How to Fix "iPhone Is Disabled" Error

What causes an iPhone or iPod to be disabled?

Someone holding an iPhone that says it's disabled

Lifewire / Miguel Co

If your iPhone won't unlock and is showing an "iPhone is Disabled" message on its screen, you may not know what's going on and think there's a serious problem. It may seem worse if the message also says that you won't be able to use your iPhone for 23 million minutes (seriously; that's one version of the error).

Luckily, it's not quite as bad as it seems. If your iPhone (or iPad or iPod) is disabled, this article explains what's happening and how to fix it.

What Causes the iPhone Disabled Error

Any iOS device — iPhone, iPad, iPod touch — can be disabled, but the messages you see come in a few different forms. Sometimes you'll get just the plain "iPhone is Disabled" message or one that says that and adds that you should retry it in 1 minute or 5 minutes. Other times, it tells you the phone is disabled and to connect to iTunes.

Occasionally, you'll even get a message that says the iPhone or iPod is disabled for 23 million minutes and to try back later. Obviously, you can't really wait that long — 23 million minutes is nearly 44 years. You'll probably need your iPhone before then.

Regardless of which message you're seeing, the cause is the same: an iPhone, iPad, or iPod is disabled when someone has entered in an incorrect passcode too many times.

The passcode is a security measure that you should turn on that requires you to enter a password in order to unlock the device. If the wrong passcode is entered 6 times in a row, the device will lock itself and prevent you from trying new passcodes. This is for security. If the wrong passcode is being entered over and over, that may be a sign that someone is trying to break into the phone. Disabling the phone prevents them from continuing.

If an incorrect passcode is entered more than 6 times, your iPhone will be disabled for longer and longer periods of time — you may even get the 23 million minutes message, though this isn't actually the real amount of time you need to wait. That message just represents a really, really long time. It's designed to get you to take a break from entering passcodes.

Depending on your settings, 10 incorrect passcode tries may result in all the data your iPhone being erased. That's an extreme step, but we recommend it. It's the best protection you have if your iPhone has been stolen. If you use Touch ID, another problem — error 53 — could also prevent you from using your phone.

How to Fix a Disabled iPhone, iPad, or iPod

However your iPhone got disabled, fixing a disabled iPhone, iPod, or iPad is relatively easy. It's actually the same set of options that you follow when you forget your passcode. While it's positive that the process is easy, the downside is that you have to restore your device.

Restoring means you'll be replacing your current data with a backup and will lose any data added since the backup was made. Unfortunately, there's no good way around this (but it's a good reminder of why you should back up regularly).

There are four main options for fixing a disabled iPhone, iPad, or iPod:

  1. The first step you should try is to restore the device from a backup using iTunes. To do that, connect your iOS device to the computer you sync it to. In iTunes, click the Restore button. Follow the onscreen instructions and in a few minutes, your device should be usable again.

    iTunes window from macOS focusing on Restore iPhone button

    For step-by-step instructions on how to restore from backup, check out How to Restore Your iPhone From a Backup.

  2. If that doesn't work, or if you've never synced your device with iTunes, you need to try Recovery Mode. Again, you may lose data added since you backed up last.

  3. One of those two steps will usually work, but if they don't, try DFU Mode, which is a more extensive version of Recovery Mode.

  4. Another good option involves using iCloud and Find My iPhone to erase all data and settings from your phone.

    Either log in to iCloud on the web or download the Find My iPhone app (opens the App Store) to a second iOS device. Then log in with your iCloud username and password (not the account belonging to the person whose device you're using).

    Use Find My iPhone to locate your device and then perform a Remote Wipe of it. This will delete all of the data on your device, so only do it if you've got all your data backed up, but it will also reset your phone so you can access it again. If you've been backing up your data to iCloud or iTunes, you can restore from that and be good to go.

    Find my iPhone screen on iOS showing Erase iPhone button

    Learn all about Find My iPhone, and how to remotely erase a device using it, in How to Use 'Find My iPhone' to Locate a Lost or Stolen Phone.

  5. Whichever option you chose, when your iPhone is restored and your backed-up data is installed on it, you'll have a working device again. You're done!

You can run into problems when restoring your iPhone that prevents you from completing the process. If you encounter this problem, learn how to solve it in How to Fix iPhone Error 4013.

How to Avoid Getting a Disabled iPhone

Having a disabled iPhone is annoying and inconvenient, so you'll want to do what you can to avoid it happening again.

You have two options:

  • Set a new passcode that's easier to remember. If you remember your passcode and don't have to guess it, you'll be less likely to enter the wrong passcodes that lead to a disabled iPhone.
  • Use Touch ID or Face ID, if your device offers either one. With these options enabled, you won't need to enter your passcode. Just show your face or scan your finger and your device will unlock.