How to use 2FA on older Apple devices that won’t let you enter a verification code

Most people who own Apple hardware have different generations of equipment in use. And because the company’s gear can last a long time, you can wind up with some old equipment—like an ancient Apple TV or Mac that’s being used to serve up video or what have you.

Apple has shifted aggressively to require two-factor authentication (2FA) with Apple ID accounts as a way of deterring account hijacking. This is admirable, though it has some adverse side effects for people who have multiple Apple IDs for historical or other purposes. (I wrote a couple of years ago about using multiple macOS accounts and other tricks to manage that.)

But 2FA and outdated versions of Apple TV, iOS, and macOS don’t mix. You try to log in on those devices with your Apple ID and popups with codes may appear on other devices, but there’s no way to enter it on the piece of equipment from which you’re trying to log in.

Fortunately, there’s a simple workaround:

  1. Log in with your Apple ID and password as normal.

  2. Get the six-digit authentication code from one of your trusted devices associated with the Apple ID.

  3. Back on the original device, log in again, but this time add the six-digit code at the end of the password. (Don’t put a space or anything else between the password or after the code.)

You can also generate a verification code manually:

  • In iOS, open Settings > [your account] > Password & Security and then tap Get Verification Code.

  • In macOS, go to the iCloud preference pane, click the Security tab, and then click Get Verification Code.

mac911 generate verification code macos IDG

Generate a second-factor code manually.

Ask Mac 911

We’ve compiled a list of the questions we get asked most frequently along with answers and links to columns: read our super FAQ to see if your question is covered. If not, we’re always looking for new problems to solve! Email yours to [email protected] including screen captures as appropriate, and whether you want your full name used. Every question won’t be answered, we don’t reply to email, and we cannot provide direct troubleshooting advice.