Daily Tip: How to enable data protection on your iPhone, iPad

Take security seriously and interested in how to enable data protection on your iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad? The good news is that if you use a passcode, iOS 4 data protections protects the hardware encryption keys on your device, making email, attachments, and 3rd party apps (if they enable it) much more secure. The bad news is, if you updated your iPhone 3GS, iPod touch 3, or original iPad from iOS 3 to iOS 4, data protection might not have been turned on even with the passcode. Not to worry, we'll walk you through all the possibilities, after the break!

[Apple KB via TidBITS]

How to set a passcode

If you haven't got a passcode lock set up on your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad, that's the place to start.

Bonus Tip: You can set your passcode lock to automatically erase your device after 10 failed attempts. That's great if you ever lose your device but if you have young children who can get ahold of it, you might find yourself restoring your wiped device with frustrating frequency. Security is constantly at war with convenience, make your choice.

How to set a stronger passcode

With iOS 4 you can switch the passcode from simple 4-digit numeric to full on alphanumeric for seriously stronger protection.

  • From the Settings: General: Passcode Lock screen...
  • Switch the Simple Passcode toggle to OFF
  • Enter your current 4-digit numeric passcode to verify
  • Enter a new, strong alphanumeric passcode

A combination of numbers, letters, and symbols is good, pseudorandom is even better but the difficulty in remembering it probably outweighs any benefit.

How to check for data protection

Now that your passcode is enabled, check to make sure you have data protection on. (It should be on by default for all iPhone 4, iPod touch 4, and iPad 2 devices, but if you updated your iPhone 3GS, iPod touch 3, or original iPad from iOS 3 to iOS 4 it might not be.)

  • From the Settings: General: Passcode Lock screen...
  • Scroll down to the very bottom and look for the text "Data protection is enabled"

If it's there, you're good to go. If not, keep reading!

How to enable data protection if it's not on by default

Remember, this is only for iPhone 3GS (2009), iPod touch 3 (2009), and original iPad (2010) if "Data protection enabled" isn't showing up on the Settings screen.

Make sure you backup your device before restoring, then choose restore from backup to get all your data back onto your device. Once it's done, sync and then check the Setting screen again to make sure data protection is now enabled.


If you have any questions or any other data protection tips, leave them in the comments!

Tips of the day will range from beginner-level 101 to advanced-level ninjary. If you already know this tip, keep the link handy as a quick way to help a friend. If you have a tip of your own you’d like to suggest, add them to the comments or send them in to dailytips@tipb.com. (If it’s especially awesome and previously unknown to us, we’ll even give ya a reward…)

Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, Review, The TV Show, Vector, ZEN & TECH, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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There are 35 comments. Add yours.

webvex says:

I don't use a system passcode on any of my devices. Even a simple four digit code is a pain in the you know what to punch in every single time you want to use the thing. Instead, I don't keep any sensitive information in my contacts (they're just names, phone numbers, and email addresses), email, or Safari. The sensitive stuff is locked away inside mSecure, and I do have passcodes set on individual apps like Dropbox, Mint, Atomic, etc. It's far less hassle and I can let other people borrow the device without worry.

dave says:

You can also add a time delay before the passcode is required, so you only have to bang it in if you haven't used the iPhone for awhile...

D says:

Just to let you know, the first sentence is a little confusing, when first read and doesn't really make sense. You should probably put "Do you take...?"

Reginald says:

It is probably confusing because you're an idiot.

Keith says:

Hi, i just toggled data protection on just to see it.. How can i turn it off please ?

Keith says:

When i toggle Erase Data off, it still says Data protection is enabled. I've tried to change my passcode but its still the same. Please help on how to disable the Erase data function.

Keith says:

Ive got an Ipod touch 4th Gen

dshanah says:

Erase data on or off has no effect on Data Protection, it's whether or not you have a passcode set that determines whether it will use Data Protection. If you don't want Data Protection then use the [Turn Passcode Off] button.

SteveW928 says:

Hmm... so I have a 2nd-gen iPod Touch. I'm wondering what this means for encryption. Does this mean I have none? Do I just have password lock and erase after 10 failed attempts?
Does anyone know the implications of this? I'd guess this means that if someone could access the device some other way to bypass the lock, the actual data isn't encrypted? Not a huge deal for me at the moment, but something to keep in mind. If so, people with sensitive data might want to get a newer iPod Touch and sell or pass on the old one.

Rene Ritchie says:

Prior to iPhone 3GS and iPod touch 3 I believe there was no hardware-based encryption, software only.

SteveW928 says:

Oh, it is hardware based on the newer products? Awesome!

wcarlson40 says:

Do we even need this? Can't you just remote lock and/or wipe your phone with Find My IPhone? It seems like a pain to have to keep entering a passcode.

Wyatt says:

Wow, I can't believe people actually think phone numbers and email addresses are not sensitive information. That's THE first type of data someone will look at if they acquire your device. It's something you should take seriously. I don't think you would like some nefarious individual having your phone number or email address which will allow the mist enterprising of individuals to in out more about you and getting even more information on you like home and work address and numbers.
Disabling data protection is done the same way you enable it. If passcode is set to "on" you will have to first enter the same passcode then turn it "off".

Ben says:

Tried the backup, restore and sync to enable the data protection but the "data protection is enabled" still doesn't show on my iPhone 3GS and my iPad 1st generation?!

dshanah says:

Yep, me too. Using an iPad 1 (WiFi) on iOS 4.3. Followed the steps, restored from latest backup, sync'd it afterwards and still no "data protection is enabled" message.

dshanah says:

Ah, figured it out. This article fails to make clear that you don't just need to restore from your backup.
You first need to do a complete restore of the device (iOS and firmware) to factory defaults (using the "Restore" button under the iTunes Summary tab), not simply the "Restore from backup..." option when you right-click on the device in iTunes.
Once that's done, THEN you take the option presented to restore from your latest backup, and then finally you let it sync again. And after all that it asks you to set a four digit lock code, even if you had one already when you began this whole process!
Really it's better described and easier to follow in the Apple tech note: http://support.apple.com/kb/HT4175

Ben says:

1. Backup
2. Restore to original software/settings
3. Restore from Backup.
iPhone and iPad now "data protection enabled"
Thanks David.

Ronald says:

1st Gen Ipad (64 GB 3G/WiFi) I have tried this twice, following the Apple tech note to the letter, including setting up a passcode. So far, no data encryption. Since it takes several hours, I am hesitant to try a 3rd time, unless I know what, if anything I should be doing differently.

Kevin says:

I'm having the same issue - followed the instructions word for word and still no data protection enabled!

Bob says:

Same problem here. Nice to know I'm not alone, I guess. I anyone has figured this out please let us know.

Gino says:

Will I have to rejailbreak? I'm assuming I will. Anyone else do this that is jailbroken?

Bosquephantom says:

I followed the instructions for original iPads but still do not see data encryption enabled.

Cfire1998 says:

Does it work for iPod touch 2nd generation?

Dave says:

This method is not working for my iPad1. The iOS version is up to 4.3.3 (8J3) and I have tried every darned variation of Restore (Summary / Restore button, iPad erase all content, etc.) followed by re-syncing and I never see the data protection enabled status. Perhaps it is because I allowed my iPad to progress all the way to 4.3.3 before ever trying to set this up?

Bill says:

I have the same problem as Dave. Does anybody have a way to get this done? Very frustrating -

Barryhenning says:

My data protection is on. Erase data after 10 failed attempts is off. I can not remember me new password to my iphone 3.
My computer repair guy wiped my laptop clean which had my iTunes on it. He was trying to remove a virus that kept me groom booting up my laptop.
My question is. How can I get to my data? All my law school lectures, contacts etc are on my iPhone,
If I had more chances to attempt my passcode entry I know I can figure out the passcode. Please advise?

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