What is the Difference Between Two-factor Authentication and Two-step Verification?

What is the Difference Between Two-factor Authentication and Two-step Verification

First and foremost, keep in mind that two-factor authentication is not two-step verification. Although they work in a similar way to secure your Apple ID, you can see noticeable differences from many aspects.

What is two-step verification?

“Two-step verification is a security feature for Apple ID that’s designed to prevent anyone else from controversy or using your account, even if they know your password.”

So, you can not log into the account until you have entered the verification code. For example, if you sign up for a web service for which you have turned on this function, you will be required to enter the verification code you receive to confirm your identity. This is known as two-step verification.

What is two-factor authentication?

“Two-factor authentication is an extra layer of security for your Apple ID designed to ensure that you’re the only person who can access your account, even if someone knows your password.” 

Except that the verification code is not sent via messages, Apple’s two-factor authentication is quite similar to two-step verification. When you sign in to your Apple ID at a new location or on a new device, you will receive a notification about your login attempt on all trusted devices. At the same time, you will get a six-digit verification code. You must enter the verification code if you want to gain access to your Apple ID account.

The differences between two-factor authentication and two-step verification

How do I turn them on?

You must open your Apple ID account page to enable two-step verification. Two-factor authentication is only available on iOS 9 or higher or OS X El Capitan or later. You should turn it on on an iOS or macOS device that you have signed in with your Apple ID.

Trusted devices and phone numbers

You need to register one or more trusted devices when you enable two-step verification. During registration, each device will receive a verification code. All these trusted devices should also use Find My iPhone or SMS. 

For two-factor authentication, it would be much easier to set trusted devices because all devices that have logged in to iCloud will be automatically registered as trusted devices. 

When it comes to trusted phone numbers, both of them require you to manually verify each number. 

Recovery key

In case you forget your password or lose all the trusted devices, you can use a recovery key to regain access to your Apple ID if you use two-step verification.

While the two-factor authentication does not give you a recovery key.

How do they work?

Both two-step verification and two-factor authentication confirm your identity by requiring you to fill in a verification code when you sign in to your Apple ID with a new device or browser. 

If you use two-step verification, you will be prompted to select a trusted device or trusted phone number to obtain a four-digit verification code after you entered the Apple ID account and password. 

Unlike two-step verification, you will receive login notifications on all trusted devices if you use two-factor authentication. The login notification will display the approximate location of this new device. When you click on “Allow” to confirm the login on this new device, you will get a 6-digit verification code which is longer than that for two-step verification on your trusted devices. If it is not you that attempts to log into your account on a new device, you don’t need to be panic. You should deny this login attempt by clicking on “ Don’t Allow”. Once you make a selection on a device, the login notifications on other trusted devices will automatically disappear. You can also select a trusted phone number to receive the verification code. 

Last but not least, we recommend you change your Apple ID password as soon as possible.

How to receive a verification code?

Only iOS devices can receive a verification code when you turn on two-step verification. Both iOS and macOS can receive the verification code when you use two-factor authentication. 

Can I get a verification code when the trusted devices are offline?

You might get problems with your login when the trusted devices are offline because you can’t receive a verification code for two-step verification.

However, you can still get a two-factor authentication verification code even if your trusted devices are offline, greatly improving your user experience. 

If you want to sign in to your Apple ID on a device with an older version, you can get a verification code on a trusted device that uses iOS 9 or later or OS X El Capitan or later. Then, add the 6-digit verification code to the Apple ID password entered in the password field of your old device. 

Change the security information

When you turn on two-step verification for your Apple ID, security information can only be changed on your Apple ID account page. 

While two-factor authentication allows you to customize the security settings directly on your device.

What if you forgot your password?

To log in to your Apple ID for which you enabled two-step verification, you have to get two of the three things: password, recovery key or a trusted device. Otherwise, you could permanently lose access to your Apple ID.

When you use two-factor authentication, you will not be able to access your Apple ID with a recovery key if you forget the password. Instead, you will regain access to your Apple ID via account recovery. You can provide as detailed information as possible to shorten the waiting time. 

Can I turn them off?

Two-factor authentication can not be disabled after turning it on. But you can disable two-step verification on your Apple ID account page. 

Can I use them together?

The answer is no. You need to turn two-step verification off before you enable two-factor authentication. If you use two-step verification and update your device to iOS 11 or later or to macOS High Sierra or later, it will be automatically upgraded to two-factor authentication.


It’s a good idea to secure your Apple ID with two-step verification or two-factor authentication. If you are looking for a reputable VPN to secure your Internet connection, we recommend you use RitaVPN.

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