I don’t know if it really took me 10 full hours to repair an iPhone SE for a friend but it was a considerable amount of time. My friend B’s iPhone SE was locked up!

The touchscreen display on a smartphone is convenient to use, but when it locks up you don’t have access to any of the phone’s features. B could receive incoming phone calls, but she could do nothing else with her phone, not even make outgoing calls.

B’s iPhone is an important link to the outside world because she is homebound recovering from an injury. Although she has a landline, all her contacts are on her iPhone and she depends on it for daily communication. It was critical to get it fixed and functioning as quickly as possible.

So what was the problem? As near as I could tell, B’s phone did an automatic iOS update that when completed prompted for a passcode she had not set. (Yes, we know that passcodes are important security measures but B uses her phone only at home and for ease-of-use chose not to use a passcode.)

So, my first search was for information about just that; I researched phones asking for nonexistent passcodes and not surprisingly, found lots of people with the same problem. Several articles suggested that using “123456” for a six-digit passcode request or “1234” for a four-digit request might work. They did not! And after several tries that also disabled the phone from 1 to 58 minutes which meant lots of waiting time before I could try the next “fix.”

Those one-hour delays, when I couldn’t do anything with the phone gave me more time to research possible solutions! And also ponder the variety of suggestions that a search gave me. When I did a simple Google search for “my iPhone is asking for a passcode I never set” in .64 seconds I had 893,000 results. Hmmm, my time is pretty flexible but how to narrow down nearly 900,000 results to help find a solution to my problem?


One of the techniques that I always use when doing a search is to make sure I see the most recent results. With results showing on the Google toolbar, I click on Tools at the far right; that drops down “Any Time” and when I click on that drop down menu it gives me different time sequences for the search results. Typically, I select “Past year” and that gives me the most recent results. What else did I do to unlock B’s phone. I did a hard shut-down repeatedly but that didn’t help. Turning a phone or device on and off is often a sure-fire way to solve minor tech problems. Something we should try first. If it doesn’t work, time to move on.

Then it was time to get serious. I went to Apple Support (support.apple.com/) on my laptop and followed their excellent directions to a T, running the restore process at least three times but the phone did not respond the way that Apple indicated it should. In fact, it didn’t do anything.

At one point, I was shown B’s Apple ID on the screen and it prompted me for her password. I entered the correct password but nothing happened. The software would not accept it. Another message, “iPhone unavailable, try again in 57 minutes.”

Now it was time to call Apple Support (#800/275-2273) and I was connected with a nice woman who worked with me for nearly an hour. I explained everything I had done so far and she asked me to repeat much of it while on the phone with her, but still nothing.

Since we live 2.5 hours from the nearest Apple Store with its Genius Bar and a possible professional fix, that wasn’t going to help us unless we were willing to take a road trip. In the meantime, I did some more research and reading, convinced that the “fixes” I had tried so far were, in fact, the correct way to solve the problem. I read about phones that had various ailments after an automatic update and I was nearly convinced to take the iPhone into Best Buy to see what the Geek Squad could do.

Instead, I decided to give it one last try…and it worked!


I made sure my computer’s operating system was current and began the restore process that I had attempted several times previously. But this time it worked flawlessly, updating the iOS and then restoring it to its previous settings. Switched over to B’s computer for a synced backup of her phone and bingo we were back in business.

Big question: Why didn’t the restore process work the previous five times I tried it? This is a big question for anyone using technology and the answer is quite simple, yet vexing. No one really knows why tech fixes work sometimes and sometimes not. But, read on for some lessons learned.

Here are several things I learned:

1. Before attempting a fix of any type, do your homework. Search solutions, forums, help columns, by doing a simple search where you use the most specific language to frame your questions. And don’t forget to use YouTube, particularly when a video will show you how something is fixed when you need to see the fix, not just read about it.

2. Be systematic about your trials — don’t hit or miss. Keep track of what you’ve done, which articles or videos you have read or viewed previously. What tips you tried and what worked and what did not.

2. Don’t give up. Remember that I tried the restore process at least five different times before it worked and brought B’s phone back to life. Of course, you don’t want to spend all your time working on your problem but sometimes it just needs an extra try!

Your technology can be challenging! A good part of learning how to use your cell phone, tablet, laptop, or watch is figuring out how to solve problems when they arise and that is an ongoing process. If you are interested in learning more about problem solving your tech device take a look at BoomerTECH Adventures digital courses or BTA Club at www.boomertechadventures.com.

BoomerTECH Adventures (boomertechadventures.com) provides expert guidance and resources to help Boomers and older adults develop competence and confidence using their Apple devices. Boomers ourselves BoomerTECH Adventures we rely on our skills as educators to create experiences that meet individual needs through videos, Zoom presentations, tech tips, and timely blog posts. 

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