Activation Lock

How to check Activation Lock before buying a used iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, or Mac

Check Activation Lock on iPhone

We published an article showing 15 things to do before selling your iPhone. However, if you're on the other side and want to buy a used, second-hand Apple device, you must check the Activation Lock and ensure it's disabled. In case you don't, you might end up with an expensive paperweight!

This tutorial shows you the various ways to check Activation Lock on iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and Mac.

How to check and use Activation Lock on your Mac

Apple's Activation Lock feature prevents your Mac from starting up, helping guard your private information in the unfortunate event your Mac is lost or stolen. Follow along with our step-by-step tutorial to learn how to make sure the Mac Activation Lock feature is enabled, disable it if necessary, and find out if your Mac is compatible with this new security protocol.

How to use Activation Lock on Apple Watch

Activation Lock Apple Watch Watch App iPhone

If you just got your first Apple Watch, you’ve probably gone through the pairing to your iPhone, downloading of cool apps, and enabling of notifications. There’s one other thing that you should do which is set up Find My iPhone and this includes what’s called Activation Lock.

Here’s how to use Activation Lock on Apple Watch.

How to check if the phone you’re buying was stolen

If you're in the market for a used iPhone, it's always a good idea to ask the owner to disable Find My iPhone, which automatically turns off Apple's theft-deterring Activation Lock feature.

But what if you're buying a non-Apple smartphone? Can you still check if it was stolen? As it turns out, that's exactly what CTIA’s Stolen Phone Checker service does for you.

Powered by the GSMA Device Check service, which provides up to 10 years’ of a device’s history as well as the device model information and capabilities, the free Stolen Phone Checker tool is an online service designed to help consumers, businesses and law enforcement agencies make informed purchasing decisions and limit the resale of lost and stolen mobile devices.

TUTORIAL: How to find your iPhone's IMEI number

This is a US-only service so this tutorial may not apply to international readers.

How to check if the phone you're buying was stolen

1) Visit on your device.

2) Enter the IMEI, MEID or ESN of the phone you're about to purchase. If you're buying an iPhone, you can find this information in Settings → General → About. If you're buying a non-Apple smartphone, ask the owner to provide the IMEI number.

3) Solve the captcha and click the Submit button.

If the phone isn't stolen,“Not reported lost or stolen” should appear next to Device Status along with some useful information, including the device model, manufacturer and more.

Regular consumers are allowed to check up to find phones per day. Again, this service is limited solely to consumers in the United States.

Related tutorials

Check out the following how-tos:

What to do if your iPhone is lost/stolen How to remotely erase iPhone that was lost/stolen How to use Lost Mode if your iOS device is lost/stolen How to track your lost/stolen iOS device How to secure your iPhone with Activation Lock How to enable Activation Lock on Apple Watch How to locate misplaced AirPods Checking Activation Lock status via Apple Support website Wrapping it up

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How to check Activation Lock status via Apple’s support pages

In the past, you could check the Activation Lock on a dedicated official iCloud page by entering the IMEI number. However, Apple removed it a few years back. Now the only reliable option to check a device's Activation Lock is by having physical access to that iPhone or iPad.

But, there is a workaround that might work for some. So the tutorial below talks about that trick which involves using the Apple Support page to check the Activation Lock. If it works for you, great! If it doesn't, you can follow these tips to check Activation Lock before buying a used iPhone.

Apple likely took down iCloud Activation Lock to stop hacks relying on stolen serial numbers

As we reported, Apple recently took down its tremendously useful Activation Lock webpage for reasons unknown. The theft-deterrent tool allowed legitimate iOS device owners and just about anyone else to check the status of the Activation Lock feature by entering a serial number. Apple provided no explanation for the removal, but all checks point to it being a precautionary measure meant to prevent hacks relying on stolen serial numbers, as a reader pointed out in comments.

For reasons unknown, Apple takes down theft-deterrent Activation Lock web tool

Apple recently took down its web tool for checking if a used iPhone, iPad, iPod touch or Apple Watch was stolen. The firm gave no explanation for the move.

The link to the Activation Lock webpage no longer works and the support document detailing the feature does not contain any reference to the web tool as of January 24. It was unclear at post time if a new version of the tool might be returning in the future in one form or another.

iOS 10.1.1 bug allows researchers to bypass Activation Lock protection on iPhone and iPad

Back in November, India-based security researcher Hemanth Joseph discovered a bug in iOS 10.1 which permitted him to bypass Apple's anti-theft Activation Lock feature by entering an excessively long string of characters in the Wi-Fi setup text fields.

Apple has patched the flaw in iOS 10.1.1 but now, as noted by SecurityWeek, researchers at Vulnerability Lab have managed to find another method of bypassing Activation Lock protection on an iPhone, iPad or iPod touch with iOS 10.1.1 and they posted video evidence to prove it.

Apple reposts iOS 9.3 for older devices bricked by Activation Lock

Shortly after releasing the new iOS 9.3 firmware, Apple was forced to stop signing the update following numerous complaints from owners of older iPhones and iPads, such as the original iPad Air and the iPhone 5s and older, that it was bricking their devices.

Monday, Apple re-released iOS 9.3 to fix an issue that prevented users from activating their device via Activation Lock if they couldn't recall their Apple ID password used to originally set up their device with.

The re-released versions of iOS 9.2 carries a build number of 13E237 and is now available as an over-the-air download although those with a bricked device might want to apply the update through iTunes in DFU mode.

Apple releases a new iOS 9.3 build for older devices affected by the bricking issue

As we reported, numerous users took to Apple's support forums to complain that some owners of older iPhone and iPad devices saw their hardware bricked after updating to the recently released iOS 9.3 firmware. Apple has since detailed the problem in a support document on its website and pulled the software update for select devices.

Today, the company has re-released iOS 9.3 for those devices. The new build of iOS 9.3 for the iPad 2 has version number “13E236” versus the now defunct iOS 9.3 build “13E234” for the iPhone and “13E233” for the iPad, as per 9to5Mac's Chance Miller.