iPhone is Disabled? How to Fix With or Without Connecting to iTunes
Have you ever picked up your iPhone to discover the message “iPhone is disabled” and to “try again in 1 minute” or to try again 5, 15, 60 minutes? In the worst scenarios, the message says “iPhone is disabled. Connect to iTunes”, and the device is unusable until then. So, what is going on here, why is the iPhone disabled? And how do you fix it so that you can use the iPhone again? The answers to these questions are usually straight forward, let’s review the causes of this message, and more importantly, the solutions to this so that you can unlock and re-enable the iPhone again for full use.
Why is My iPhone Disabled?
A locked iPhone requires a passcode or Touch ID to enter and access the device as a security precaution. After the iPhone passcode has been incorrectly entered five times in a row, the iPhone will automatically disable itself for 1 minute, giving the “iPhone is disabled” error message on screen. The obvious solution in this case is to wait for the minute (or several) to pass and then enter the correct passcode to unlock the iPhone and get around the disabled message. In the future, just enter the proper passcode in the first place and you’ll avoid this message and the lock out period.
You may find it interesting to know how many incorrect passcode entries are required to disable the iPhone for a particular amount of time and to get the accompanying message, that information is as follows:
- 5 incorrect passcode entries in a row – iPhone is disabled, try again in 1 minute
- 7 incorrect entries in a row – iPhone is disabled, try again in 5 minutes
- 8 incorrect entries in a row – iPhone is disabled, try again in 15 minutes
- 9 incorrect entries in a row – iPhone is disabled, try again in 60 minutes
- 10 incorrect passcode entries – iPhone is disabled, connect to iTunes (or the iPhone wipes itself of all data if self-destruct mode is turned on)
Waiting a minute isn’t too bad, but waiting many minutes to an hour is inconvenient, as is connecting to iTunes to enable the iPhone again. Let’s further understand this issue to avoid it in the future, and going further we’ll show you how to get around the disabled message.
But I didn’t try to unlock my iPhone, so why does it say it is disabled?
In some situations, you didn’t actually try to unlock an iPhone and you didn’t (intentionally) enter a wrong passcode, but the iPhone says it is disabled anyway. How does this happen? The two most common reasons for an iPhone to seemingly lock itself out are pockets and people. Let’s discuss the two.
The pocket disable: Inadvertently disabling an iPhone in a pocket is surprisingly common! This typically happens to iPhone users who keep their iPhones in a pocket that they also use for their hands, often hip jacket pockets, the hoodie pouch pocket, or front pants pockets for example. Because the iPhone screens slide to unlock feature can be swiped from anywhere on the screen, it’s fairly common to accidentally activate that screen, then enter into the passcode entry screen while the iPhone is a pocket with a hand or two, and perhaps unbeknownst to you, enter a passcode a few times to accidentally trigger the lockout. I’ve had this happen to myself while twirling an iPhone in a pocket out of boredom, and I recently watched a friend accidentally disable their iPhone while searching the same iPhone-holding pocket for money to pay at a food cart. This happens surprisingly often if you keep an iPhone in a busy pocket or put your hands in your pockets often.
The person disable: There are two types of person interaction that can disable the iPhone, intentional passcode entry of someone trying to guess your passcode and then disabling it as they fail – usually a fairly obvious scenario. And the other type, the unintentional passcode entry, usually triggered by a young child. That latter scenario is extremely common with parents and caretakers with young children, who may fiddle with, tap on, and swipe around on an iPhone screen that is otherwise locked. The parent or caregiver often thinks nothing of it since the iPhone is locked with a passcode or Touch ID, but nonetheless the kid often finds a way onto the passcode entry screen (it’s only a swipe away after all), enters the wrong password repeatedly as they tap on the screen, and then the device becomes locked out with the “iPhone is disabled” message.
Unlocking iPhone Stuck on “iPhone is Disabled, Try Again in X Minutes”
Want to unlock an iPhone stuck on the disabled screen? You have to wait for the time to pass, then enter the proper passcode.
If you can’t wait, or if you don’t know the passcode, you have to put the iPhone into recovery mode and restore it.
Those are the the only two options.
Fixing “iPhone is Disabled. Connect to iTunes”
This is the worst scenario for an iPhone being disabled because it requires you to connect the iPhone to a computer to gain access to it again. Hopefully you made a backup recently to that computer, and hopefully you remember the actual passcode for the iPhone, otherwise you’ll have to erase the device and lose all data on it. Yes really. Yet another reason frequent device backups are important.
If you know the iPhone passcode and have backed it up recently, you can simply unlock the device with iTunes though it requires a restore:
- Connect the iPhone to a computer it has synced to before with a USB cable and launch iTunes
- Choose “Sync” in iTunes and enter the proper passcode when requested to unlock the device, this backs up the iPhone to the computer
- Choose “Restore” to restore the iPhone from the most recent backup
If you don’t know the iPhone passcode, you have to wipe the iPhone clean and it will erase all data using recovery mode. The instructions on resetting a forgotten iPhone passcode are here. If you made a backup to iTunes or iCloud, you can restore it after the fact to that backup.
If you do not know the iPhone passcode and you do not have a backup, the data on the iPhone will be erased and lost forever. There is no way around that, not even Apple can unlock an iPhone and access the data in such a situation. Thus, the lesson is don’t forget a device passcode, and always keep regular backups!
How do I avoid iPhone being disabled from incorrect passcode entry in the future?
To prevent this from happening in the future you have a few options. The easiest is to simply not enter the wrong passcode repeatedly, which will prevent the iPhone from locking up and disabling itself. Duh, right? Since that’s not always an option, another choice is to enable complex passcodes, since they require a longer character string be entered before the password is rejected. Keeping the iPhone in a different pocket, or out of reach of someone who is intentionally or accidentally entering passcodes is also a good idea. And finally, as we’ve already mentioned several times, always make regular backups of the device, just in case you do have to restore it to regain access.
Know of any other useful information about a disabled iPhone, or how to get around the disabled warning dialogs? Let us know in the comments.