Help ... My iPad is Disabled

How to fix a disabled iPad

Question: My iPhone / iPad or iPod Touch is showing a red bar on its home screen that says it's disabled. What's going on, and how do I fix it?

Have you ever picked up your iPad, only to discover it has been disabled by your curious children who entered the password too many times? Or maybe you've done it yourself when you've forgotten the passcode you created a month ago?

This situation can occur on all iOS devices--iPhones, iPads, iPod touches--and comes in a few different forms. Sometimes you'll get just the plain "This iPod is Disabled" message, or one that says that and adds that you should retry it in a minute. Occasionally, you'll even get a message that says the iPhone or iPod is disabled for 22 million minutes and to try back later.

Whichever of those messages you're getting, the cause is the same: An iPad or iPhone gets disabled when someone has entered in an incorrect passcode too many times. The problem with a disabled device is that you can't type in the password anymore, even if you suddenly remember it. You either have to wait a certain amount of time or connect the iPhone, iPad or iPod touch to iTunes, if it has been permanently disabled.


What is a passcode?

The passcode is a security measure that you can turn on in the iOS to require people to enter a password in order to use the device. If an incorrect passcode is entered 6 consecutive times, the iPad will lock itself and prevent you from entering any new passcode attempts. If you're seeing the message, that means someone--maybe you, but maybe not (which is potentially a warning sign)--has entered the wrong passcode at least 6 times.

Set the Passcode in Settings

Set the Passcode in Settings

So, how do you fix this?

Restore using iTunes and a previous backup

The first step you should try is to restore the device from backup. To do that, connect your iOS device to the computer you sync it to and, in iTunes, click the Restore button. If iTunes offers to backup your device, then do that first. Follow the onscreen instructions and in a few minutes your device should be usable again. You can then Restore it from your backup.

Find my iPhone using iCloud

But what if you don't have access to a computer right now? Or you have never synced your iPad to iTunes? You can use Find my iPhone.

  1. If there's another iOS device handy and you have iCloud enabled on your device that's disabled, you've got an option. Download the Find My iPhone app (opens in iTunes) to the second iOS device and log in with your iCloud username and password.
  2. You can also perform a remote erase by logging in to your iCloud account at You can use any browser and any computer that has an internet connection. Once you've logged into your account, you will see the Find my iPhone app.

Use Find My iPhone to locate your device and then perform a Remote Wipe of it. This will delete all of the data on your device, so only do it if you've got all your data backed up, but it will also reset it so you can access it again. If you've been backing up your data to iCloud, then you can restore from that.


Recovery Mode

If none of those suggestions work, here’s how to put your iPad into recovery mode.

Note: Recovery Mode will completely erase your iPad. This is OK if you have an iCloud backup or iTunes backup with which you can restore it. If you haven't got a backup, then you'll have a brand new (empty) device - ready to setup from scratch. Don’t worry about your purchases. Apple knows what you’ve bought and you’ll be able to get your apps and music back.

First, make sure iTunes is up to date on your laptop, PC or Mac. Then, connect a USB cable to your computer, but don’t plug it into your iPad or iPhone just yet.

  • Power off your iPhone or iPad by holding the sleep/wake button until the red bar appears: swipe to the right to shut down your device. Wait until the spinning wheel has gone and then hold the home button down.
  • Connect the USB cable and continue to hold the home button.
  • You will see the Apple logo appear, and this will change to the recovery graphic:
  • You can now release the home button.  iTunes will launch automatically inform you that your device is in recovery mode and that you need to restore the device. Once it has been restored, you can use iTunes to restore a previously saved backup to your device.

Here's how to get your iPhone in and out of Recovery Mode - Simple steps

Lessen the pain in the future

There is a phrase that repeats over and over in the instructions. I’m sure you noticed. It’s “restore from backup”. Yes, another subtle suggestion that you need to make sure you back up your device  frequently. There are two ways to backup your device: iCloud and local. I’ll show you both options as well as the pros and cons of both.

It’s important to note that you can only pick one of the options: iCloud or local.

Back up through iTunes/Local backup

This is the simplest (and fastest) way to backup your device. When you connect your device to iTunes, on the main info screen scroll to the Backups section and click the radio button to Automatically backup to This Computer

Also note the WiFi sync option. If this is turned on then your device will sync (and backup) to iTunes when:

  • iTunes is running on your host machine
  • The device is plugged in and charged/charging
  • It is connected to WiFi on the same network as the host computer
  • Important notes about this: If you forget to leave iTunes open, then it doesn’t sync or backup and it can be really, really slow

iCloud Backup

If you don’t have a computer you can regularly backup to, then iCloud is your only choice. It’s also a “set and forget” option because iCloud backups are supposed to be automatically run while your device is charging. Apple gives everyone with an iCloud account 5 GB of storage for free. Now, this doesn’t go too far, but it’s enough for the core stuff and a few extras. You can turn on iCloud backups through iTunes or through the iCloud section of  the Settings app.