Beginner tip: How to restore your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad

Curious how to restore your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch when it's acting funny and nothing else will work?  Need to install a beta or custom firmware?  Whether you're experiencing freezes, crashes, or your iPhone or iPad is just doing other crazy things - a restore will fix most of your woes.  Restores are also something developers need to know about to test beta firmware, and jailbreakers should become very familiar with, as sometimes it can make your phone a little less stable than it is stock.

To restore, whether on a Mac or PC:

  • plug your iPhone, iPod, or iPad into your computer. 
  • If iTunes doesn't automatically launch, go ahead and launch it. 
  • To the left, you'll see a sidebar, click on your device.
  • You'll see a restore option. 
  • (Make sure you backup your phone first. A sync can do this, or you can right click on your device name in the sidebar and select backup.)
  • Then simply click that and let iTunes do it's thing for a few minutes. 

When the restore has finished you'll be asked to either set up as a new iPhone or restore from a backup.  If you choose to restore from a backup and your device still acts funny afterwards (i.e. the problem returned with the backup), I'd recommend doing the restore again and this time setting up as a new device. Then re-sync your content. 

To install different or custom firmware (say you need to test iOS 4.2 GM or say you're on 4.0.2 and you don't want 4.1 for some reason), hold down Option (Mac) or CTRL (Windows) while you click restore, then navigate to your then navigate to the firmware you want.

This is a pretty basic function of iTunes but one anyone that owns an iOS device should learn how to do.  Always make frequent backups and sync your phone regularly to ensure you won't lose your content if something should go wrong with your device.

Let us know how it works for you and if you have any questions, ask in the comments!

Tips of the day will range from beginner-level 101 to advanced-level ninjary. If you already know this tip, keep the link handy as a quick way to help a friend. If you have a tip of your own you'd like to suggest, add them to the comments or send them in to (If it's especially awesome and previously unknown to us, we'll even give ya a reward...)

Allyson Kazmucha

Editor for iMore, Potter pundit, and the ninja in your iOS

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There are 29 comments. Add yours.

jiden77 says:

Quick question, since I am new to iPhone: After your phone is wiped out in the restore process, does iTunes essentially re-install each application clean, or does it sorta write over your fresh, factory-state image with a copy of a backed-up image (applications, settings, etc)?
I've had problems in the past with Windows Mobile phones where a restore just wasn't worth the trouble, and starting out clean and manually installing applications was the best approach.

Rico says:

Believe it or not...I delete my last download..A Twilight book. After that everything worked like normal. Must've been a Vampire virus..

Allyson Kazmucha says:

@John you can choose either to set it up as a new phone and re-select what to install, or you can restore from a backup. Your choice :)

Joe McG says:

You guys should really explain how to get into DFU mode for those who plug into their computer and can't get iTunes communication. I've seen so many people on the forums with posts like "Help, my iPhone is bricked" etc...

CJ says:

DFU mode seems kind of whacked now. I'm not sure what has changed. The DFU mode screen was always idle on my 3G. But on my 4 it appears for a split second and then disappears, giving the appearance that the phone is bricked when it really isn't.
Although I personally have no problem getting my phone in DFU mode, it's more difficult than it used to be.

Allyson Kazmucha says:

@JoeMcG - this is more of a beginners guide, not advanced. I'm sure I will do stuff on DFU mode soon....
I actually have a jailbreak guide i'm working on that explains differences between DFU and recovery and how to get into both, etc... so that should help as well. Do you think we should have a DFU mode tutorial outside of jailbreak? Seems to me the only time you really "need" to access DFU mode is for jailbreak reasons but if you guys want it outside of that, I'll be happy to work something up!

just_me#IM says:

I still wish they would include text messages as something we could sync. That's the main reason I don't do 'setup as new phone' is because I'll lose all those messages.

JT says:

This tip has broad appeal! Good work!

BrindawithanI says:

I have an issue where I have contacts and calendar set to sync w/google but it ALWAYS says that there are 9 contacts in outlook and asksif I want to override (or something to that effect). It scares me a little!

SM says:

For some reason I cannot sync my iPhone to iTunes. When I connect it starts off trying to "verify my iPhone" but then fails and I cannot sync or restore it from a previous backup. Right-click on the sidebar gives me only 1 option "eject". It seems the only option is to do a new setup for my iphone which will wipe everything off of it. Any idea why this happens and suggestions how I could backup my apps and not go through the pain of losing everything?

SM says:

I forgot to mention that I have an iPhone 4 with iOS 4.1

fastlane says:

I think a lot of people are confused about all the jailbreaking methods, such as limera1n, redsn0w, Pwnage Tool, ultrasn0w, etc... and also the difference between unlocking and jailbreaking, and that one is required for the other, etc., etc.
Someone should write an idiot-proof description (with links) on how to get started jailbreaking and/or unlocking so users can become familiar before taking it on.
When I first jailbroke a couple of years ago, I spent a LOT of unnecessary time figuring it all out because there was no "simple" explanations anywhere — not even in the forums. Everything on the subject seemed to be written for advanced people only. I don't know if that's changed.

Frazam says:

Can you explain the below a bit more. Eg after I restore to new phone state how do I then re-sync? Thanks!!
"I’d recommend doing the restore again and this time setting up as a new device. Then re-sync your content."

Glenn#IM says:

@SM, wait fir other opinions, but I think reinstalling iTunes will cause a pop up. If you get the pop up, check repair, and let it download. You may have a corrupted file(s) causing the problem. I had something similar upgrading to 4.0, no idea what happened to iTunes. I had the latest version, but files were messed up, and a repair did the trick for me.

Mena says:

I tried to restore yesterday and it wouldn't work because I had no internet connection at home. Any way to circumvent that?

Allyson Kazmucha says:

@fastlane working in that as we speak!! It's a massive guide so its taking me a bit to finish. Videos images wakkthroughs, u name it!!
@Frazam after u restore itunes will ask u if u want to restore from backup or set up as a new phone. It will walk you through it.

Ness says:

Hi, i restored my iphone in dfu mode. But the thing is, after clicking on the Restore button, when it was done, i get nothing from itunes asking me if i want to set it up as a new phone. I just see that the restore download bar is "done".

Nelson says:

Thats work with baseband 05.14.02

rang3r14 says:

anyone have an answer for error 23 when trying to restore

Frodo says:

hi, i'd like to know if i can totally reverse to pure after this jailbreak. Thanx!

Rhea97sharma says:

I restored my Ipod, but i don't think that helped the home button freezing problem, what should I do?

Irockmysocks1 says:

u SAVED MY LIFE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Stormward515 says:

HI i have a iphone 3 and i tryed to reset settings so i went into settings and clicked reset all and it said it would take upto 2 hours to do.. and now it will not turn on i press power button and it comes up with the apple logo but just stays like that for hours, i have plugged into computer to see if that works but it doesnt even recognise nowe that the iphone is connected. have tryed pressing power button and home button for 10 secs still nothing just apple logo comes up and stays like that. PLEASE HELP!!

Viper_Venom says:

This seems to have helped a lot :) That was getting really old, I've been dealing with a jank home button for like... weeks. Thank you so much :D

Nick says:

I'm reading these comments because my q and p keys do not work on my iphone 3gs. After reading this thread and many othe forum comments, it strikes me that the iphone is nothing more than a massive global beta test with thousands of people left hanging out to dry with software ahd hardware problems. Many of the official responses are nothing more than innuendos or further questions. It's pretty dire and I've never seen anything like it with any other phone. Apple might be amazed to find out that the average phone user is NOT a programmer.

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Tony Ciabbateri says:

Allyson even tho this forum took place back in 2010 I just found it today in let me tell you as a new iPhone user it help me a lot I want to congratulate you for this work and I hope all of the new iphone users can inspire you to continue this great work because not all of us are iPhone savvy keep up the excellent work from now on I will continue reading your page simple because you are the best. "THANK YOU"

dickmcgill says:

I restored as suggested NOW ALL MY TEXT MESSAGES have disappeared. HOW do I get them back?