You can't get far in the world of Apple products and services without an Apple ID. Happily, it's incredibly easy to set one up. In this article we show how to create an Apple ID for yourself or a child, as well as how to set up strong security and how to start a Family Sharing group. For more advice on Apple ID account management, see How to change an Apple ID and How to use an Apple ID account.

You can sign up for an Apple ID by visiting Apple's ID section of its website here and clicking Create An Apple ID.

How to create an Apple ID 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.

How to create an Apple ID: iCloud

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.

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 - with supervision, of course.

Once you've set up Family Sharing, 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.

How to create an Apple ID: ID for child

Using the Family Sharing element of iCloud you can create Apple IDs for children under 13 years old

Note that you can't set up 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.

Next: Apple ID security

Apple ID security

Once you've set up 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 set up 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.

How to create an Apple ID: Two-step verification

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.

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 log in. 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.

How to create an Apple ID: App password

Generating an app-specific password will be required for apps or websites that aren't compatible with two-step verification

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.

What to do if you think someone has compromised your Apple ID

You should change your password, which is a simple task: you enter the email address associated with your Apple ID and Apple will send you an email allowing you to change the password.

The only issue is that each password is associated with each individual email address, and if you have associated multiple email addresses with then you'll need to change the password associated with each of those.

How to create an Apple ID: Reset password