iPhone DFU Mode: What It Is and How To Use It

iPhone DFU Mode
image credit: Emilija Manevska/Moment/Getty Images

Many problems on the iPhone can be solved by something relatively simple, like a restart. Really challenging problems may require a more comprehensive approach, called DFU Mode.

What Is DFU Mode?

The iPhone DFU Mode lets you make very low-level changes to the software running the device. DFU stands for Device Firmware Update. While it is related to ​Recovery Mode, it's more comprehensive and can be used to solve more difficult problems.​​​​

DFU Mode works on any iOS device, which includes iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad.

When an iOS device is in DFU mode, the device is powered on, but hasn't yet booted up the operating system. As a result, you can make changes to the operating system itself because it is not yet running. In other situations, you can't change the OS while it's running.

When to Use DFU Mode

For almost all normal uses of the iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad, you won't need DFU Mode. Recovery mode is usually the only thing you'll need. If your device is stuck in a loop after updating the operating system or has data so corrupted that it won't run properly, recovery mode is your first step. Under most circumstances people use iPhone DFU Mode to:

  • Downgrade the version of the iOS running on the device. You might want to do this if, for some reason, an upgrade to a newer version has damaged your device or caused your apps not to work properly. Most people should probably avoid this, but it may be necessary in some rare cases.
  • Jailbreak the device or un-jailbreak it.
  • Remove an expired beta version of the iOS.

Putting your device into DFU Mode may be required to fix some situations, but it's important to remember that it's potentially dangerous, too. Using DFU Mode to downgrade your OS or jailbreak your device can damage it and violate its warranty. If you plan to use DFU Mode, you're doing so at your own risk -- you are assuming responsibility for any negative results.

How to Enter DFU Mode

Putting a device into DFU mode is similar to Recovery Mode, but not quite as easy. Don't be discouraged if you can't make it work right away. Just be patient performing every step and everything should work fine. Here's what to do:

  1. Begin by connecting your iPhone or other iOS device to your computer and launch iTunes.

  2. Turn off the device by holding down the sleep/power button in the top right corner of the device (on the iPhone 6 and newer, the button is on the right side). A slider will appear onscreen. Slide it to the right to turn off the device.

    If the device won't turn off, hold down both the power button and Home buttons even after the slider appears. Eventually the device will turn off. Let go of the buttons when the device powers down.

  3. With the device off, once again hold down the sleep/power and Home button at the same time. If you have an iPhone 7 or newer: Hold down sleep/power and the volume down button, not Home.

  4. Hold these buttons for 10 seconds. If you hold too long, you'll enter recovery mode instead of DFU mode. You'll know you made this mistake if you see the Apple logo.

  5. After 10 seconds have passed, let go of the sleep/power button, but keep holding the Home Button (on an iPhone 7 or newer, keep holding the volume down button) for another 5 seconds. If the iTunes logo and message appear, you've held the button for too long and need to start again.

  6. If your device's screen is black, you're in DFU Mode. It may appear that the device is turned off, but it's not. If iTunes recognizes that your iPhone is connected, you're ready to proceed.

  7. If you see any icons or text on your device's screen, you're not in DFU Mode and need to start again.

How to Exit 

To exit iPhone DFU Mode, you can just turn off the device. Do this by holding down the sleep/power until the slider appears and moving the slider. Or, if you hold the sleep/power and Home (or volume down) buttons longer, the device turns off and the screen goes dark.