When an iOS device encounters software- or app-related trouble, it can usually be resolved by just restarting. In some circumstances, though, the problems are more extensive and require putting the device into recovery mode and restoring it.
While this article mostly refers to the iPhone, the tips in it apply to all iOS devices: iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad.
When to Use It
You'll want to use iPhone recovery mode when:
- You've installed an iOS update and your device gets stuck in a continuous restart loop. This can happen when something goes wrong with the update, or when you have extremely low battery life when installing the update
- You attempted to update the OS or restore the device from backup, the process didn't complete, and now iTunes doesn't register the device when you connect it to your computer
- The silver Apple logo has been onscreen, with no change, for many minutes.
It's worth knowing that restoring your iPhone via recovery mode will delete all data on the device (if you go through the entire process; exiting recovery mode before completing a restore leaves your data intact), so it's best to sync the device to backup your data, if you can, before following these instructions.
How to Enter iPhone Recovery Mode
- Connect the USB cable used to sync your device to your computer, but do not connect it to your iPhone.
- Turn your iPhone off by holding down the sleep/hold button in the top right corner until the slider appears at the top. Slide it. If your phone won't respond to that, hold the sleep/wake button and the home button together until the screen goes dark.
- When the phone is off, hold down the home button and connect the USB cable (which should still be attached to your computer) to the dock connector. The iPhone will turn on and display the Apple logo. Keep holding the home button until the iTunes logo/USB cable appear on the screen. You can let it go then. The phone is now in recovery mode.
- If the red empty battery icon appears onscreen, let the phone charge for a few minutes and then restart this process.
- When the phone is in recovery mode, a window will pop up in iTunes saying that the phone is in recovery mode and needs to be restored.
Once your iPhone is in recovery mode, you'll need to restore it. You can either restore it to its factory state or from a recent backup of your data. For instructions on how to do this, read:
Remember, when you restore your device, it will delete all the data on it and replace it either with its factory default state or the backup you choose.
Get Out of iPhone Recovery Mode
You can exit recovery mode before deleting your data and restoring your phone. To do so, unplug the device from the USB cable. Then hold down the sleep/wake button until it turns off. Let go of the button and then hold it down again until the Apple logo reappears. Let it go and the device will boot up. This only works, of course, if your device was working properly previously.
If This Doesn't Work
If restoring your iPhone via recovery mode doesn't solve your problem, the issue may be more serious than you can fix on your own. In that case, you should make an appointment at the Genius Bar of your nearest Apple Store.
Got a tech support question? Ask it in the discussion forums.
Want tips like this delivered to your inbox every week? Subscribe to the free weekly iPhone/iPod email newsletter.