Is Your iPhone Disabled? Here's How to Fix It

What causes an iPhone or iPod to be disabled?

Disabled iPhone
Apple Inc.

If your iPhone is showing a message on its screen that says it's disabled, you may not know what's going on and think there's a serious problem. It may seem even worse if the message also says that you won't be able to use your iPhone 23 million minutes. Luckily, it's not quite as bad as it seems. If your iPhone, iPad, or iPod is disabled, this article explains what's happening and how to fix it.

Why iPhones, iPads, and iPods Get Disabled

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 "This iPhone is Disabled" message or one that says that and adds that you should retry it in 1 minute or 5 minutes. Sometimes, 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 gets disabled when someone has entered in an incorrect passcode too many times.

The passcode is a security measure that you can turn on in the iOS to require people to enter a password in order to use the device. If an incorrect passcode is entered 6 times in a row, the device will lock itself and prevent you from entering any new passcode attempts. If you enter an incorrect passcode more than 6 times, you may get the 23 million minutes message (depending on your settings, 10 incorrect passcode tries may result in your iPhone being erased). This isn't actually the real amount of time you need to wait. That message just represents a really, really long time and is designed to get you to just take a break from entering passcodes.

How to Fix a Disabled iPhone, iPad, or iPod

Fixing a disabled iPhone, iPod, or iPad is relatively easy. it's actually the same set of steps as what to do when you forget your passcode. Here's what to do:

  1. The first step you should try is to restore the device from backup. 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. Be aware: Restoring means you'll be replacing your current data with an older 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).

    iTunes window from macOS focusing on Restore iPhone button
  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
  5. Your task is complete!

What To Do After Fixing a Disabled iPhone

Once your iPod, iPhone, or iPad is back in working order, you may want to consider two things: setting a new passcode that's easier to remember so you don't get into this situation again (or using Touch ID or Face ID, if your device offers either one) and/or keeping an eye on your device to make sure people you don't want using it aren't trying to get at your information.