Is your iPhone seemingly stuck in purgatory? Are you staring at a stubborn Apple logo or a progress bar that doesn’t seem to move? You’re not alone. Here are some things you can try to fix your unresponsive device.
Hold Tight If It’s an Update
Sometimes your iPhone may appear to be stuck while applying an update, especially larger updates moving from one version of iOS to another. The progress bar that appears during installation seems to move at a glacial pace, to the point where you’ll find yourself staring at the screen looking for the slightest sign of movement.
If your iPhone seems to be stuck while applying an update, Apple’s official advice is to “make sure that the progress bar on your iPhone screen hasn’t moved for at least one hour” before taking things into your own hands. Leave your iPhone to its business and make a cup of tea or coffee, then come back later and check on it.
The company then advises that you use Recovery Mode to rescue your device, instructions for which you’ll find further down this page. Before doing that, you might want to try hard resetting your device. After all, what have you got to lose?
Force Restart Your iPhone
Force restarting your iPhone is the first thing you should try whether your iPhone is stuck during an update, starting up from cold, or rebooting because you fancied a restart. It’s also worth a shot if your device appears to be stuck in a boot loop, where the Apple logo may periodically disappear for a few seconds as the device attempts to start up again.
The advice for force restarting an iPhone can differ depending on which model you have. On the most recent models (iPhone 8 and higher), perform the following steps:
- Press and release the “Volume Up” button on the side of the device.
- Press and release the “Volume Down” button on the side of the device.
- Press and hold the “Side” button on the opposite side of the device until you see an Apple logo, then release.
Do you have an older device? Check out our full instructions for force restarting all iPhone models.
Update or Restore Your iPhone With Recovery Mode
Recovery Mode lets you update or restore your device’s software to (hopefully) fix your issue. To do this, you’ll need a Mac or PC running iTunes that is compatible with your currently-installed version of iOS.
First, connect your iPhone to your Mac or PC. The steps for putting your device into Recovery Mode are very similar to a forced reboot (above), but instead of releasing power when you see the Apple logo, keep it held down. The instructions are a bit different for iPhone 6 and earlier, which you can find in our guide to entering recovery mode with your iPhone.
If all goes well, your iPhone should indicate that you’ve entered Recovery Mode. On macOS 10.15 Catalina or later, open Finder and click on your iPhone in the sidebar. On macOS 10.14 and earlier or Windows, open iTunes and click on your iPhone.
You should have two choices: “Update” (or “Check for Update”) and “Restore”. Use “Update” to attempt to update your device, retaining all data on it. Click “Restore” to erase your device which will result in all data being lost. You’ll have the opportunity to restore an iCloud or local backup when this is complete.
Repair Firmware With DFU Mode
DFU stands for “Device Firmware Update” and it refers to a low-level advanced recovery mode. In effect, your iPhone doesn’t load iOS at all when entering DFU mode, which provides you with an opportunity to restore the OS completely. In essence, you’re wiping the slate clean in a bid to fix your problem.
You should use DFU mode if nothing has worked so far, but be aware that you will lose everything on your device when doing this. You’ll need a Mac or PC running iTunes to restore iOS, much in the same way that Recovery Mode works.
Just like force reboots and Recovery Mode, entering DFU mode is different depending on which iPhone model you have. On modern devices like the iPhone 8 and above (including the iPhone 13):
- First connect your iPhone to the Mac or PC you will be using to restore it, with Finder (macOS 10.15 onwards) or iTunes (macOS 10.14 and Windows) running.
- Press and hold the Side button for three seconds.
- Continue holding the Side button and press and hold the “Volume Down” button for 10 seconds.
- Release the side button while continuing to hold the “Volume Down” button for five more seconds.
You should see a black screen, and your device should now be detected in Finder or iTunes. From here you can choose to “Restore” your device using your Mac or PC. If you have an older device you will need to follow different instructions for putting your device into DFU mode.
If you see the Apple logo or a “Plug into iTunes” screen then you’ve done something wrong. Force reset your device and try again, and keep trying until you get it right
Take Your iPhone to Apple
If you’ve tried everything (or you weren’t able to nail the timing for DFU mode) and nothing has worked, you can always try taking your iPhone to Apple. This is particularly true if your device is under warranty or covered by AppleCare.
Even if your device is no longer covered, you may still get some resolution by visiting an Apple Store or authorized service center. Apple may solve the issue by restoring your device in-store. They may run diagnostics on your device to find out what’s going on and give you the opportunity to get your iPhone repaired.
You won’t incur charges unless you give Apple express permission to repair your device. Small repairs like replacing the battery may be worth it to get a few years more use out of your device. More complicated repairs are likely to cost you a lot more, at which point the money may be better spent on a more up-to-date model.
Preventing the Problem From Happening Again
How you prevent this from happening again ultimately depends on what has caused it in the first place. If you enrolled your iPhone in Apple’s Software Preview program, the use of pre-release software may be to blame. You can avoid this by leaving the iOS beta program and using only stable releases in the future.
If you managed to fix your issue with a forced reboot, be aware that the issue may arise again. You may need to use Recovery Mode or DFU mode for a more permanent fix.
There’s also nothing stopping you from visiting an Apple Store and explaining the problem. Apple may run a set of diagnostics on your device and let you know about any problems bubbling under the surface that you may not be aware of.
But if there’s one thing that you should take away from the experience, it’s how important having a backup is.
The Importance of Backups
Problems like this can strike at any time and be caused by software or hardware. If you’d rather go the manual backup route, you can back up your iPhone using Finder or iTunes on a Mac or Windows PC.