Fix an “Activation Error” After an iPhone Reset / Restore

Jul 2, 2014 - 41 Comments

Activation Error on iPhone

If you’ve ever reset an iPhone to factory default settings or restored a device to set it up as new, you may have run into this “Activation Error” message when going to set up the iPhone again. The accompanying message is somewhat vague and not particularly helpful, saying “Activation request could not be completed. If the problem persists, please contact customer care.” If you happen to be near an Apple Store then sure you can contact Customer Support or stop in to the Genius Bar to get past the Activation Error screen, but that’s not always practical. Fortunately, there are at least two other ways to get past the activation alert message and continue setting up the iPhone as usual.

Before anything else, make sure you’re connected to a functioning wi-fi network that is able to connect to the broader internet. Sometimes a very restrictive router can be the culprit and may block the iPhone from attempting to reach Apple’s activation servers, so simply joining a functioning network does the trick, allowing the iPhone to communicate with the outside world and skipping the screen.

Option 1: Try Again

At first glance, the “Activation Error” screen is completely inactive, there are no actionable buttons or toggles, and you’re left with no functioning screen elements to do anything, right? Right, but the Home button does work to bring about a menu, so here’s what you’ll want to do:

  1. Press the Home button until a menu appears with three options: “Emergency Call”, “Start Over”, and “Wi-Fi Settings”
  2. Choose “Start Over” – this goes back to the very beginning of the iOS setup screens, letting you choose language, wi-fi router, etc
  3. Go through the process again, if you see the “Activation Error” screen again, then just run through this process a few more times

Bypassing Activation Error on iPhone with the menu options

I ran into this recently when clearing out an unlocked iPhone for gifting to a friend, and discovered that after about five attempts of selecting “Start Over” it finally worked and the Activation Error screen was bypassed. Whatever is going on behind the scenes is obviously somewhat busy and clearly a reliable service, so just have some patience and try a handful of times, you’ll almost certainly get past the screen eventually.

iPhone Activation Error screen

Or if you’re impatient and you have a SIM card handy, jump to option 2, which should work the first time without having to try repeatedly.

Option 2: Use a Working SIM Card

Got a functioning SIM card laying around? Just plug it into the iPhone and then do the “Start Over” trick as mentioned above, and you should skip right past the “Activation Error” screen and be on your way configuring the iPhone as usual.

SIM Card

Using a working SIM card is probably the easiest thing to do and it doesn’t require a handful of Start Over attempts. I’ve read off-hand reports of any original carrier SIM card working for this purpose, but I can’t confirm that, mostly because I don’t have a handful of old SIM cards laying around. But what does work is using a functioning SIM card with the original carrier, whether the phone is locked or not.

If you have any difficulties with this approach, be mindful of the SIM card carrier in use. For example, if you successfully unlocked the iPhone from AT&T you might want to try using an AT&T SIM card to “activate” the iPhone initially, and then once the configuration is complete you can switch to the alternate carrier SIM, be it T-Mobile or whatever other carrier you’re attempting to use. This SIM card swap trick has worked for quite a while, particularly for unlocked iPhones that are being used on outside networks.

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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in iPhone, Tips & Tricks, Troubleshooting


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  1. Json says:

    You can bypass Activation errors by using any original carrier SIM card, it doesn’t need to be for an active account or a valid phone number – so even if you or a coworker has an old one sitting around in an office desk somewhere, it will work to pass activation. It just needs to contact the activation server, verify that it’s good (ie: not stolen) and then you’re good to go.

  2. anonymous says:

    use a valid sim card. worked for me.

  3. anonymous says:

    I stumbled onto a iPhone 5s laying in the bathroom of a Club here in south Africa . but I cannot get my icloud to bypass the original owner and ive tried the 112 calling method by I literally get no were … what do I have to do …???

  4. Talha says:

    GUYS, i have a 5s which cant detect a sim that means its sim card doesnt works so how i can i activate it?\

  5. iloveapple says:

    my phone just stopped working on morning and wouldn’t find the carrier – then they had me do a factory reset and it wouldn’t even activate!!!!

    the carrier put a new SIM in it – at first they said it wouldn’t help but my friend told me to make them do it – so they finally put a new SIM in it then I did recover mode (hold down the home button while plugging into computer/itunes) and then chose Restore

    my phone now works just fine YAY!!!

  6. umer says:

    I updated iphone 4g now it is not activating. It was locked to at&t but i have unlocked it befor updating. Now help me how to activate this iphone

  7. 😘;0 says:

    I have an iPhone 4s 3g and it won’t activate what do I do

  8. Chandler says:

    Ok I’m getting to ticked off because I’ve tried almost every method of doing it and I’m in the Bahamas for vacation so I didn’t bring my computer and I have things to do on my phone so what happened was my sister gave me her phone so I used it but she had so much stuff on it I did restore to original settings and now it’s stuck on the activation presses somebody please help me! I’ve tried so many methods!

    iPhone 5c, Verizon

  9. yashodh says:

    Thank u it was help full alot !!!!!

  10. beejay says:

    what if my cellphone is could not be activated because the activation server is temporarily unavailable ,try connecting your iPhone to itunes to activate it, or try again in a couple of times?

    what should i do?

    • Rama108 says:

      I had this same problem overseas…..

      Here is how you fix the problem SIM NOT VALID / ACTIVATION REQUIRED. Look up your phone’s IMEI and enter it into one of these free websites that provide the service for free. I used this one but there are many of them……..

      For your IMEI # on the iPhone it is: Settings-General-About

      Just plug in the IMEI numbers into the website search and you find out what carrier your phone is locked to.

      Then, call that carrier to confirm your phone/IMEI is locked to their network. Once that is documented, call the device maker (i.e. Apple) and ask why your device is locked. They may deny it and may tell you to contact your carrier. Many times the phone will be locked to a carrier other than the one you are currently using. (i.e. Tracfone)

      You will then call your current cellular carrier and ask why you have a locked phone. If they say you don’t have a locked phone, give them your IMEI. If all parties say they don’t think you have a locked phone or don’t know how to fix it, then you should fill out this short form at the FCC website.

      Under the Field “Phone Issues” select “Equipment”

      Under “Phone Method” select “Wireless”

      The FCC requires that by law all parties listed in the complaint respond to you within 30 days and they DO!!!! Sometimes they sing a whole different tune!! otherwise there will be a FCC investigation and they don’t want that. I suggest documenting everything just in case!

  11. Susi says:

    I do resetting my iphone6 but when the phone installing suddenly is stop so what should I do ?

  12. Alex says:

    Can iPhone track in the case of Activation Error ????
    Answer mE ?????

  13. bramwell says:

    I’m from sout africa with a iphone4s 64gig activation lock tried everything but does not work

  14. Francesco says:

    Same issue activation error after recovery. Ipad 2 working perfectly before. In my opinion apple is bricking my device… i will go for another device (not apple)

  15. james says:

    I had this problem.
    I found when i disconnected all my devices ( maybe my other phone was the important part) from the wifi connection and only had my new phone connected, i got pat this error….

  16. Patel Nikunj says:

    this iphone is not able to complete the activation process. please press home and start over

    plz help me
    iphone 4s

  17. patel nikunj says:

    plz help me

    this iphone is not able to complete the activation process. please press home and start over

  18. Windy says:

    I am in Papua New Guinea my iphone was factory resented and and It’s giving sim invalid not supported by the carrier..

  19. shahariar says:

    hi.24 hours ago my iphone 4s supported all kind of sim.but now its not supporting any of them.its all happening after my cousin took my phone for a couple of if i insert a sim card nothing is happening.requiring an activation but when i activate it through itunes/wifi,nothing is keep searching,and after some time its sayng again ‘your phone is not activated,contact your career,blah blah blah.
    plz someone let me know what is happening!….thank you

  20. The Reason says:

    What if you dont have a sims card at all could you still bypass the activation error

  21. Pyang says:

    Hi. I have a problem with my iPhone because it always says that Activation Required. When im typing my email and pass it always says “this apple id cannot used to unlock this iPhone” why? Help me

  22. Rhein says:

    Thank you so much! It worked on my iPhone 4!

  23. Violet says:

    I don’t have a working sim card

  24. aaliyah says:

    just use a working sim card :) worked for me

  25. Makayla hebert says:

    I just got this sims card and it’s activated but the phone will not activate

  26. Louch 77 says:

    I have a Iphone 5s from Japan (docomo). I dont have a docomo sim whatsoever with me. How can i Bypass the activation screen without a sim from docomo?

  27. Teej says:

    I can’t activate my iPhone keeps on saying error because of searching network problems, i tried to reset so it happen that I can’t activate it. Pls help me.. Idk what to do -_-

  28. bailey says:

    What do I do when I just bought an iPhone 6 from someone and put sim card and everything in it but it won’t get passed the screen that says… sim not supported .. something about activation

    • dtown says:

      The iPhone is telling you exactly is wrong, it says the SIM card is not supported. It sounds like you bought an iPhone that does not support your SIM card, get a new SIM card or a different iPhone.

  29. adam says:

    activation error i have problem with my ipohne 4 help please

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