Don’t Try This At Home: Destroy an iPhone by Changing the Date

Feb 11, 2016 - 64 Comments

Destroying an iPhone with a bad date bug

Every once in a while an awful bug is discovered that can crash an iPhone, render it nearly useless, or rarely, worse. The worst scenario applies here, because it turns out you can completely destroy an iPhone and make it inoperable by simply changing the devices date to a specific time and date far in the past.


We’re going to show you how this date trick works to destroy an iPhone so that you can avoid it yourself. Absolutely do not try this yourself, do not set the iPhone clock to January 1 1970 under any circumstances, it will break any iPhone. It will supposedly also brick any iPad or iPod touch as well, so do not try it on any iOS device.

Do not try this yourself, you will ruin the iPhone. That can’t be made more clear, if you try this, you will ruin the iPhone. In other words, do not try this yourself with any iPhone that you care about, unless you don’t mind sending it back to Apple for repair. Doing this will destroy the iPhone and make it inoperable. That means you won’t be able to use the iPhone at all, it will be broken. So we repeat, again, do not try this yourself. Do not try this at home. Do not try this with your iPhone. Do not try this with your friends or anyone elses iPhone. And most importantly, don’t be fooled into trying this by someone else, as there are several ridiculous pranks in the form of various claims circulating on the internet as to what happens if you set the iPhone date far into the past – don’t do it, it breaks the iPhone. This is often referred to as a bricked phone, because the iPhone becomes as useful as brick.

Do Not Try This, It Will Brick the iPhone

What not to do: All that is required to brick the iPhone is to set the clock back to January 1, 1970. This is done through the Settings app > General > Date & Time, disabling Automatic, and setting the clock manually to January 1 1970. Then, turn the iPhone off and again or force restart it. The iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch is now bricked. That’s it. The iPhone then boots back up and gets stuck on an ļ£æ Apple logo screen, unable to do anything else. It’s completely stuck and the device becomes unusable.

Don’t do this:
Brick an iPhone with a date trick, this destroys the iPhone

You’ll get stuck on this, the iPhone becomes useless:
iPhone stuck on Apple logo

This is quite obviously a bad bug, and though it’s unlikely that average users will attempt to set their iPhone clock back to the Woodstock era, there have been various pranks and claims surfacing on the internet that try to trick people into setting their clock way back into the 1970’s. Don’t fall for it.

The embedded video below demonstrates this with a user setting an iPhone clock back to January 1 1970 and then restarting the device, it then gets stuck on the Apple logo and won’t boot further. The device is effectively bricked.

Help, My iPhone is Bricked By the 1970 Date Bug! What Do I Do?

Apparently there is one reliable way to remedy this bug if your iPhone has turned into a brick because of the date: take the iPhone to Apple for repair. That’s it, definitively this works, and Apple will take care of it – apparently what they do is reset the battery, which fixes the clock… which leads us to the next possible method.

Another approach to fix the brick date bug, if you have the tools, screwdrivers, and patience to do it, is to open the iPhone up and disconnect the battery briefly, then re-connect the battery and put the iPhone back together. This works because it resets the internal clock on the iPhone away from the 1st of January 1970 Unix epoch brick date. That is obviously not going to be a solution for everyone, however.

Some users report that placing another active SIM card into the iPhone can make it work again as well, but given the uncertainty of that it would not be advised to rely on the SIM card approach to fix the bricked iPhone.

Interestingly enough, the typical method of fixing an iPhone stuck on the Apple logo with DFU restore does not work, which is why the iPhone must be taken into an Apple store to fix.

So, now that you’re aware of this awful bug, whatever you do, don’t try this at home with any of your iOS devices! If you happened to encounter this bug or did it anyway, let us know in the comments what method you used to resolve the problem!

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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in iPad, iPhone, Security, Troubleshooting

64 Comments

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  1. Xharf Wanadu says:

    Hey Wharf, try this out. I hear it will speed up your iPhone!!!

    • UglyStuff says:

      LOL…
      Darn, I dunno what happened…

      A quick question, though: if you leave the phone on with the Apple logo on-screen and leave it that way until the NEXT DAY, does it change anything…?

      • sopissedlol says:

        My IPhone is bricked because I fell for the stupid trick, gonna try this tonight and see what happens. If nothing happens I’m definitely taking it to the Apple Store tomorrow

  2. ifbell says:

    Great, Unix epoch time bricks a unix machine.

  3. DG says:

    All I can say is a thousand thankyous for this info.

  4. Wharf Xanadu says:

    Saw this on daveoojok claiming to be a fun trick. Don’t do it people it ruins your iPhone good advice here don’t muck around.

  5. Wharf Xanadu says:

    Siphoned autocorrect is so bad. It autocorrected Facebook to daveoojok. What is dacekook? Why is iPhone so bad at iajtoocfext? Can’t anyone at Apple relearn how to slake autocorrect decent??? What a cheap product that is total charge of junks. Maybe I’ll set my date to 1970 AFTERALL just to get rid of this junk pupil iPhone.

  6. Ted says:

    There’s Apple for you…

    Their OS X system software is just as bad and riddled with countless bugs.

    • Ed says:

      Date-related bugs are inherent in any form of programming – it’s a reflection of the limitations of computer-based algorithms. It has nothing to do with Apple. Remember the Millennium bug? Why you make this post as a reason to bunt Apple is just tasteless.

      Thank you for the info, OSXdaily. It’s always good to know that bugs like these are present and SHOULD be addressed, even if practically speaking no one would actually do this in a normal situation, it stands that there are some pranksters out there who will maliciously trick people in to doing it because the latter don’t understand how computing works.

      • Martin says:

        “Date-related bugs are inherent in any form of programming” I think you will find this is an apple mess up. the date system is the UNIX EPOCH and works perfectly with Linux and Windows without a problem.

        the whole point is that there is an int counter of the number of seconds since the EPOCH which is 1st of Jan 1970 at 00:00:00 the fact that just changing the date and not the time means this is a bug in apples software as the images shows it’s at 7:07 AM which is a value of 256200 not 0 or a minus number unless apple did something wrong with it.

  7. Richard says:

    I suppose I could use this as an excuse to get a new iPhone… :D

  8. John Many Jars says:

    But is this something I should do on my phone?

  9. Di Keller says:

    I bet there will be people who will still do it Hahaha!

  10. CDC says:

    Thanks for the info. It won’t matter how many times you tell your readers not to do this to their apple devices, someone will. There is that expression, “They walk among us!”

  11. Anne Bennett says:

    This reminds of an aspect of the 4GL Powerhouse for VMS (it was NOT using UNIX). It had a date that it thought meant there was no date in the field (null). I can’t remember what it was. I think it was quite a bit earlier than 1970. It was thus impossible to use that date.

    But it didn’t crash anything.

    Mainframes are so much harder to destroy. Web programming sucks, it’s all full of bugs.

  12. jgg says:

    I just did this to my new iPhone 6S+ and nothing happened. Is this an early April fools joke?

  13. Marty Martin says:

    jgg said that she did it and it did no harm?!!?

    Maybe to make you do it too? BEWARE!

  14. James Smith says:

    IF you take your phone to an authorized Apple repairer or Apple Store, have them remove the battery and reseat it, and the phone will then restore!

  15. Marty Martin says:

    I ask James Smith: How do you know?

    • James Smith says:

      Because I did it, then took it to my local Apple Store and that’s how they fixed it. No cost to do it.

      • ptheven says:

        This seems plausible, by removing the battery from the iPhone (or iPad) it resets the clock and NVRAM on the device, so it would be back to a normal compatible time again and no longer beginning of UNIX epoch. Too bad iPhone are so hard to get into by average user, basically impossible.

        • James Smith says:

          Thats exactly why it works: resets the SMC/NVRAM on the phone,
          Apple Store or authorized service will do it for FREE. If you have a 5S,6 or 6S DO NOT take it to an unauthorized service center or then you fall foul of the dreaded Error -53 (touch ID mismatch). At least authorized Apple Stores and legit repairers can rematch your touch ID.

        • Mark says:

          If removing and replacing the battery fixes it, wouldn’t it also get fixed by letting the battery run down until completely discharged, then charging it up again?

  16. Leggoman says:

    How about some of the jail breaking tools that was about fir just this kind of thing.
    Phone being locked in boot up no matter what you did it would only boot to apple logo?
    I’ll not try it myself but if you have bricked your phone doing this then try it.
    Also why did osxdaily show us this on a nice newish phone? Why not kill some beat up old discontinued out dated phone?

    • Andrew says:

      This was done on a newish phone because this hack only works on phones that have a 64 bit processor. That means any phone with the A7 chip and above. Nevertheless, he could have gone older than the phone he used. You are correct about the jail-breaking tool that can bring a phone out of many states that are otherwise irreparable, but it hasn’t been tested with this type of brick yet. If I had an extra phone with a 64 bit processor I would run a test on it to see if I can figure any way out of it.

  17. Scotty says:

    I suppose this is a great way to cook your phone before the government grabs it.

  18. Alex says:

    Steve, I miss you…

  19. Benkovitch Kirill says:

    It’s to to fire Tim Cook or technical director of Apple!!Never seen so many bugs!!Its a shame!

  20. Peter says:

    I fixed it myself. After my phone bricked I hit the screen with a hammer and then the Apple logo finally disappeared…

  21. flabdablet says:

    Setting the time to 01-01-1970 00:00 local time would make the system’s Unix time (an integer count of seconds since 01-01-1970 00:00 UTC) a negative number, in any timezone with a negative offset from UTC. Obviously, being unable to deal with that would be a bug; I’ve seen enough bad time-related code to make me believe it’s a plausible bug.

    There is a good chance that waiting enough hours to let the internal hardware clock tick over to a time that would once again translate to a positive Unix time, then force-rebooting it, would unbrick it.

    I would expect the 01-01-1970 00:00 trick not to work in timezones with a positive offset from UTC. If you’re in such a timezone, and you have a disposable iDevice to hand, perhaps try it with 12-31-1969 00:00 and report back.

  22. Mert Burg says:

    Fixed mine!

    Put your device in recovery mode. Then shift+update (alt+update for mac) to 9.2.1. Then put in dfu mode and restore your device. Eject your simcard. It’ll take 30-45 mins to boot after restore process( idk why)

    And profit!

    • makemineamac says:

      Love the “And profit!” bit!

    • Anonymous says:

      Mine wouldn’t even go into recovery mode. I got the screen to pop up on itunes saying something like “error found, your phone needs to be restored” so i hit restore and my phone got stuck on the apple logo with a loading bar that never filled. Then got hot and the battery wouldn’t hold a charge. It’s 2 1/2 months old :/ i’m retarded. I got a new phone for free though.

  23. flabdablet says:

    Mert Burg: Itā€™ll take 30-45 mins to boot after restore process( idk why)

    What are the chances that you’re in a timezone that’s T hours behind UTC, and it took you (T hours minus 45 minutes) to work out your recovery process?

  24. Vivian says:

    Not sure which is the bigger insanity, resetting the date on any of these devices or writing detailed instructions on how to do it!

  25. It works on all apple products, from day 1. Someone used it on mine to get root access.
    it didnt brick it, but i almost did with
    Dev/null. Just accidentally pressed against return b4 I finished… panic.

    • oTIn says:

      It does not work on all Apple products, and it does not give anyone root access. You are typing nonsense. It changes the date, which hangs the iOS device, and it works only on 64 bit iOS hardware. It makes the device get stuck on boot. It doesn’t do anything with root or /dev/null you are full of baloney.

  26. Youralldumb says:

    What kinda rubbish is this! I just reset the date on a 5s and 6 without any issues!?!?

    • Nope says:

      No you didn’t, if you did as follows your iPhone would be broken. And why would you break your iPhone? You wouldn’t. You’re a troll, go away.

  27. seth says:

    So I made the mistake of actually doing it. I fixed it by disconnecting the battery from the terminal then reconnecting it. After a charge it worked like a charm. didn’t loose any data or anything.

  28. my iphone 6 stuck on apple logo HELP says:

    someone please help, what can i do???????

  29. Brian says:

    James Smith what if they do charge you do you know the price it would be ?

    • LOLWTF says:

      It says specifically DO NOT DO THIS and you want to do it anyway? Good grief people, no wonder the USA is such a mess and people are sending it down the toilet.

  30. Brian says:

    And also would they fix it on the same day?

  31. Wharf Xanadu says:

    Don’t do it. Says pretty clear to not do it. If you break your iPhone from this you’re a fool, like reading a sign to not jump off bridge but doing anyway!

  32. Brian says:

    I’ve already done it i thought it was a theme change i saw a picture on Twitter so it bricked my phone and i want to know how much would it cost if they did charge you i have an appointment with them on Wednesday

    • Anonymous says:

      I personally didn’t admit to it, I just said it’s messed up and idk what happened. They replaced my phone at an authorized retail store for free under my 1 year warranty since it was also getting hot. I was too embarrassed to admit what I did lol.

  33. ali cargill says:

    My daughter has just bricked her phone.. HELP !!!.. what do i do, well apart from giving her a mouthful šŸ‘¹ if i bring it to the apple store can they help ??..

  34. Carlos says:

    I live in Argentina, so no nearby AppleStore to go.
    My son bricked the phone “thanks” to this stupid bug.
    The solution was simple, though it voided the warranty.
    Remove two outer screws, gently remove the display, remove to screws and unplug the battery cable for, say, half a minute.
    Reverse the process. Turn on the phone and presto! It is alive again.
    Phone was an iPhone 6.

  35. twhit35 says:

    i saw a pic on twitter and tried it without seeing any precautions to not do it and my phone is bricked. Trying to find a screwdriver to remove everything and unplug battery. Where can i find one?

  36. phoebepops says:

    I also did this before I had seen any warnings not to as saw the meme on facebook. my phone is completely bricked and have tried all recovery methods. I spoke to someone from apple who said they will fix it for free or replace it if i book a genius bar appointment and because it is a software problem, they can’t charge me as it’s under the 1 year warranty.

  37. John says:

    Sometimes the simplest things will lead to the biggest inconveniences. Who could have predicted that resetting the date would brick an iPhone in 2016? Glad Apple has acknowledged this and is looking for a solution.

  38. Masfka says:

    Protect themselves from what? Who normally would ever set the date/time back to Jan 1, 1970?
    Horrible logic thereā€¦People need to know in order to protect themselvesā€¦

  39. Sam says:

    This doesnt work with iphone6 ios9.3.1 that i can go back only to 2001!! Do you have any idea how to do it for iphone 6 – ios 9.3.1 ?

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