open the Settings app, then tap the iCloud entry in the list. Then tap Set Up Family Sharing. Follow the instructions and be sure to provide the Apple ID of each family member when requested. In future to add somebody, repeat these steps and tap Add Family Member.
Mac: Open System Preferences, click the iCloud icon, then click the Set Up Family button. Follow the instructions. In future to add somebody, again open iCloud within System Preferences and click the Manage Family button. Then click the plus button at the bottom left beneath the list of family members.
Family Members can hide purchases from others. Typically this is done by tapping and holding purchases within iTunes (or right-clicking on a Mac).
Problem solving: I forgot my Apple ID password or password isn’t recognised
If you forget your Apple ID password then visit Apple's iForgot website and enter your Apple ID username. If you haven’t activated two-step verification then you’ll be able to choose to reset your password by either responding to an email sent to the addresses you provided when you signed-up for the Apple OR by providing answers to the three security questions you were asked when creating the Apple ID. You’ll also need to provide your date of birth when using the latter option.
As its name suggests, the https://iforgot.apple.com website lets you reset your password, or discover your Apple ID
When choosing the email reset option, note that you only have three hours to respond before the reset request is cancelled.
If you have two-step verification activated then you’ll be prompted to enter the recovery key created during activation of two-step verification. Once you do, a verification code will subsequently be sent to one of your trusted devices, or texted to your phone. Without both this code you can’t reset your password.
If you’ve lost your two-step verification code as well as forgetting your password then you’re out of luck. Apple says the only way forward is to start from scratch with a new Apple ID. Even Apple’s support network is unable to verify a user’s identity.
Problem solving: I forgot my Apple ID or Apple ID username isn’t recognised
If you’ve forgotten what your Apple ID username is in addition to your password then visit the iForgot page and click the Forgot Your Apple ID? link. You’ll then be prompted to provide your first and last names, and the email address used for the account (as well as older email addresses also registered with your Apple ID, which can be useful if you’re also unable to access your email). A password reset email will then be sent to the email addresses used for the account.
If two-factor verification is setup, you will again be prompted to enter the recovery key, as in the steps above describing forgetting your password. Once again, there is no way of bypassing this.
Problem solving: My Apple ID account is locked
If you find your account is disabled or locked for security reasons – perhaps you’ve tried too many incorrect passwords – then following the steps above to change your password via iForgot will also have the effect of unlocking the account. However, note that Apple sometimes locks accounts for 24 hours if too many unsuccessful password attempts are made, and the only option is to wait.
Again, if you have two-factor verification enabled then you’ll need to provide it in addition to a code sent or texted to one of your devices.
If you are running an older version of iOS or Mac OS X, on the second page of this feature we have some information for those running older operating systems.