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

Jul 2, 2014 - 72 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.


Related articles:

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


» Comments RSS Feed

  1. JoJo says:

    Step 1: Update Operating System
    Step 2: Restart Router and Reconnect to Wi-Fi Network
    Step 3: Force Restart Your iPhone
    Step 4: Reinsert SIM Card

    You can also activate your iPhone by iTunes.

    An effective way to fix it is to bypass the activation lock without password. Joyoshare Activation Unlocker could help you achieve this. It doesn’t require your Apple ID or password, so you only need to connect your iPhone to the computer and perform several operations, the activation could be completed.

  2. JoJo says:

    Step 1: Update Operating System
    Step 2: Restart Router and Reconnect to Wi-Fi Network
    Step 3: Force Restart Your iPhone
    Step 4: Reinsert SIM Card

    You can also activate your iPhone by iTunes.

    An effective way to fix it is to bypass the activation lock without password. Joyoshare Activation Unlocker could help you achieve this. It doesn’t require your Apple ID or password, so you only need to connect your iPhone to the computer and perform several operations, the activation could be completed.

  3. saint says:

    Hello, i have an ipod touch 5 , after updating it stuck on activation error? I have done every thing but nothing worked. help pls

  4. Sethuraman says:

    Mine also same problem help me to get this problem resolve if u got any solution

  5. Sfiso says:

    Hello,please anybody help me with iPhone 6 activation

  6. Rose viajante says:

    Hi I need help about my iphone7 no service problem,the tech told me it was baseband chip and the he update the software and after updating to iOS version,it was still no service and he said it needs to be reprogram or reset,but the after all of those,unfortunately,it was in screen UNABLE TO ACTIVATE, whatvdoes it mean? I cannot even apps anymore everything was disappear? Can u give me an idea about things happened? Did my tech don’t know how to fix?thank you for your feedback.

  7. Dena says:

    I do not have {Start Over} when I press the Home button. What should I do?

  8. Richard Aggrey says:

    Please I have been trying to activate my iPhone 5s after resetting so help me

  9. Amir says:

    thank you so much, it worked,

  10. Christine says:

    I have ab activation error but it says:
    “Activation could not be completed. Please restore and install the latest version of IOS and attempt activation again. If the problem persists, please contact customer support”

    I tried the instructions above multiple times already but it’s not working. What will I do?

  11. Jim says:

    Used a brand new SIM card, tried the work-around about 12 or 15 times, still stuck at Activation Error, so I can’t finish setting the thing up even the very first time :(

  12. Migui says:

    Hey, i just bought a 5c but the phone is linked to the old owners account. I asked if they could delete it from there i tunes but the original owner no longer remembers the password. Anyone know how i can finish setting the phone up?

  13. Ehtesham says:

    Hey i have iphone 6s plus…recently i reset my phone but when it start for activation it required update the iphone…how can i update my iphone without activation? Please helo

  14. alto says:

    I had same issue described above and neither working sim or without sim was worked to me. Then I update ios in recovery mode by iTunes then problem was solved.Anyone can try this if faces same issue.

    Recovery mode : Power off iPhone, after connect to iTunes while pressing the home button.Keep the home button long pressing till iTunes identify the device.Then update.Thank You

  15. John homes says:

    My grandma passed away and I restored her iPhone 7 plus and now it’s saying if I can enter the email that was used to set up devise and I don’t know it can someone help plz

  16. Ric says:

    How can I know the previous carrier of the phone

  17. Tahir says:

    My iphone 5s not activate / Error after update soft and reset..
    Any body give me any solution of this error.

  18. Jon says:

    Thanks very much for the advice…I actually used a non-activated SIM card and it worked fine…must just need a SIM card physically in there.

  19. Sardar Zia says:

    Hi can anyone help ? i have purchased iphone 6s in used contidion it was working fine after i reset the phone now it is asking for activation eror what i can do now with my phone? the previous owner is not in contact with me anymore i i have lost his number

  20. moses.... says:

    I need help activate my iphone 5s with an activation error

  21. So. What you have to do to fix it is:
    Turn on your phone.
    Connect it with your pc-mac and open iTunes
    Push the lock button and count 3 seconds
    when you count 3 seconds press the middle button too!
    Keep them both pushed for 10 more seconds.
    when you count 10 seconds release the lock button and just keep pushing the middle button.
    A message will appear on the iTunes .
    Push download and restore and you are ready!

    The correct way to do it is

    1.(Push lock button) 1 … 2 … 3 (seconds)
    Keep it pushed
    2.(push middle button) 1…2…3…4…5…6…7…8…9…10
    Release only the lock button
    3.Keep the middle button pushed until you get the message on the iTunes .

    Screen will stay in total Black .
    Iphone is restarting in restore mode.

    Good Luck. Hope i helped you guys!!!

  22. Jhon says:

    I have 4 ipad2 32gb+sim card, why All Activation error. Activation request could not be completed, please press the home button to try again. If the problem persist, please contact customer service

    How I fix this, always restart, start over, go to iTunes to update /restore but problem same….
    How to fix???

  23. Usman says:

    My brandnew iphone had volume key depreseed. Apple service center in Abu Dhabi got it replaced but after that its giving activation error. Any suggestions?

  24. Kevin says:

    When pressing home screen I do not have an option for “Start Over” only WiFi Settings and Emergency Call.

  25. rhozay says:

    Got an iPhone 6s locked to Sprint network in Usa.. I want to make use of the iPhone in Nigeria here please what can I do to be able to use the phone successfully here in Nigeria.

  26. Shantanu Gandhi says:

    Thanks Mate. The SIM card option worked ! ! !

  27. adam says:

    activation error i have problem with my ipohne 4 help please

  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. 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 -_-

  30. 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?

  31. Makayla hebert says:

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

  32. aaliyah says:

    just use a working sim card :) worked for me

  33. Violet says:

    I don’t have a working sim card

  34. Rhein says:

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

  35. 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

  36. The Reason says:

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

  37. 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

  38. 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..

  39. patel nikunj says:

    plz help me

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

  40. Patel Nikunj says:

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

    plz help me
    iphone 4s

  41. 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….

  42. 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)

  43. bramwell says:

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

  44. Alex says:

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

  45. Susi says:

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

  46. 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!

  47. yashodh says:

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

  48. 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

  49. 😘;0 says:

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

  50. 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

  51. 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!!!

  52. 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?\

  53. 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 …???

  54. anonymous says:

    use a valid sim card. worked for me.

  55. 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.

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