January 29, 2023

If you have recently lost a friend or family member, you may wish to access their phone, computer or tablet to obtain their personal data.

Whether you’re looking for photos, passwords, or other information, it can be frustrating when you don’t know their password and just have access to it.

We’ve collected the steps you should follow to unlock Android devices and Windows PCs upon the owner’s death.

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Android phone

How to unlock an Android or PC if the owner dies

Similar to Apple’s iCloud, Android and PC computer users typically connect their devices to a Google account. If you know the email address and password associated with a user’s Google Account, you can use that address and password to reset their password.

How to tell if someone is spying on your Android

Access data with Google account

  • This may be an option when signing in if the device owner has a Google account linked
  • If you try to log in to your Android device incorrectly five times, you may be prompted to reset your phone password using your Google account
  • If you have that login, please reset your password via instructions sent to the email address associated with your Google Account

Access data with Samsung account

  • If the owner of the device has a Samsung phone, they may have set up a Samsung account with access to reset the device’s password
  • If you have that login, go to Samsung’s Find My service and follow instructions
  • You will be able to reset and unlock your phone in seconds
In this photo illustration, the Android logo is displayed on a smartphone screen in Athens, Greece, April 16, 2022.

In this photo illustration, the Android logo is displayed on a smartphone screen in Athens, Greece, April 16, 2022.
(Nikolas Kokovlis/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Access data with a Microsoft account

How to Change the Privacy Settings on Your Android Device

If the owner of the device is a Microsoft user with an email address ending in Outlook.com, Live.com, Hotmail.com, or MSN.com, and you do not have their Microsoft login information, you may request it by subpoena or court order. You will most likely need to provide:

  • copy of death certificate
  • Copy of ID card or passport of the deceased
  • A copy of a succession certificate or other court document certifying sole succession or the names and addresses of all heirs and agreeing that you have authority to act on their behalf
  • Copy of applicant’s ID card or passport or signed authorization letter
A woman reboots her Android smartphone.

A woman reboots her Android smartphone.
(Fox News)

Remove the SD memory card

  • Some devices may have a built-in memory card
  • If the device has a memory card, remove the SD card and use an SD card reader to connect it to another device such as a computer
  • You should have access to photos and other data stored on that memory card

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How to make sure loved ones have access to your data

In the event of an emergency or death, you want to make sure your loved ones still have access to your data. Make sure a trusted loved one records your login information and/or password in a safe, protected location. This way they can still access your photos and other phone apps without going through a court order or complicated reset process.

If your phone provider offers a traditional contact option, set it up now.

If you use social media, platforms like Facebook offer an option to name someone your legacy contact.

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