How to reset your Android screen lock security pattern

Jack Wallen walks you through the steps to get into your Android phone if you've forgotten your security pattern.

The Android platform offers many ways to secure your data. From the top down, you can layer security as if you were dressing to venture into the frozen tundra of a winter-struck Canada. One of the outer-most layers is the screen lock pattern (or pin). With this pattern, you can set up a fairly strong bit of security that can prevent unwanted users from gaining access to your data.

But what happens if you somehow forget that pattern? Believe me, it happens -- especially for folks like me who have more than one Android phone, and each one has a different pattern. Or, what if you have sneaky co-workers who place a security pattern without your knowledge? How are you going to get into that phone? Fortunately, the developers of the Android platform have thought of just that. Be warned though, you have to have the Google credentials the phone was set up with in order to pull this off.

Step 1: Click the power button on your Android device to bring up the screen lock to enter your pattern. On some phones, you'll have to slide the lock screen slider to the right (see Figure A) before you can get to the actual lock pattern. Figure A

Some handsets go straight to the lock screen pattern, but others require the sliding screen first.
Step 2: If you draw an incorrect pattern five times, you'll be warned you've been unsuccessful in unlocking your phone and to try again in 30 seconds. However, you can place an emergency call -- even with the screen locked -- by tapping the Emergency call button. Step 3: Before the 30 seconds expire, try to get back to the lock pattern, and you'll see a new button in the bottom right corner of the lock screen (see Figure C). Figure C

A countdown timer will inform you how much longer you have before you can try the pattern again. If you don't remember the pattern, don't bother waiting.
Step 4: Tap the Forgot pattern button, and you'll be prompted to enter the credentials of the Google account associated with the device (see Figure D). Figure D

Without your credentials, you'll have to do a hard reset of the phone.
Figure 5: Once you've successfully authenticated the account associated with the phone, you'll be prompted to create a new unlock pattern (see Figure E). Figure E

Draw the pattern, click Continue, draw the pattern again, and you're back in business.

You can also increase the security of your phone by setting it to lock immediately when you hit the power button and the display turns off. By default, most devices are set for a two-minute security time out. This means that you can shut off the display and get back into the phone without having to enter the pattern before the time expires. In certain situations, that could be a security risk. Here's how to adjust these settings (note that these steps may vary, depending on your Android device):

  1. Tap the Menu button
  2. Tap Settings
  3. Tap Location and Security | Security lock timer
  4. Scroll up and select When display is off

Now, the second you shut off that screen, the screen lock pattern will be required to get into the phone -- no time out necessary.

The Android platform is full of useful flexibility, including with security measures. If you're one of the many paranoid among us, and you enjoy the Android platform, it would behoove you to take advantage of the pattern screen lock. And, should you forget that pattern, you can always regain control of your phone, thanks to the Google credentials associated with the device.