iPad Recovery Mode: Fix a Locked or Stuck-at-Apple-Logo iPad

A Guide to the iPad Recovery Mode

Getty Images / Mauro Grigollo

Resetting the iPad to its factory default settings is the nuclear option when it comes to troubleshooting. For most issues, simply rebooting the iPad will fix the problem. It's amazing what a simple reboot will do for the iPad, although it is important to follow the right procedure when rebooting. When that fails, choosing to erase all settings and data and start from scratch becomes an option. But what happens when you can't even reset the iPad? If the iPad is locked or continually gets stuck at the Apple logo, you'll need to go beyond nuclear and force the iPad into recovery mode.

The iPad's recovery mode is a process that uses iTunes on your PC or Mac in order to bypass the normal operation on your iPad. If the iPad has been disabled or something went wrong with a previous update and it now freezes at the Apple logo, this process can force the iPad to reset to its fresh-out-of-the-box factory default settings.

Remember, this should only be used when you cannot get into the iPad to operate it. If your iPad boots up but freezes often while you use it, you can use some basic troubleshooting steps to help fix the problem. 

Before You Use Recovery Mode to Fix Your iPad

The first thing you want to do before using recovery mode is to do a "forced reboot." This is a process of forcing your iPad to shut down even if the normal shut down process isn't working. You can do this by holding down the Sleep/Wake button at the top of the iPad for about 20 seconds. Once the iPad powers down, wait a few seconds and then press the Sleep/Wake button again to trigger a restart. If the iPad freezes at the Apple Logo or won't boot up, you can follow the rest of these instructions.

You will need the latest version of iTunes on your computer to use recovery mode and give yourself the best tools. If you don't have iTunes installed, you can download it from Apple's website. If you do have it installed, you should check to make sure you have the latest version before proceeding.

  • On a PC, launch iTunes. It should notify you if there is a new version. If iTunes is already open, go to the Help menu and choose Check for Updates.
  • On a Mac, launch the App Store. In the App Store, choose the Updates tab. If iTunes is listed, tap the Update button.

And before you try this option, make sure you have tried forcing a reboot. If you iPad is merely frozen, even if it is at the Apple logo, try holding down the Sleep/Wake button for a full thirty seconds to see if it will power down. Once the iPad's screen goes completely dark, wait a few seconds and then press the button again to power it back on. If the iPad reboots but gets stuck at the Apple Logo again, or it simply won't reboot, you will need to continue with these instructions.

If you do not already have iTunes installed on your PC or Mac, you can download it from Apple's website.

How to Enter Recovery Mode on the iPad:

This process will work from any computer, so if you don't own a PC, you can go through this process using a friend's computer.

  1. Quit out of iTunes if it is currently open.
  2. Connect the iPad to the PC using the cable that came with the iPad.
  3. If iTunes doesn't open automatically when the iPad is connected, launch it now.
  4. With iTunes open and the iPad connected to the PC, hold down both the Sleep/Wake button and the Home button at the same time and keep holding them down. You should keep holding the buttons down even when the Apple logo appears and wait until the connect to iTunes screen appears. 
  5. After the Connect to iTunes screen appears on your iPad, you should see a prompt on iTunes to Restore or Update the iPad.
  6. Choose Update. It may take a long time to download the needed files. If the iPad shuts down during this process, start over with step 4.
  7. Once the update is finished, you will need to walkthrough the iPad setup process again. This is a similar process to when you first received the iPad.

If you have backed up your iPad using iTunes or iCloud, you should be able to recover everything up to the point of your backup. But even if you haven't backed up your iPad, you can still recover any apps that you have previously purchased by downloading them from the App Store.

What if you don't have access to a computer?

If your iPad is locked and you don't have access to a computer, you can use Find My iPhone/iPad to wipe it remotely. You can either use the Find My iPhone app on your iPhone or you can go to www.icloud.com from any device that can connect to the web and then simply log on using your Apple ID.

To wipe your iPad remotely, choose your iPad (click the blue button if you are on the map screen) and then choose "Erase iPad".