Cannot Sign In: The Maximum Number of Free Accounts Have Been Activated, Fix

Several users have reported that they are unable to use their new Apple ID because they get an error message saying when they want to set up iCloud on their device. The message says:

Cannot Sign In. The maximum number of free accounts have been activated on this iPhone (or iPad or Mac).

Please note that you may see this error message on your iPhone, iPad, or Mac when you want to tap the “Sign in to your [device, iPhone or iPad]” link during the iCloud setup process.

Why are you seeing this error message?

You are seeing this message because you have exceeded the maximum number of free iCloud / Apple ID accounts that you can use on your Apple device. iCloud and Apple ID are different types of accounts. An Apple ID account can be used to set up and access an iCloud account. You can create an Apple ID, even if you do not own an Apple device, still you can use this Apple ID in a limited capacity.

This message occurs because Apple limits how many new Apple IDs you can create to set up with iCloud on an iPhone, iPad, or Mac. This limit is 3 per device in one year. This means that you can only create up to 3 new iCloud accounts on your iOS or iPadOS device. If you are trying to create your 4th account, you will not be able to sign in and you will get this message. Once the limit has been reached, no more iCloud accounts can be created on that device.

This is a hardware limitation. This is tied to the hardware. It is not tied to your account. Thus, deleting your Apple ID will not work. Furthermore, removing a device from your Apple ID device list will not fix this. Even if you erase your device (all settings and data), you still won’t be able to create more accounts on this device. You can use one of the Apple IDs that you created on this device. However, this may not be possible for some users who purchased a second-hand, even refurbished, Apple device that was used to set up 3 iCloud accounts by the previous owner(s). In short, this device can no longer be used to create additional Apple IDs. There is nothing you can do to change it.

How to fix the Apple ID and iCloud account limitation

If you see this message, you will not be able to set up iCloud with your Apple ID on this device.

Please note that there is no limit to how many accounts you can have on a device. As long as an iCloud account exists, you can use it even if the 3 account limit was reached.

This means that you can create a new iCloud account elsewhere and use this account to sign in to this device. In other words, you can use your Apple ID to set up iCloud on another Apple device, iPhone, iPad, or Mac. Here is how:

  • Create a new account on another device:
    • iPhone or iPad: Settings > Sign in to your [device].
    • Mac: Apple menu > System Preferences > Sign In.
  • Now, on your original device, sign in.

Please note that you may be able to fix this problem by creating a new Apple ID on the web. You will need to visit the Apple ID account page and click Create your Apple ID and then follow the onscreen instructions.

See also:

Dr. Serhat Kurt worked as a Senior Technology Director. He holds a doctoral degree (or doctorate) from the University of Illinois at Urbana / Champaign and a master’s degree from Purdue University. Here is his LinkedIn profile.

Thank you for choosing to leave a comment.

Please note the following:

  • All comments are moderated.
  • Your email will NOT be published nor shared.
  • All SPAM comments will be deleted.
  • Please see our comment policy page for more info.

Leave a Comment