How to Unlock Cell Phones for Use on Any Network

By Heather Montgomery

Cell phones purchased from electronics stores or cell phone companies are usually locked to one service provider. By unlocking your cell phone, you can transfer it to any network simply by switching the SIM card. Each cell phone has a different method for unlocking, which range from moderately easy to very challenging. Smartphones, such as the iPhone, can be very difficult to unlock and usually require the work of a professional. Simpler phones can often be done at home.

Things You'll Need

  • Cell phone
  • Computer
  • Internet
  • Credit card

Step 1

Ensure your cell phone can be unlocked. Two different technologies are used to make cell phones: Global System for Mobile communication (GSM) and Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA). CDMA phones cannot be unlocked.

Step 2

Figure out if you have a GSM phone. The simplest way to do so is to open the back casing on your phone and look for a SIM card; it is usually behind the battery. A SIM card is a small plastic card with a chip in it. If you do not have a SIM card, you will not be able to switch networks.

Step 3

Obtain an unlocking code. Most of the time, you will have to purchase this off the Internet. Sometimes, you can find one for free. In both cases, type "Unlock" and the model name and number of your phone into a search engine.

Step 4

Find a reliable site to unlock your phone. Many sites that appear will be spam. Check the Resources section for reliable sites, or make sure the site you find has a secure payment option through PayPal or registered credit card companies.

Step 5

Find out your IMEI number. This is a number unique to your phone. If you are purchasing a code from a respectable website, they will ask for your IMEI number and should be able to tell you how to find it. For most phones, this will require you to type "*#060#" into your phone, and the IMEI number will appear.

Step 6

Remove the SIM card from your phone, and turn the phone back on.

Step 7

Enter "*#7465625#638#" into your phone.

Step 8

Enter the unlocking code, unique to your phone, followed by "#." The cell phone screen should read "Network Lock Deactivated" or something similar.

Step 9

Insert the new SIM into your phone, and begin using the new network.

Tips & Warnings

  • Some professionals charge very little money to do this for you, a service you can find by searching the Internet or local malls. Often, this is a safer and easier option for beginners.
  • If you enter the wrong unlocking code in your phone, it's possible to "hard lock" your phone, which means that you will not be able to unlock it.