How to Connect a Disabled iPhone to iTunes

by Michelle Carvo ; Updated September 29, 2017

Your iPhone can become disabled after too many incorrect pass code entries. Luckily, a disabled iPhone can be fixed using one of Apple’s three unlocking methods.

How the iPhone is Disabled

Apple’s iOS software automatically disables an iPhone after the wrong pass code is entered on the iPhone six consecutive times. The first time it is disabled, the iPhone stays disabled for a minute, while further incorrect entries disable the iPhone for 5, 15 and 60 minutes respectively. The 10th incorrect pass code entry disables the iPhone until you connect the device to iTunes to unlock it. Apple does this to keep others from typing in multiple pass codes and potentially unlocking your iPhone by guessing the right pass code.

Unlocking Your iPhone With iTunes

Unlock your iPhone using iTunes if your iPhone has become disabled after 10 incorrect pass code attempts. Plug one end of the iPhone charging cable into the charging port on your iPhone and plug the USB end into your computer’s USB port. Launch the iTunes program and wait for the “Enter Passcode” window to display again on your iPhone. Type in your pass code for the iPhone. If you do not know the pass code, you can try removing the pass code using either iTunes or Recovery Mode.

Removing the Pass Code From an iPhone With iTunes by Erasing the iPhone

Erasing your iPhone with iTunes removes the pass code, but keep in mind that you will lose all your device’s data unless you made a backup of the device before you forgot its pass code.

  1. Connect your iPhone to your computer using its USB cord and launch iTunes.
  2. Wait for iTunes to detect your device and then click the “Restore iPhone” button under your iPhone Summary. 
  3. Tap the “Restore from iTunes backup” option on the Set Up screen on your iPhone. 
  4. Go back to iTunes on your computer, click the backup that you would like to restore on your iPhone and then click “Restore." If no backups are available, click “Set up as new iPhone” and wait for iTunes to complete the erase process on your iPhone. You can then use your iPhone without having to enter in a pass code.     

Removing the Pass Code From an iPhone With Recovery Mode

You can also use recovery mode to fix your disabled iPhone. As with the iTunes method, you will lose all data on the device with Recovery Mode. Connect your iPhone to the computer and launch iTunes. Force a restart on your iPhone to initiate recovery mode.

  • iPhone 8 or 8 Plus Force Restart: Force restart your iPhone 8 or 8 Plus by pressing and quickly releasing the Volume up button followed by the Volume Down button and then press and hold the Side button until the recovery-mode screen displays.
  • iPhone 7 or 7 Plus Force Restart: Force restart your iPhone 7 or 7 Plus by pressing and holding the Side and Volume Down buttons until the recovery-mode screen displays.
  • iPhone 6S and Earlier Force Restart: Force restart all earlier iPhones by pressing and holding both the Home and the Top or Side buttons until the recovery-mode screen displays.

Wait for iTunes to display the message “There is a problem with the iPhone that requires it to be updated or restored” on your PC screen. Click the “Restore” button and wait for iTunes to restore it. Your iPhone can then be set up as a new device and will be ready to use again.

About the Author

Catherine Hewson has been writing professionally since 2006, contributing to a variety of websites. She is also a technical writer with extensive experience in Android/iPhone development and PC repair. Hewson holds a Bachelor of Science in computer information systems from the University of Michigan-Flint and works as an IT project manager.

Photo Credits

  • photo_camera man on cell phone image by Cora Reed from Fotolia.com