How to get your PUK and unlock your phone
Personal unlocking keys (PUKs) are required by some networks when you want to unlock your phone.
You may want to unlock your phone because you want to use it with another SIM card, or because you’ve opted to switch network.
Alternatively, it may be that you’ve accidentally entered the wrong PIN too many times and now need a PUK to unlock your SIM card and start using it again.
In this guide, we’ll explain what a PUK code is and outline the easiest ways to get one. And we’ll look at which networks require PUKs to unlock phones, as well as clear up the difference between a PUK and a PAC (porting authorisation code).
What is a PUK for? Is it different from a PAC Code?
A PUK, which is sometimes known as a network unlocking code (NUC) or personal unlocking code (PUC), is a unique sequence of eight digits that your network must supply, as long as you fulfil certain criteria.
As indicated above, a PUK is required when you want to unlock a phone. You’ll need one in the event that your handset is locked by your current network and you want to use a SIM card from another network.
You’ll also need to get a PUK code in the event that you mistakenly enter the wrong PIN code and you are automatically locked out.
Depending on the network you’re signed up to, you may be allowed up three incorrect tries, or up to ten. Either way, when a phone is locked by the network in these circumstances, you’ll need a PUK to unlock it before you can start using your phone again.
A PAC (porting authorisation code) is very different. Like a PUK, it’s a unique sequence of digits and plays a role when you’re switching networks. But a PAC code is only required when you want to transfer your existing mobile phone number to the network you’re joining.
How do I get a PUK?
Remember the plastic container tray in which housed your SIM card when it arrived? Well, in the unlikely event that you had the foresight to keep it safe, you’ll be able to find your PUK written on the tray.
If you weren’t that forward-looking, you’ll need to get a PUK from your network.
Getting a PUK from your network
Not all networks lock their phones. That, of course, means there’s no need to get a PUK to unlock them. What's important to note is that if your network does require a PUK code, they’re obliged to provide you with it, as long as you fulfil certain criteria.
Once again, this varies from network to network. But generally the conditions pertain to your contract status.
Whether you’ll be charged to get a PUK also differs between networks. Although most no longer charge you.
Of the biggest networks, those that don’t lock phones are:
- Virgin Mobile
- iD Mobile
- Sky Mobile
Networks that sell their phones locked are:
- O2 (select models)
- Tesco Mobile
Below we’ve listed the major networks, alongside how to get your PUK from them.
Get a PUK from O2
Not all phone models are locked by O2. However, if your phone is locked, you can get your PUK by logging into your O2 account.
Get a PUK from Vodafone
To get hold of a PUK from Vodafone, head to its site and fill in this form.
Get a PUK from Tesco Mobile
You can get a PUK to unlock Tesco Mobile phones by dialling *#06# to get your IMEI number. Once you’ve got that, ring Tesco Mobile on 034 5301 4455, who text you your PUK code along with instructions to unlock your phone.
Get a PUK from EE
Getting hold of a PUK code from EE is just a case of filling in this form. Once that’s done, they’ll provide you with a personal unlocking key (PUK) by text message.
Need a PAC code too?
As indicated above, if you’re switching network unlocking your phone with a PUK is only half the story. If you want to transfer your number to the network you’re joining, you’re also going to need a PAC Code.
Not sure how to get one? No fear. We can help you with that. Just head to our guide to transferring your number for all the help you need.
Personal unblocking key
A personal unblocking key (PUK), sometimes called personal unblocking code (PUC), is used in smart cards, 3GPPSIM cards and mobile phones to reset a personal identification number (PIN) that has been lost or forgotten.
Most mobile phones offer the feature of PIN protection. After switching on the phone, if the PIN security function is active, the user is required to enter a 4-8 digit PIN to enable the phone's non-emergency calling functions. If the wrong PIN is entered more than three times, either the SIM card, the device, or both become locked. They can be returned to their original unlocked state by entering a PUK provided by the mobile service provider, after verification. If the wrong PUK is entered 10 times in a row, the device will become permanently blocked and unrecoverable, requiring a new SIM card. Mobile phone users are therefore advised by most providers to keep their PUK written down in a safe place separate from the device.
After the PUK code is entered, the PIN must be reset. The PUK are used to unlock the PIN codes if the SIM card is blocked.
- GSM USSD codes - Unstructured Supplementary Service Data: list of standard GSM codes for network and SIM related functions
- SIM lock
How to Unlock the PUK Code on a Mobile Phone If Locked?
If you have a SIM card PIN enabled on your phone to access data on the SIM card, but you repeatedly enter it incorrectly, the SIM card may lock you out from further attempts. You can reset the SIM card, using what's called a personal unlock code, or PUK code, which you can usually obtain from your phone carrier.
Locking a SIM Card
You can set a SIM PIN code to prevent people from accessing data such as contacts stored on the SIM card without your permission, even if they physically have your phone and then steal the card. This is separate from a passcode or a biometric lock you might set on the phone itself, since it's designed to protect the data on the SIM, not the phone.
On an Android phone, you can set a SIM PIN, using the Settings menu. Tap the Settings app on your home screen, then tap to go to the "Security" or "Fingerprints and Security" submenu. Tap "Set up SM Card Lock" and select "Lock SIM Card" to lock the card. Generally, you'll have to enter the existing default SIM lock PIN, which you can obtain from your phone maker or carrier, although you can change it afterward, through the same menu.
On an iPhone, tap "Settings," then "Phone," then "SIM PIN" to turn the lock PIN on or off. If you don't know the existing PIN, contact your carrier for help.
Getting a PUK Code
If you enter the wrong SIM card PIN repeatedly, your SIM card will lock as an added security measure. This prevents someone from simply guessing every possible PIN to access your data if they steal your phone or SIM card.
Once the SIM card is locked, you will need to use a separate code called a PUK code to unlock it. Your carrier can provide you with the PUK code for your SIM card. You can sometimes find this on your carrier's website after you log in, and you can usually also obtain it by calling customer service or taking the phone to a carrier store. Once you have the PUK code, you can enter it and reset your SIM PIN to one you know.
If you don't know the SIM card's PUK code, don't try to guess it. The SIM card can become permanently locked and need to be replaced, potentially losing your data, if you repeatedly enter an incorrect PUK code.
- Some carriers allow you to generate a PUK through your account on their website, or by talking with online support chat.
- When the phone switches from asking for a PIN to asking for a PUK, stop entering codes. If you enter the PUK code wrong too many times, the PUK will lock permanently and you will need to buy a new SIM card.
Steven Melendez is an independent journalist with a background in technology and business. He has written for a variety of business publications including Fast Company, the Wall Street Journal, Innovation Leader and Business BVI. He was awarded the Knight Foundation scholarship to Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.
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