Can you manually restore an iPhone?

Restoring an iPhone to factory settings can be done manually, without needing to connect to a computer. This can be useful if you need to wipe your iPhone before selling or giving it away. Manually restoring deletes all data and settings and reinstalls the latest iOS version. Here’s what you need to know about manually restoring your iPhone.

What does restoring an iPhone do?

Restoring an iPhone essentially resets it back to factory default settings. When you restore an iPhone, here’s what happens:

  • All settings are erased and reset back to default.
  • Any media, files, apps, and data added since you got your iPhone are deleted.
  • The latest version of iOS currently supported on your iPhone is installed.
  • The iPhone is returned to the state it was in when you first unboxed it.

So restoring deletes everything you’ve added to the iPhone and reverts it to its original out-of-the-box state. This can be useful if you’re selling or giving away your iPhone and want a clean slate. It’s also handy if your iPhone is having software issues that aren’t resolved by basic troubleshooting.

When would you manually restore an iPhone?

Here are some common situations when performing a manual restore on an iPhone might be needed:

  • Before selling or gifting your iPhone – Wiping your iPhone before giving it to someone else deletes all personal content and ensures the next owner starts fresh.
  • Fixing persistent software issues – If your iPhone experiences frozen screens, crashing apps, or other annoying software problems, restoring it can often resolve these issues.
  • Removing a passcode – If you forgot the passcode on your locked iPhone, a restore will remove the passcode and reset the iPhone.
  • Fixing update issues – Sometimes iOS updates can get stuck. Doing a restore installs the latest iOS version cleanly.
  • Leaving your iPhone in someone else’s temporary possession – Lending your iPhone to someone else is safer if you manually restore it first.

Basically any time you want the iPhone reset to a clean, default state – a manual restore is the way to go.

How to manually restore an iPhone using iTunes

Until recently, restoring an iPhone required connecting it to a computer and using iTunes. Here are the steps to manually restore your iPhone using iTunes:

  1. Connect your iPhone to your computer using the Lightning or 30-pin dock connector USB cable.
  2. Open iTunes on your computer. iTunes will detect your connected iPhone.
  3. In iTunes, click on your iPhone icon when it appears in the top left corner.
  4. In the Summary section, click Restore iPhone. This will begin the restore process.
  5. A confirmation popup will appear. Click Restore again to confirm you want to wipe your iPhone.
  6. iTunes will download the latest iOS software file supported on your iPhone model. It will then install iOS and restore your iPhone to factory settings.

The whole process can take 10-15 minutes depending on your internet connection speed. Your iPhone will be wiped clean and restored once it reboots. You can then set it up as a new or from an iCloud backup during setup.

How to manually restore using Finder on Mac (iOS 12.4 or later)

Starting with iOS 12.4 and macOS Catalina, you can also use Finder on a Mac to manually restore your iPhone. Here’s how:

  1. Connect your iPhone to your Mac using a Lightning or 30-pin dock connector USB cable.
  2. Open Finder on your Mac. Your connected iPhone will appear in the sidebar under Locations.
  3. Click on your iPhone icon under Locations.
  4. In the General section, click Restore iPhone. This will start the restore process.
  5. A confirmation popup will appear. Click Restore again to confirm.
  6. Finder will download the latest iOS version and restore your iPhone to factory settings.

This Finder method for restoring simplifies the process and doesn’t require iTunes. Your iPhone data will be wiped and your device returned to default settings once the restore completes.

How to manually restore an iPhone using Settings

Starting with iOS 11, you can also manually restore your iPhone directly from the Settings app, without a computer. Here’s how:

  1. Open the Settings app on your iPhone.
  2. Tap General > Reset
  3. Tap Erase All Content and Settings. This will initiate the restore.
  4. You’ll be asked to enter your iPhone passcode and confirm again that you want to erase your iPhone.
  5. Your iPhone will reboot and restore itself to factory default settings.

This method doesn’t require a computer or cable to wipe and restore your iPhone. The whole process happens directly on the device itself. Just make sure your iPhone has an internet connection during the restore to download the latest iOS version.

Important notes about manual iPhone restore

Here are some important notes to keep in mind when manually restoring your iPhone:

  • Back up your iPhone data first – Restoring erases everything, so make sure anything important is backed up to iCloud or your computer.
  • Your iPhone will be unusable during the restore process – Plan on 10-15 minutes of downtime until the restore is complete.
  • Wi-Fi connection is needed – Your iPhone will need an internet connection to reinstall iOS.
  • You may need your Apple ID – During setup, you’ll likely need to enter your Apple ID to download apps you previously purchased.
  • Passcode will be removed – Restoring resets the passcode on a locked iPhone.
  • Full charge recommended – Have your iPhone charged to at least 50% before starting the restore to avoid it powering down.

As long as you keep these things in mind, the restore process is straightforward. Just be patient and let the process complete. Within 10-15 minutes, your iPhone will be restored to original factory settings.

How to check iPhone restore progress

When your iPhone is being restored, either through iTunes, Finder, or Settings, you’ll see progress bars letting you know the status.

Here’s how to check iPhone restore progress:

  • iTunes – A progress bar will appear in iTunes showing you the restore status. It will say “Restoring iPhone” during the process.
  • Finder – The restore progress will be shown at the top of the Finder window.
  • Settings – Below the “Erase All Content and Settings” button, a progress bar will indicate the status.

For iTunes and Finder restores, you can also check the iPhone screen. A connector to iTunes or Finder logo with an empty progress bar will show the restore is underway.

If the progress bar seems stuck for a long time, try disconnecting and reconnecting your iPhone to troubleshoot. Let the restore complete – interrupting the process can leave your iPhone in recovery mode.

What to do if iPhone restore is stuck

In most cases, restoring your iPhone will go smoothly and be completed within 10-15 minutes. But sometimes the restore can get stuck or frozen.

Here are some things to try if your iPhone restore seems stuck:

  • Force restart your iPhone – Hold power + volume down until you see the Apple logo.
  • Check for iOS update issues – Make sure you have a stable internet connection and servers aren’t down.
  • Retry with a different USB cable – A faulty Lightning cable can interrupt the restore.
  • Use a different USB port on your computer – Try another port if one isn’t recognizing your iPhone.
  • Disable antivirus software – Some security software can interfere with the restore.
  • Update iTunes/Finder – Use the latest versions of iTunes or Finder.

If the progress bar hasn’t moved at all for 30 minutes, the restore is likely frozen. You may need to force restart your iPhone and retry the restore. Avoid interrupting a restore that seems slow but still progressing.

Recovering from interrupted iPhone restore

If you accidentally disconnected your iPhone or interrupted the restore process, your iPhone may get stuck in recovery mode. Here’s how to recover:

  1. Reconnect your iPhone to your computer.
  2. Open iTunes or Finder.
  3. iTunes/Finder will detect your iPhone is in recovery mode and needs to be restored.
  4. Click Restore to restart the restore process.
  5. Let the full restore cycle complete uninterrupted this time.

Your iPhone will go back to the Apple logo screen once the restored iOS is installed. Avoid force restarting your iPhone while it’s restoring – this can make recovery more difficult.

Is iPhone data really deleted during restore?

When you restore your iPhone, all settings, media, apps, and personal content is deleted. But is it permanently erased?

The short answer is no. Data from a restored iPhone is not securely wiped. Here’s what actually happens:

  • iOS performs a logical erase of data, not a physical wipe.
  • Files are removed from the file system but underlying data still exists.
  • Restored iPhones can sometimes be recovered using data recovery software.
  • Encrypting your iPhone makes data much harder to recover after a restore.

So don’t count on an iPhone restore to completely destroy all your personal data. For true secure deletion, you’ll want to wipe your device using specialized software.

Should you encrypt your iPhone before restoring it?

Enabling encryption on your iPhone makes a big difference in how securely your data is wiped during a restore.

Here are the key advantages of encrypting your iPhone first:

  • Encryption adds a much higher level of security to a standard restore.
  • Your data is encrypted using a complex mathematical key stored in your device chip.
  • This makes recovering data after restore vastly more difficult.
  • Encrypting requires your passcode, which most data recovery tools can’t bypass.

Basically, enabling encryption renders most data on your iPhone unrecoverable if someone tries restoring it. It’s like adding a deadbolt before selling your house.

Here are the steps to encrypt your iPhone:

  1. Go to Settings > Touch ID & Passcode.
  2. Enter your passcode if prompted.
  3. Scroll down and toggle on Data Protection.
  4. Tap Require Passcode and select Immediately.
  5. Enter your passcode to confirm.

Once encrypted, make sure to disable Data Protection before restoring so iOS can decrypt the data during the wipe process.

Can you restore a disabled or broken iPhone?

What if your iPhone is disabled or has a broken screen? Can you still restore it? Thankfully, yes:

For disabled iPhones

  • Connect your iPhone to a computer.
  • Open iTunes or Finder and click Restore.
  • The restore will be completed without needing to unlock your iPhone.

For iPhones with broken screens

  • Plug iPhone into computer using a USB cable.
  • In iTunes/Finder click Restore.
  • You’ll get notifications on your computer for permissions to restore.
  • Allow the notifications to proceed with the restore.

As long as the iPhone hardware itself still functions, a restore can be performed even with a disabled or cracked screen. Just be sure to allow any permissions or trust prompts that appear on your computer.

Can you cancel an in-progress iPhone restore?

If you initiate an iPhone restore but then change your mind, can you cancel it mid-process? Unfortunately, no – there is no way to stop a restore once it has begun.

Here’s what happens if you try canceling a restore:

  • Disconnecting the USB cable will likely leave your iPhone in recovery mode.
  • Force restarting your iPhone won’t stop the restore either.
  • You’ll ultimately have to let the full restore complete before using your iPhone again.
  • Interrupting the restore makes your iPhone unusable until the process finishes.

So the short answer is once you tap that restore button, there’s no going back. You’ll have to commit to the full 10-15 minutes. Next time, be certain before starting an iPhone restore.


Manually restoring your iPhone using iTunes, Finder, or Settings is a straightforward process to reset your device to factory default settings. Just be sure to:

  • Back up important data first
  • Have adequate battery charge
  • Use a stable Wi-Fi connection
  • Let the restore fully complete once started

Restoring your iPhone is handy before selling it or troubleshooting software issues. Just know that it doesn’t permanently destroy your data. For the most secure wipe, encrypt your iPhone first before performing a reset.