How do I use iTunes restore?

iTunes restore is a process that allows you to erase and reload the software on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch. It can come in handy if you’re having software issues or want to start fresh with a clean install of iOS. Here are some quick answers to common questions about using iTunes to restore your device:

What does iTunes restore do?

An iTunes restore erases the contents of your device and reinstalls the latest version of iOS. This can fix many software issues you may be having. It also wipes the device clean, so you can start fresh with a clean install of iOS, music, apps, settings, etc.

Will I lose data if I restore?

Yes, restoring erases all contents and settings on your device, including photos, messages, downloads, and more. Be sure to back up your device to iCloud or iTunes before restoring to prevent data loss.

How do I backup my iPhone before restoring?

You should always backup your iPhone before restoring to prevent data loss. To backup to iCloud, connect to WiFi and go to Settings > [your name] > iCloud > iCloud Backup and tap “Back Up Now.” You can also plug your iPhone into iTunes on your computer and backup to iTunes by going to the Summary page and clicking “Back Up Now.”

What will restore NOT delete from my iPhone?

Restoring your iPhone will not delete media purchased from the iTunes Store, App Store, or Books Store. This is because these items are tied to your Apple ID and can be re-downloaded after the restore. However, any other data, apps, settings will be deleted, so be sure to backup anything important before restoring.

How do I start an iTunes restore?

Here are the steps to restore your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch using iTunes on a computer:

  1. Connect your device to your computer using the USB cable
  2. Open iTunes on your computer
  3. Select your connected device by clicking the device icon in the upper-left corner
  4. In the Summary page, click “Restore [Device]”
  5. Read the warning prompts carefully, then click “Restore” to confirm
  6. The device will reboot and begin restoring. Do not disconnect the USB cable until the restore is complete.

How can I restore without losing data?

Unfortunately there is no way to complete a restore without losing your data, photos, apps, and settings. The whole point of a restore is to wipe the device and reinstall iOS. Before restoring, be sure to backup your important data either to iCloud or iTunes on your computer. After the restore, you can then restore your backup to get your data back onto your device.

How long does an iTunes restore take?

The time it takes to complete an iTunes restore can vary depending on a few factors:

  • Internet connection speed – Restores will be faster on fast WiFi versus slower cellular data.
  • Size of operating system – Larger iOS versions will take longer to download and install.
  • Amount of data – If restoring from an iCloud or iTunes backup, more data means a longer restore.

As a general estimate, restores typically take between 5-20 minutes. Just be patient and do not disconnect your device until the restore is fully complete.

Can I restore without a computer?

Yes, you can restore your iPhone or iPad wirelessly without a computer using iTunes. To start a wireless restore:

  1. Connect your device to a WiFi network
  2. Open the Settings app
  3. Tap General > Reset > Erase All Content and Settings
  4. Tap through the warning prompts, then tap “Erase [device]” to confirm and begin the restore

This will erase your device and reinstall the latest iOS version, just like restoring through iTunes on a computer.

Should I setup as new or restore from backup after restoring?

After the restore is complete, you’ll have the option to “Set Up as New” or “Restore from iCloud Backup” or “Restore from iTunes Backup.” If you want a completely clean slate, choose Set Up as New. But if you backed up your data before the restore and want to get your settings and content like photos, messages, etc. back, choose to restore from your latest iCloud or iTunes backup.

Why does my iPhone say it’s disabled and needs to be connected to iTunes?

Seeing a message that your iPhone is disabled and needs to connect to iTunes generally means you’ve entered the wrong passcode too many times. This security feature locks down the device. To regain access, you’ll need to connect to iTunes on a computer and either restore the device or enter the correct passcode. Restoring will erase the device, but allow you to use it again. Entering the passcode will unlock the device and keep your data intact.

Can I restore my iPhone if it’s stuck in a reboot loop?

If your iPhone is continuously restarting and getting stuck in a boot loop, a restore can often fix the problem. Connect it to iTunes and try restoring. If the looping prevents the restore from completing, you may need to put the iPhone into recovery mode first:

  1. Connect the iPhone to your computer
  2. Open iTunes
  3. With the iPhone connected, hold down the Home button while reconnecting the USB cable
  4. Keep holding the Home button until you see the recovery mode screen
  5. In iTunes, click “Restore” to restore the iPhone from recovery mode

I keep getting an error when trying to restore!

Some common errors when trying to restore an iPhone, iPad or iPod touch include:

  • “Error 9” – Try a different USB cable, port, or computer
  • “Error 4013” – Put the device in DFU mode and restore
  • “Error 4005” – Update iTunes and restore again
  • “Error 3194” – Use a different USB port or cable

If you keep getting restore errors, try the following steps:

  1. Force restart your device – hold Home + Power buttons
  2. Check for and install any iOS software updates
  3. Update to the latest version of iTunes
  4. Try a different USB cable and USB port on your computer
  5. Try restoring on a different computer
  6. Google the specific error code for other potential solutions

How can I find and download older iOS versions for restoring?

Apple only allows restoring to currently signed iOS versions for security reasons. This means you can only restore to recent iOS releases that are still being code signed by Apple. Older unsigned iOS versions can no longer be restored to.

But for research and development purposes, you can find many older iOS versions archived online by searching web archives and developer/enthusiast sites. Use Google search operators and be patient searching through forums and archives to find copies of iOS files (ipsw). Then do so at your own risk.

Can I backup and restore individual apps and data?

Unfortunately there is no way to backup or restore individual apps and their data through iTunes. An iTunes or iCloud backup will save and restore all apps and data together. However, some apps like social media apps and games may allow logging in and syncing your data across devices using your account. So you may be able restore your data for select apps by logging in, but not all.

Will restoring remove a virus or malware from my iPhone?

Yes, restoring your iPhone using iTunes will wipe out any viruses or malware that may have infected the device. Since it erases everything and reinstalls iOS, the malware has nowhere to hide. Be sure to restore from a clean backup made before the infection, not one made after, to prevent reinfection.

Can I convert an iTunes backup to a different format?

Unfortunately there is no built-in way to directly convert an iTunes backup to a standard file format like PDF, JPG, CSV, etc. iTunes backups contain proprietary databases and file structures designed specifically for restoring iOS data. However, there are a few potential options:

  • Use a 3rd party iOS recovery app to export messages, photos, contacts, etc. individually.
  • Jailbreak the device and use file system access to export data.
  • Restore to another device and use apps to re-export certain data types.

But there is no perfect conversion solution. Ideally, use regular iOS exports and syncs while keeping good backups using iTunes and iCloud.

How can I tell if a restore is successful?

Some signs your iPhone or iPad restore through iTunes was successful include:

  • The device boots up normally to the iOS welcome screen
  • You can complete the iOS setup assistant process
  • The device works properly without any functional issues
  • iOS is up to date to the latest version
  • You don’t see any error messages in iTunes
  • Your data is restored correctly from an iCloud or iTunes backup

Also check that apps, settings, and content like photos or music are restored as expected. If anything seems corrupted or missing, you may need to attempt the restore process again.


Restoring your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch using iTunes can fix many issues and provide a clean slate if desired. Just remember to always backup your data first, be patient during the process, review any error messages, and confirm your device is fully functional afterwards. With some care, you can safely use iTunes to restore your device and get back up and running smoothly.