How to Fix Grayed-Out Wi-Fi on an iPhone

What to do if you can't enable Wi-Fi on your iPhone

What to Know

  • Grayed out or inaccessible Wi-Fi is usually a problem that occurs when upgrading an iPhone's iOS.
  • The issue is reported mostly by iPhone 4S users but can affect newer iPhones, too.
  • There are six different ways you can resolve the problem, starting with confirming that you haven't accidentally turned on Airplane Mode.

This article explains all the things you should check out and fix if you're experiencing grayed-out Wi-Fi on your iPhone.

Option 1: Make Sure Airplane Mode Is Off

This may sound silly, but before you do anything else, make sure Airplane Mode isn't turned on. This feature disables Wi-Fi (and cellular networking) because it's designed to let you use your phone on a plane — where outgoing wireless communications often aren't allowed.

The easiest way to see if Airplane Mode is on is to open Control Center by swiping up from the bottom of the screen (or down from the top right on iPhone X and newer). If the airplane icon is active, tap it to turn Airplane Mode off and your problem should be solved. If it's not active, something else is going on and you should move on to the next step.

iPhone X on yellow background, highlighting the Airport Mode button in Control Center

Option 2: Update iOS

The Wi-Fi problem is the result of a bug, and Apple doesn't usually let bugs that affect lots of users stick around too long. Because of that, there's a good chance that a newer version of iOS has fixed the problem and that upgrading to it will get your Wi-Fi back.

You can upgrade your iPhone from the phone itself or use iTunes to download and install the latest version of iOS. When the update is complete and your iPhone has restarted, check to see if Wi-Fi is working.

Updates to the iOS are important because they deliver security updates and add new features to your device. Don't worry about software updates causing problems; they're uncommon. You should update your phone as soon as new software is released.

Option 3: Reset Network Settings

If an operating system upgrade didn't help, the problem may not be with your OS at all — it may reside with your settings. Each iPhone stores settings related to accessing Wi-Fi and cellular networks that help it get online. These settings can sometimes cause problems that interfere with connectivity.

It's very important to know that resetting your network settings means you'll lose whatever is stored in your current settings. This can include Wi-Fi passwords, Bluetooth connections, VPN settings, and more. That's not ideal, but if that's what you need to do to get Wi-Fi working again, so be it. Here's how:

  1. Open the Settings app.

  2. Tap General.

  3. Go to the bottom of the screen and choose Reset.

    Three iOS screens showing Settings app icon, General tab, Reset button
  4. Select Reset Network Settings. If you have a passcode on your phone, you'll need to enter it before you can reset.

  5. If a warning pops up asking you to confirm this is what you want to do, tap the option to proceed.

    Three iOS screens showing Reset Network Settings, Enter your passcode, and Reset Network Settings confirmation button.

When this is done, restart your phone. It's not required, but it certainly doesn't hurt.

Option 4: Reset All Settings

If resetting your network settings didn't help, it's time to take a more drastic step: resetting all of your phone's settings. Don't take this step lightly; it removes every setting, preference, password, and connection you've added to your phone since you started using it.

Resetting your iPhone's settings will not delete any apps, music, photos, etc. However, it's always recommended to back up your phone in case something goes wrong.

It's not fun to have to recreate all of those settings, but it may be required. Here's what to do:

  1. Open the Settings app.

  2. Tap General.

  3. Tap Reset at the bottom of the screen.

  4. Choose Reset All Settings. If your iPhone is protected with a passcode, you'll need to enter it now.

  5. In the warning that pops up, confirm that you want to proceed.

    Reset All Settings, Enter your passcode, and Reset All Settings on three iOS screens

Option 5: Restore to Factory Settings

If resetting all the settings doesn't work to fix your iPhone's Wi-Fi problem, it's time for the nuclear option: restoring to factory settings. Unlike a simple restart, resetting to factory default settings is the process by which you delete everything on your iPhone and return it to the state it was in when you first took it out of the box.

This is most definitely a last resort, but sometimes starting from scratch is what you need to do to solve a serious problem. To do that, follow these steps: 

  1. Sync your phone to iTunes or sync your phone to iCloud (whichever you use for syncing normally) to make sure you have a backup of all of the content of your phone. This is especially important if you have things on your phone that aren't on your computer or in iCloud. Syncing will get them there so that later in this process, you can restore them to your phone.

  2. Open the Settings app.

  3. Tap General.

  4. Swipe to the bottom and tap Reset.

  5. Tap Erase All Content and Settings

  6. If you backup your iPhone to iCloud, you'll get a message to either Backup then Erase, or just Erase Now. Choose the one you prefer, but remember that backups are super important.

  7. In the warning pop-up, tap Erase Now or Erase Phone (the button changes depending on your phone's iOS version). Your phone will take a minute or two to erase all data

    Erase All Content and Settings, update your iCloud Backup warning, Erase iPhone confirmation in iOS Settings

Next set up your phone again and then check to see if Wi-Fi is working. If it is, your problem is solved and you can sync all of your content to your phone once again. If it's not working, move on to the next step.

Option 6: Get Tech Support from Apple

If all of these attempts haven't solved the Wi-Fi problem on your iPhone, it might not be software related. Instead, there could be something wrong with the Wi-Fi hardware on your phone.

The best way to determine if that's the case, and to get it fixed, is to make an appointment with the Genius Bar at your local Apple store and have them check out your phone.

You may have seen an odd fix for this Wi-Fi problem around the web: putting your iPhone in a freezer. This is a bad idea, as extremely cold temperatures can damage your iPhone. We strongly recommend against doing this.