BoomerTECH Adventures: When you don’t succeed at first, google it!

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

A smartphone’s touchscreen is convenient to use, but when it locks, you don’t have access to any of the phone’s features. B could receive incoming phone calls, but she couldn’t do anything else with her phone, not even make outgoing calls.

B’s iPhone is an important link to the outside world as she is housebound and recovering from an injury. Although she has a landline, all of her contacts are on her iPhone and she depends on it for her daily communications. It was essential to fix it and get it working as soon as possible.

So what was the problem? As far as I can tell B’s phone did an automatic iOS update which when complete asked for a password which she hadn’t set. (Yes, we know passcodes are important security measures, but B only uses his phone at home and for ease of use has chosen not to use a passcode .)

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

Those hour-long delays, when I couldn’t do anything with the phone, gave me more time to research possible solutions! And also think about the variety of suggestions that a search gave me. When I did a simple Google search for “my iPhone is asking for a password I never set” in 0.64 seconds, I got 893,000 results. Hmmm, my time is pretty flexible but how do I narrow down nearly 900,000 results to help find a solution to my problem?

One of the techniques I always use when doing a search is to make sure I see the most recent results. With the results displayed on the Google toolbar, I click Tools on the far right; which goes “Anytime” and when I click on that dropdown it gives me different time sequences for the search results. Typically, I select “Last year” and that gives me the most recent results. What else did I do to unlock B’s phone. I did a hard stop several times but that didn’t help. Turning a phone or device on and off is often a surefire way to fix minor technical issues. Something we should try first. If that doesn’t work, it’s time to move on.

Then it was time to get serious. I went to Apple Support ( on my laptop and followed their excellent instructions to a T, running the restore process at least three times, but the phone didn’t respond as Apple had indicated it. In fact, it did nothing.

At one point, I was shown B’s Apple ID on the screen and asked for his 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 to a nice lady who worked with me for almost an hour. I explained everything I had done so far and she asked me to rehearse a lot of it over the phone with her, but still nothing.

As we live 2.5 hours from the nearest Apple Store with its Genius Bar and possible business solution, this wasn’t going to help us unless we wanted to go on a road trip. In the meantime, I did some further research and reading, convinced that the “fixes” I had tried so far were, in fact, the right way to fix the problem. I’ve read about phones suffering from various ailments after an automatic update, and I was almost convinced to pick up the iPhone at 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 up to date and started the restore process that I had attempted many times before. But this time it worked perfectly, updating the iOS and then restoring it to its previous settings. Switched to B’s computer for a sync backup of his phone and bingo, we were back to business.

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

Here are several things I learned:

1. Before attempting a solution of any type, do your homework. Search for solutions, forums, help columns, doing a simple search where you use the most specific language to formulate your questions. And don’t forget to use YouTube, especially where 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 essays — don’t get it wrong. Keep track of what you’ve done, articles or videos you’ve read or watched previously. What tips have you tried and what worked and what didn’t.

2. Don’t give up. Remember, I tried the restore process at least five times before it worked and B’s phone came back to life. Of course, you don’t want to spend all your time working on your problem, but sometimes all it takes is one more try!

Your technology can be tricky! A big part of learning how to use your cell phone, tablet, laptop or watch is figuring out how to fix problems when they arise and it’s an ongoing process. If you want to learn more about troubleshooting issues with your tech device, check out the BoomerTECH Adventures digital courses or the BTA Club at

BoomerTECH Adventures ( provides expert advice and resources to help baby boomers and seniors build skills 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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