How do I fix my iPhone when it says connect to iTunes?

Quick Summary

The ‘Connect to iTunes’ error message on an iPhone usually means there is a software-related issue that needs to be fixed by connecting to a computer with iTunes and doing a restore. Some common causes are a crashed app, corrupted system files, or an unsuccessful iOS update. To resolve it, first force restart the iPhone. Then connect it to a computer with iTunes installed, do a backup, and then select ‘Restore’ to reinstall the latest iOS software version. This should fix most underlying software issues causing the error.

What Does the Connect to iTunes Message Mean?

The ‘Connect to iTunes’ screen appearing on an iPhone indicates there is some type of system-level software issue. It is typically accompanied by an image of the USB and lightning cable.

Some common causes for the error include:

  • A crashed app that is stuck open in the background
  • Corrupted system files or settings
  • An interrupted or failed iOS update
  • Jailbreak gone wrong
  • Full storage preventing successful boots

In most cases, the iPhone cannot successfully boot up normally and is stuck in recovery mode due to the underlying software problem. Connecting to iTunes on a computer allows you to access recovery tools to fix the issue.

How to Fix Connect to iTunes Error

Here are the steps to resolve the ‘Connect to iTunes’ message on your iPhone:

1. Force Restart the iPhone

First, try force restarting your iPhone by holding down the Power and Volume Down buttons simultaneously until you see the Apple logo appear. This will hard reboot the device and clear out any temporary glitches.

If the error still persists, move on to connecting to iTunes.

2. Connect iPhone to a Computer with iTunes

Connect your iPhone to a computer that has iTunes installed using the original USB cable that came with your device.

Launch iTunes if it doesn’t open automatically. iTunes will recognize your iPhone and that it is in recovery mode.

3. Backup iPhone in iTunes

Before proceeding, it’s recommended to backup your iPhone data through iTunes. This will save your photos, messages, app data, and settings so you don’t lose anything.

To backup, click on your iPhone icon in iTunes. Then go to the Summary tab, select ‘This Computer’ under Backups, and click ‘Back Up Now’. Let the backup process complete.

4. Restore iPhone in iTunes

Next, go to the Summary tab again and click ‘Restore iPhone’. This will install the latest iOS software version and overwrite your current system files and settings.

Allow the restore process to complete. Your iPhone will reboot a few times and eventually reach the iOS welcome screen. Be patient as this can take some time.

5. Set Up iPhone as New or Restore Backup

You can now set up your iPhone as new if you want a fresh start. Or, you can restore your backup from earlier to get all your data back.

To restore the backup, connect to iTunes again. Go to the Summary tab, select ‘This Computer’ under Backups, choose your device backup, and click Restore.


The ‘Connect to iTunes’ screen on an iPhone usually indicates a software issue needs fixing through a restore in iTunes. To resolve it:

  1. Force restart your iPhone
  2. Connect iPhone to a computer with iTunes
  3. Backup device data in iTunes
  4. Click Restore to install latest iOS version
  5. Set up iPhone from scratch or restore backup

Following these steps will overwrite any corrupted files or settings causing problems and install a fresh working copy of iOS. This should get your iPhone up and running normally again.

If the error persists after a restore, there may be underlying hardware issues with your device requiring professional repair. Contact Apple support for further troubleshooting.

Why Does the Connect to iTunes Error Happen?

There are a few common reasons why you may see the Connect to iTunes screen on your iPhone:

Crashed App

A crashed app that is stuck open in the background can sometimes trigger the recovery mode screen. The app may have corrupt data or experienced an internal error that prevents the iPhone from booting properly.

Corrupted System Files

Key system files and settings that iOS needs to run can become corrupted or damaged. This prevents a successful boot up.

Failed iOS Update

If an iOS update gets interrupted or doesn’t complete properly, it can corrupt operating system data. The iPhone will get stuck in recovery mode until the software can be restored.

Jailbreak Issues

Attempting to jailbreak and modify iOS can go wrong and end up corrupting system files. This will require connecting to iTunes to undo.

Storage Full

If your iPhone storage is completely full, it may prevent iOS from booting up properly. Clearing space is required.

How to Back Up an iPhone Before Restoring

It’s always a good idea to backup your iPhone before doing a restore to avoid losing your data. Here are the steps:

Using iTunes

1. Connect iPhone to computer using USB and open iTunes
2. Click on your iPhone icon in iTunes
3. Go to Summary tab
4. Under Backups, select ‘This Computer’
5. Click ‘Back Up Now’ button
6. Allow backup process to complete

Using iCloud

1. Ensure you are signed into iCloud on your iPhone
2. Connect to WiFi
3. Go to Settings > [Your Name] > iCloud
4. Tap iCloud Backup
5. Tap Back Up Now to start iCloud backup

Using Finder on macOS Catalina

1. Connect iPhone to Mac using USB
2. Open Finder window
3. Under Locations, select your connected iPhone
4. Click General tab
5. Click ‘Back Up Now’
6. Allow backup process to complete

Tips to Avoid the Connect to iTunes Screen

Here are some tips to prevent getting stuck in recovery mode needing a restore:

  • Keep your iPhone storage cleared out. Delete unused apps, photos, and media.
  • Update to the latest iOS version to fix bugs.
  • Avoid jailbreaking your iPhone as it is risky.
  • Don’t force quit apps unless they are unresponsive.
  • Use a case and screen protector to prevent physical damage.
  • Avoid exposing iPhone to excess heat or cold temperatures.
  • Restart your iPhone weekly to clear out temporary glitches.

Following best practices for using and caring for your iPhone will help minimize any software issues leading to the recovery mode screen.

What to Do if Restore Doesn’t Fix Connect to iTunes

In some cases, the Connect to iTunes error may persist even after doing a restore in iTunes. If that happens, here are some next steps to try:

  • Force restart your iPhone again after the restore – hold Power + Volume Down until Apple logo appears.
  • Make sure you are restoring to the latest iOS version available.
  • Try a different USB cable and USB port on the computer.
  • On a Windows PC, download the latest iTunes software.
  • On a Mac, make sure you allow Finder to access the iPhone.
  • As a last resort, initiate a clean restore again without restoring a backup.

If the error comes back quickly after setting up the iPhone, there may be a lingering hardware problem with the device itself. At that point, you will want to contact Apple Support for further troubleshooting or to inquire about repair options if the iPhone is still under warranty.

A Genius Bar appointment at an Apple Store can also help diagnose and fix stubborn iPhone recovery mode issues.

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