How to pick a secure password for your iPhone, Android phone or Windows 10 mobile and keep thieves out.
If you’re worried about your phone being lost or stolen and your private data being accessed by thieves and unruly types, then you really should set up a secure password and encrypt your iPhone/Android or Windows 10 smartphone. Alternatively, if your mobile has a fingerprint sensor, you can use that to keep your data and account info safe. Here’s how.
How to choose a secure password
Whenever you set up a password on your phone, you should make sure it’s impossible for a random thief to guess (or hack into using specialist software).
The easiest way to ensure this is by avoiding simple words and names. A strong password will be a combination of upper and lower-case letters as well as numbers. Of course, it should also be memorable, so you don’t end up resetting it every other day.
Try number substitution, a simple way of turning a memorable word into a secure password. For instance, if your password is Jessie, you can make it a lot tougher to crack by changing some letters into numbers. So, Jessie could become J35sie.
Check out our guide on how to create a strong password for more ideas.
How to set up a password (‘passcode’) or Touch ID fingerprint security on an iPhone
Head to your iPhone’s settings and then scroll down to Touch ID & Passcode. If you have an iPhone 5s, iPhone 6, iPhone 6s, iPhone 6 Plus or iPhone 6s Plus, then your home button will have Apple’s Touch ID fingerprint sensor built in. We recommend registering at least one of your fingerprints by heading to ‘Add Fingerprint’ and following the instructions. Fingerprint unlock is a very secure and also convenient way to protect any data and accounts stored on your phone.
If you have an older iPhone or you’d rather go old-school and use a password for security, then choose to add a passcode. The default passcode length and format in iOS 9 is six numbers. However, if you tap ‘passcode options’ when setting up your passcode, you can choose to have a standard alphanumeric password or a numeric combination of any length instead.
How to change your password (‘passcode’) on an iPhone
To change your iPhone passcode, just head to settings, and then tap Touch ID & Passcode. You’ll be asked to enter your current passcode. Once this is done, scroll down the Tocuh ID & Passcode menu and tap ‘Change Passcode’. The default passcode format is six numbers, but you can tap Passcode Options to change this to a number of any length, or a more secure alphanumeric password.
You can also turn your iPhone passcode off from this menu, but we highly recommend keeping a passcode activated, or your phone won’t be secure.
How to set up a password or fingerprint security on an Android phone
As with modern iPhones, a lot of mid to top-tier Android mobiles now boast fingerprint sensors, including the new Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P, the Sony Xperia Z5, Samsung’s Galaxy S6 and Note 4, the OnePlus 2 and so on.
You can generally set up fingerprint unlock by heading to your phone’s settings and then scrolling down and tapping ‘Security’. There should be a fingerprint option in there which will guide you through the setup process.
In the Security menu you should also see a ‘Screen Lock’ feature. This is how you set up a password or other means of protection, to keep other people out. You can usually choose between a basic 4-digit PIN, a more secure alphanumeric password, and patterns that you trace on the screen with your finger.
How to set up a password on a Windows 10 phone
If you have a Windows mobile like the Lumia 950, Lumia 650 or Lumia 550, then you’ll need to head to the settings (quickly accessed by swiping your finger down from the top of the screen and tapping the ‘settings’ button on the notifications bar). Then head to Accounts, and ‘Sign In Options’. Here you’ll find the password/PIN options. Some Windows 10 phones also support the new Windows Hello feature, which allows you to unlock your mobile using your eyes.
Check out our Lumia 950 tips and tricks guide for more info and full instructions.
How to encrypt an Android phone
If you’re worried that a password isn’t strong enough protection for your phone, then you can also encrypt all of your private data. This will prevent anyone from stealing your account info and other details by hacking your mobile (the only way they will be able to access your data is if they know your password).
Head to the Security menu in your Android phone’s settings and then tap ‘Encrypt phone’. You’ll need to make sure that your mobile is plugged in, as the encryption process takes roughly an hour, depending on how much data you have stored on the phone.
How to safely wipe your phone before selling
If you’re planning on selling your phone, make sure you fully wipe all of your private data from the mobile first, so none of it can be recovered. Check out our guide on how to safely wipe your phone for more info.