iPad is Disabled – Now What???

Let me go ahead and warn you, you’re not going to like the solution to this problem.

First how does it happen?

Most commonly this happens due to someone guessing the passcode incorrectly too many times. Apple’s small attempt to keep this from happening is to delay how often you can enter a passcode. For example, after you guess a few times the iPad makes you wait 1 minute to guess one more time, then 5 minutes, then 1 hour. Eventually, the iPad is disabled and it doesn’t matter if you know the passcode or not, you are locked out.

For my personal iPhone I like the delay feature. My three year old son loves numbers, and pressing the numbers on the passcode screen is just too much fun not to do it. The delay ensures he’ll quit before the device is disabled.

However there is a problem with this system when it comes to school iPads as in this scenario:

  1. Student A uses the iPad and while they have it they set a passcode. The student then returns the iPad to its storage location.
  2. Student B picks up the same iPad and notices it has a passcode. Instead of telling the teacher, they guess at the passcode until the iPad says they have to wait awhile before trying again. The student then returns the iPad to its storage location.
  3. Time passes and then Student C picks up the same iPad and again instead of telling the teacher the device has a passcode they guess at it once and are then told they have to wait awhile before trying again.
  4. This continues until eventually the iPad is disabled.

Note: This could have been avoided if someone had just told the teacher as explained at the end of this post.

So why don’t we just disable the ability to set a passcode?

That is an excellent idea, but Apple doesn’t allow it. Even when the device is setup in Apple’s DEP program (like we are) and the organization is using an MDM solution (like we are) Apple still does not allow it. Just to make sure I was correct I called Apple for confirmation. I explained the scenario above and how this doesn’t make any sense in education. The tech’s response was “well it doesn’t make sense in education, but it makes a lot of sense for a personal device.” My response was that since using the DEP (Device Enrollment Program) and supervising the device basically proves that the device is not owned by an individual there should be an option to disable this “feature”. He also said”this is the way the iPad has always been.” Needless to say the conversation was pretty much over at that point.

I remember a time when you had to insert a floppy disk in order to boot up a PC. What if we still had to do that because Microsoft said “that’s the way it’s always been”? But I digress.

So there are 2 options at this point to regain access to the iPad.

  1. If you have previously synced the iPad with iTunes on a computer, you can use that computer to re-enable the iPad. We usually don’t do this. Syncing iPads to iTunes is just not really feasible when you have a lot. If you have done this there are plenty of websites out there that explain how to regain access.
  2. The other option is to use recovery mode. This works perfectly, but unfortunately wipes the iPad.
    1. Switch off your iPad by pressing and holding Sleep/Wake button for few second until you see the slider, slide the slide to switch off your iPad. If your iPad does not switch off you can press and hold Sleep/Wake button along with Home button for a few seconds until your device is switched off.
    2. Now start iTunes on your computer (Desktop/Laptop/Mac) with a iPad sync/charging cable connected to it.
    3. Connect the other end of the cable to your iPad while holding the Home button on the iPad. If you come across the screen below, charge your iPad for a while and follow instructions from step 1.
    4. When you see “Connect to iTunes” the screen below, release the Home button.
    5. Now iTunes will prompt you with a message saying its detected an iPad in recovery mode.
    6. Restore your iPad using iTunes.

Repeat these steps if you do not see the “Connect to iTunes” screen. Remember that your iPad will be reset to default and all data on it will be lost.

If you have created an iCloud backup you can restore it to the iPad after it is reset. I discuss how it do this in Setting up and managing iPads in Meraki

One thing to keep in mind is, if you notice that one of your iPads has a passcode on it prior to it being disabled, the passcode can be removed by anyone in your school with access to the Meraki dashboard. I can do this for you as well. We would just need the iPad’s serial number or name.

Dave Carty

K12 district technology administrator, Google domain admin, Certified Google Trainer.

Recent Posts