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How Do I Access Gmail Without Phone Verification?

Getting into your account without your phone.

Sign in to Gmail
(Screenshot: askleo.com)
There are a number of ways to confirm your identity if you don't have your phone. The catch is that most have to be set up before you need them.
I got a new phone and phone number some time ago. I just tried signing into my Google Mail account and it wants to verify who I am by sending a code to the old number! How do I tell Google my new number?

That’s a summarization of a question I get frequently.

The problem is that telling Google your new number requires you to be signed in, but you can’t sign in because the verification is going to your old number. It’s a vicious circle.

I have to tell you that depending on a few factors, you may not be able to get in.

Let’s look at what straws we can grasp at.

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TL;DR:

Possible alternate verification options

  • Use a hardware security key that you set up as part of two-factor authentication.
  • Use a one-time security code provided by another signed-in device.
  • Confirm on a signed-in phone or tablet.
  • Get a security code on a signed-in phone or tablet (even if it’s offline).
  • Get a code from the Google Authenticator app.
  • Get a verification code sent to a recovery email address.
  • Get a verification code sent to a mobile phone.
  • Enter one of your pre-saved 8-digit backup codes.
  • Try Google Account Recovery.

Preparation is key

Google is going to want something that’s been set up, signed in, or configured before this situation arises. Normally, that means adding your phone number and keeping that number up to date.

Of course, if you’ve lost your phone or have changed numbers without updating the information in your account, that’s not going to work.

Fortunately, Google offers many additional ways to confirm your identity.

Google Two Step Verification
Google two-step verification. Click for larger image. (Screenshot: askleo.com)

Important: Not all of these options will be available to you in all situations (and there may even be others). Exactly which Google chooses to make available is unclear, and may vary depending on the characteristics of your account, or whether you’re following the “forgot my password” or “lost my two-factor device” path.

Several of these options require configuration prior to needing them. If you have not configured them for your account, they probably won’t be listed.

Even if you don’t have two-factor explicitly enabled, Google’s security may require this additional level of confirmation at times. This is, essentially, two-factor authentication as well.

Let’s look at the options.

Account verification options

Use your Security Key

Using a hardware security key such as a YubiKey, all you need to do is insert the key into a USB port and press a button to confirm you are who you say you are.

This only works if you’ve previously configured the YubiKey with your account and you have it with you. I’ve assigned a YubiKey to my account, and yet not having it with me is the most common scenario I run into myself.

Get a one-time security code

You can use a hardware security key to sign in to your account on one device, and then use that device to get a code allowing you to sign in to another.

This scenario assumes you can’t use your security key on the device you’re trying to sign in to. Perhaps the USB ports are broken; perhaps you left that key at home. By using a different device (and perhaps a trusted family member at home), you can use your ability to sign in one place as a way to validate the other.

Confirm on your phone or tablet

If you are currently signed in to Google on a mobile device1 or a tablet, Google can send a message to that device, asking you to confirm your sign in on the current machine.

Naturally, this only works if you are currently signed in on another device and can respond to the confirmation prompt.

Use your phone or tablet to get a security code (even if it’s offline)

This one surprised me. I suspect this works only for Android devices, but if you’re signed into the same account on one of those devices, you’ll be given instructions to retrieve a log-in code from one of those devices.

Instructions to get a security code from your phone.
Instructions to get a security code from your phone. Click for larger image. (Screenshot: askleo.com)

Next, your device presents the codes you can use to confirm your identity.

Google mobile device security codes.
Google mobile device security codes. Click for larger image. (Screenshot: askleo.com)

That this works even if that mobile device is not connected to the internet might be a lifesaver, especially when traveling.

Get a verification code from the Google Authenticator app.

This also requires no connectivity on your mobile device, but does require you’ve set up two-factor authentication with the Google Authenticator app beforehand. Other compatible apps, such as Authy, also work.

On the device running the authenticator app (which can even be the PC on which you’re attempting to sign in, if it is running the desktop version of Authy), you simply type in the currently displayed code for your account.

Get a verification code at an email address

Google will email you a code to one of your recovery email addresses. Your ability to provide that code proves you are who you say you are — or at least are the person who set up the recovery email addresses — and should be allowed into the account.

Email addresses aren’t always included in the list of options (they’re not present above, for example).

Google account recovery email options.
Google account recovery email options. Click for larger image. (Screenshot: askleo.com)

Note: you can have more than one recovery email address associated with your account. The example here shows four. If you lose access to one, you can have the code sent to any of the others.

Get a verification code via mobile phone.

This is the very problem that got us here. Google will text a code to your mobile number of record.

Note: you can have more than one number associated with your account. If you lose access to one, you can have the code sent to the other instead.

Enter one of your 8-digit backup codes.

With two-factor authentication enabled, any time you’re signed in to your account you can have Google create and display a set of backup codes for you to use in an emergency.

Google account backup codes.
Google account backup codes. Click for larger image. (Screenshot: askleo.com)

Each can be used once –, in lieu of your second factor, or when you need to provide additional security assurance to Google that you are who you say you are.

If you use two-factor authentication, I strongly recommend getting and saving those backup codes somewhere safe.

If you’re not using two-factor authentication — if the additional security two-factor provides isn’t enough to convince you — it’s almost worth turning it on so you can have these codes available should you ever need them.

Get help

Google warns that this process can take several days. What they don’t say is that it may not work.

Google Account Recovery
Google account recovery. Click for larger image. (Screenshot: askleo.com)

The process encourages you to try some of the options we’ve already discussed as faster ways to get into your account.

If those won’t work for you, Google will ask a series of questions, and … get back to you. Carefully answer those questions as clearly and as completely as you can.

If you’ve provided sufficient information, eventually you’ll be provided a means to access your account and reset your password.

If you’ve not provided information that Google sees as sufficient to prove you are the rightful account owner … you’re out of luck. This is not uncommon.

What’s frustrating to folks in this position is that exactly what Google considers “enough” is never stated. This is on purpose, so as to prevent malicious hackers from beating the system. That’s why I emphasize being careful, being clear, and being complete when you answer the questions presented.

If everything fails

If none of the confirmation options provided by Google work for you…

if you’ve not set up the alternate and recovery information for your account…

if the account recovery process covered in the last step fails…

… then I know of no way to get back into your account. For all intents and purposes, it is no longer your account.

This is why I harp on setting up account recovery information, and enabling two-factor authentication before you need it, so you’ll never find yourself in this situation.

Footnotes & References

1: I’m assuming this works across Apple devices as well as Android.

9 comments on “How Do I Access Gmail Without Phone Verification?”

  1. Google now requires a mobile phone to even create an account, a landline will no longer do. Don’t have one, not gonna get one, and don’t understand why I’d need one … fortunately I created my account years ago …

    Reply
  2. Hello i need help i have a old account on youtube i want to recover it and delete some videos of me i dont want the public to see them so i have everything i have the password the email but it tells me that i need a verification on a phone that i have no access and the phone number too i dont have access i any of them can you help me i was young there it past like 5 years and i dont know what i have typed the first name or the last name i dont know anything or the birth date i really need your help if you know to help me.
    Best Regards.

    Reply
  3. Companies like Google, Home Depot, Synchrony Bank and many others are just creating a nightmare for people like me that literally hate cell phones. I am 66 years old and it is so easy for me to work with my 40 inch monitor, so why would I bother with a 5 or 6 inch screen of a cell phone. Cell phones do not make any sense but they are just todays fashion unfortunately. All I am suggesting is that All Companies also allow Email addresses as an Option in their Security Verification Process.

    Reply
  4. Hello, I got problems with my gmail account. I know password and I can sign in, but if I want to change some informations in 2-step verifications, it asks me to log in again. After I do that, it wants to send me code to my old phone number which I have no access anymore. Somehow I could change every phone number (in 2-step verification and rescovery number) but still it asks to send me code to my old number. And I have nothing more to prove my identity except that old number. I don’t know how to stop them to send codes to that number when I set other numbers. I also have added one more email for recovery and I turned on google autentificator and also now google can ask me on my phone if I want to allow signing in or not. But again, in case I want to change some important information, it only wants to send me code to old number which I even don’t know where it’s written on account. Do you know why this happens?

    Reply

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