Recover a Lost Encrypted Backup Password for an iPhone, iPad, & iPod touch

Jun 26, 2013 - 13 Comments

Keychain access and passwords iOS devices can use an optional encrypted backup feature that protects all backups with a strong encryption layer and password, meaning those backups are both unusable and unreadable without that password. If you chose to encrypt the backups of an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch with such a password and then somehow forgot the password to those backups, you may have an option available to recover it and then regain access to those backups for recovery and general usage.

This is not guaranteed to work for everyone because it depends on the usage of Keychain in Mac OS X, which not everyone uses, but it should be the first thing to check if you wind up in such a situation either yourself, or when troubleshooting someone else’s missing encrypted backup password. In most cases this must be done on the computer that the backups were made to, unless the user had enabled iCloud Keychain, which it would then be possible on any machine using the same Apple ID. Either way, here is what needs to be done to attempt to recover a lost encrypted backup password:

How to Recover a Forgotten or Lost iPhone Backup Password

This works to recover a forgotten or lost iOS backup password made in iTunes, it’s the same whether the device backup is for an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch. Here are the necessary steps to find the backup password:

  1. Open Keychain Access, found in /Applications/Utilities/
  2. Use the Search box in the upper right corner and type “iphone backup”
  3. Recover a lost iPhone encrypted backup password

  4. Double click the result, assuming something is found in Keychain
  5. Check the box next to “Show password” and enter the Mac administrator password to reveal the lost password associated with the encrypted iPhone backup
  6. Show the lost password for encrypted iPhone backup

  7. Make note of the password, then close out of Keychain Access

Now you can go back to iTunes and use that recovered password to use the encrypted backup through the normal restoring from a backup process.

If nothing related to the iOS backup shows up in Keychain Access, you’re kind of out of luck in terms of accessing the encrypted backups unless you can somehow guess their password. The encryption is extremely secure (as it should be), and thus can’t be circumvented in any reasonable manner that is available to a human.

What if there is no password recovery option for the encrypted backups?

If the above trick doesn’t reveal the backup password, it doesn’t mean the iOS device is suddenly unusable, but it does mean that it must be used either in it’s current state, or reset to factory defaults and then set up as a new device without restoring from the encrypted backup, which basically treats it like a brand new phone. iCloud backups may still be available as well, as accessible through an Apple ID, but that’s also not guaranteed since not everyone uses the iCloud backup service.

It’s important to point out that this is specifically for accessing the password protected encrypted backups made from iTunes, and this is not going to have any impact on lost passcodes set on the device itself, or any other security measures that were taken to lock down the iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, through a third party encryption service or otherwise.

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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in iPad, iPhone, Mac OS X, Tips & Tricks


» Comments RSS Feed

  1. Judy Bishop says:

    Thank you SO MUCH! You saved me a ton of work!

  2. ibrahimfan1 says:

    help fix it thank you

  3. Matt says:

    OUTSTANDING! Thanks for posting this, nothing more frustrating than not being able to access a backup!

  4. Jason says:

    Thank you so much!!! Although my iPhone password did not work, the one for my iPad did! But thanks to this I was pointed in the right direction

  5. Karin says:

    How can I retrieve my encrypted backup password from a normal computer – I don’t have a Mac

  6. Jueckly says:

    I think I found it! whatever your old password is that the CORRECT ONE! what you have to do is everytime you upgrade Itunes you have authorize your computer again! once you do that you should be STR8!

  7. Beyza says:

    Hey I tried this but when I searched iPhone backup on Keychain Access it didn’t find anything :( Is there another way to save my data? What can I do? Please someone help me

  8. steve says:

    I know my backup password is 3 digits but I couldn’t remember it any longer. I have checked the Keychain access and it’s not stored there. Later I recovered the password with iTunesKey.

  9. Josh says:

    Something to know:

    I’ve come across many times where it was an ANCIENT password.
    Try ALL OLD PINs (even if they are years old), old computer passwords, etc.

  10. Hamish says:

    I found that this was stored in Keychain on the Mac on which I originally set up my iPhone, and not on the Mac on which I’m now syncing my phone.

  11. Belinda says:

    I was trying to restore a backup with an encrypted password which I had completely forgotten. I followed these steps and it worked!! The encrypted back up password was recovered!!

    • Belinda says:

      Oh, and this is after Apple Support told me there is absolutely no way to recover the password and I would have to purchase more storage for my old iphone and use icloud to back up… thank you for this article!

  12. Maryama Lewis says:

    oh my god – people like you MAKE THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE AND MY LIFE ENDLESSLY BETTER. Thank you from the bottom of my HEART!!!!!!!!!!

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