How to add existing Apple devices to your ABM account

Meredith Kreisa headshot
Meredith Kreisa|February 13, 2023
General IT Article background
General IT Article background

Device management is a prime concern regardless of how you acquired your company’s iPhones, iPads, iMacs, MacBooks, and other Apple devices. That means you need to get each machine into your Apple Business Manager (ABM) or Apple School Manager (ASM) account ASAP. But out-of-the-box device management isn’t an option when you purchase your fleet from an unapproved source. We’ll tell you how to add existing devices through Apple Configurator 2 so that you can harness the power of ABM.

Requirements for adding an existing device to ABM

While you should be able to add most Apple devices to your ABM, some may not qualify. (We’re looking at you, iOS 1 through 15 aficionados). You must also be located in a country where ABM is available. If you live in an approved country and purchased the device from Apple, an Apple Authorized Reseller, or a cellular carrier, you should be good to go.

But don’t worry! Even if the newest iPhone in your fleet was found on the street by your CEO’s best friend’s cousin’s dog, you might still be able to enroll it in your ABM account. The main thing is that both the enrolling device and the target device need a relatively current OS. Since some older Apple devices are not compatible with newer operating systems, this may slightly restrict eligible devices. Otherwise, you may need to update your systems before proceeding.

The enrolling device also needs Apple Configurator 2, which you can download for free. Additionally, Macs must have Apple Silicon or the Apple T2 Security Chip to enroll.

You can add iPhones, iPads, and Macs via Apple Configurator 2 for iPhone. Meanwhile, you can use Apple Configurator 2 for Mac to add iPhones, iPads, and Apple TVs.

How to add existing devices using Apple Configurator 2

Manually adding devices through Apple Configurator 2 is a relatively straightforward process, but the steps vary slightly depending on the type of target device and the machine you’re using for the enrollment process. We’ll walk you through enrolling an iPhone, iPad, or Apple TV using a Mac computer, which is one of the most common use cases.

If the device you’re enrolling isn’t new, it will need to be erased. Back up any data, turn off Find My, sign out of iCloud, and erase your device before you begin.

  1. Via USB, connect the device to a Mac computer with Apple Configurator 2 installed.

  2. Open Apple Configurator 2.

  3. Select the device.

  4. In the toolbar, click Prepare.

  5. Select Manual Configuration from the drop-down menu.

  6. Check Add to Apple School Manager or Apple Business Manager.

  7. Uncheck Activate and Complete Enrollment and click Next.

  8. In the MDM Server drop-down menu, choose New Server. Click Next.

  9. In the Name field, enter Apple Business Manager. Leave the MDM Server URL as is. Click Next.

  10. You’ll receive an "Unable to verify the server's enrollment URL” message. Don’t panic. Click Next and take a deep, calming breath.

  11. Don’t add a certificate. Just click Next.

  12. Either select your organization or New Organization. Click Next.

  13. Input the relevant Managed Apple ID. To proceed, the associated ID must have an Administrator or Device Enrollment Manager role. Click Next.

  14. Click Continue to sign in.

  15. Select Generate a new supervision identity.

  16. In the Setup Assistant, select which panes you want to include. Click Next.

  17. Choose a network profile. If you do not already have a network profile, you’ll need to set it up before proceeding. SimpleMDM supports custom configuration profiles for more flexibility. Once you’ve selected your network profile, click Next.

  18. Enter your macOS administrator credentials. Click Update Settings.

  19. If prompted, unlock and/or erase the device. Complete the enrollment in the Setup Assistant.

  20. In the Devices section, go to the group labeled Devices added by Apple Configurator. Assign the device to an MDM server.

Note: If you want to use Automated Device Enrollment (ADE) with the device, assign it to an MDM server before proceeding with Setup Assistant.

Keep in mind that this is just one variation of the manual enrollment process. If you’re enrolling devices via Apple Configurator 2 on iPhone, you’ll use slightly different steps. These steps also vary depending on your target device. But you get the gist.


Can you use existing devices with Automated Device Enrollment?

Yes. ADE works with any device assigned to your ABM account.

Formerly known as Apple Device Enrollment Program (Apple DEP), ADE had traditionally been reserved for new devices purchases through Apple, Apple Authorized Resellers, and cellular carriers. While self-enrolled devices won’t be ready to go right out of the box, ADE still might help you set up your devices more quickly. Once you manually add an existing device to your ABM account, you can use ADE to configure it and enroll it in your MDM.

I’m receiving “INVALID_INPUT” when I assign devices to an MDM server within Apple Business Manager. Why?

You may receive an "INVALID_INPUT" error from Apple Business Manager when attempting to assign devices to an MDM Server object. This error typically means that a device serial number you provided doesn’t exist in your Apple Business Manager account, so it can’t be assigned to the server.

There are a few reasons why a serial number might not exist in your account:

  • The device was just purchased. It can take a few hours for the serial number to appear.

  • Apple or your Apple Authorized Reseller has yet to register the order with your Apple Business Manager account. You will need to contact them and request that they do so.

  • The device was purchased through an ineligible channel. You might be able to add it to your Apple Business Manager account manually. See above.

  • If you continue to see the "INVALID_INPUT" error after verifying that your equipment order has been registered with your Apple Business Manager account, we suggest contacting Apple for additional troubleshooting.

Not all devices follow a straight pipeline directly from Apple to your office. Maybe a former employee abandoned a personal device. Maybe a generous donor gave you their castoffs. Or maybe you just purchased devices through a non-Apple-approved vendor. (We don’t judge.) But no matter how they came into your possession, you may still be able to add these devices to ABM following the above methods. Boom. That's efficiency.

If you’re looking for more ways to perfect your Apple device management, sign up for a free 30-day trial of SimpleMDM. It’s easy, intuitive, and just plain simple. And don’t forget to keep an eye on the SimpleMDM blog for the latest Apple news and tips.

Meredith Kreisa headshot
Meredith Kreisa

Meredith gets her kicks diving into the depths of IT lore and checking her internet speed incessantly. When she's not spending quality time behind a computer screen, she's probably curled up under a blanket, silently contemplating the efficacy of napping.

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