What Does It Mean When Your iPhone Says "iPhone Is Disabled - Connect to iTunes"?
By Laurel Storm
Adding a passcode to your iPhone protects your personal information and prevents the device from being misused by third parties. If somebody enters the wrong passcode too many times, the iPhone permanently disables itself to protect your information and displays an "iPhone is disabled. Connect to iTunes" message. If this happens, the iPhone must be restored to its original factory condition. If you lack a recent backup or never synchronized the device with iTunes, you could lose your personal data.
The likelihood of you being able to recover your data depends on several factors. If you regularly sync your iPhone with a particular computer through iTunes, the device may recognize that computer as its home computer and allow you to create a backup before resetting the iPhone to factory settings. This is the best-case scenario, since you will be able to return your iPhone to the exact state it was in just before it disabled itself, minus the passcode lock. If you receive an error message when you connect your iPhone to your computer, however, or you never synced it with any computer, you will lose all your data unless you have an iTunes or iCloud backup, in which case you only lose data you added to the iPhone since that backup.
IPhone Recognizes the Computer
Connect your iPhone to your computer and launch iTunes. If the sidebar is currently hidden, click "View" and select "Show Sidebar." Wait for your iPhone to appear in the list of devices in the sidebar, right click it and select "Back Up." Wait for the backup process to complete and then select "Restore." Follow the on-screen prompts to restore your iPhone to its factory settings. When the restore process is complete, your iPhone displays the Setup Assistant tool. Work through the setup process, leaving your iPhone connected to iTunes and select the "Restore From iTunes Backup" option when it appears.
Resetting to Factory Settings
If your iPhone was never synced with iTunes or doesn't recognize your computer, you need to force the device into recovery mode before it can be restored to the factory settings. Connect the USB end of your iPhone cable to your computer, but leave the other end disconnected from the device. Press and hold the "Sleep/Wake" button until a red "Slide to Power Off" slider appears. Slide the slider and wait for the iPhone to switch off. Press and hold the "Home" button with one hand and connect the cable to the iPhone with the other. Wait for the device to display a "Connect to iTunes" message and then release the "Home" button. ITunes will alert you that it has detected an iPhone in recovery mode. Click "OK," click "Restore" and then follow the on-screen prompts.
Restoring From a Backup
After your iPhone has been reset to the factory settings, it displays the Setup Assistant tool. Enter the requested information and work through the on-screen prompts. If you have an iCloud backup you want to use to restore your data, ensure you connect your iPhone to a Wi-Fi network in the process; if you have an iTunes backup, keep your iPhone connected to the computer. When you are asked to choose whether to restore your iPhone from a backup or set it up as a new device, select either the "Restore From iCloud Backup" or the "Restore From iTunes Backup" option, depending on which type of backup you have available. If you never backed up your iPhone, select "Set Up as New iPhone."
Laurel Storm has been writing since 2001, and helping people with technology for far longer than that. Some of her articles have been published in "Messaggero dei Ragazzi", an Italian magazine for teenagers. She holds a Master of Arts in writing for television and new media from the University of Turin.