What causes iPhone to be stuck in recovery mode?

Having an iPhone stuck in recovery mode can be frustrating. Recovery mode is an operating state that an iPhone enters when there is a serious software issue that prevents the device from booting up properly. In this mode, you will see the Connect to iTunes screen and will not be able to use your iPhone until the issue is resolved.

Quick Summary

There are several potential causes for an iPhone getting stuck in recovery mode:

  • Attempting to update or restore and the process getting interrupted
  • Jailbreaking gone wrong
  • Corrupt or damaged system files
  • Buggy iOS update
  • Hardware failure

The main solutions are to try force restarting the iPhone, updating or restoring in iTunes, or taking it to an Apple store for diagnostics and repair if needed.

What Causes an iPhone to Get Stuck in Recovery Mode?

Here are some of the most common causes of an iPhone getting stuck in recovery mode and what you can try to fix it:

Interrupted Update or Restore Process

One of the most common reasons an iPhone ends up in recovery mode is because the update or restore process was interrupted before it could complete. Examples include:

  • Allowing the iPhone to run out of battery during an iOS update
  • Unplugging from computer during a restore
  • Forcing the iPhone to power off during install
  • Update or restore failure due to bugs or glitches

When the update or restore process doesn’t complete, it can leave system files corrupted or missing, forcing the iPhone into recovery mode as a protective measure.

Jailbreaking Gone Wrong

Jailbreaking an iPhone involves modifying system software and replacing it with a custom bootloader. If this process gets interrupted or doesn’t complete successfully, it can also send the iPhone into recovery mode.

Signs of a failed jailbreak include the Apple logo getting stuck on reboot, constant reboot cycles, or errors when trying to re-jailbreak. The modified system software prevents the iPhone from booting up normally.

Corrupt or Damaged System Files

The iOS software system files can become corrupted or damaged even without a failed update or jailbreak. Potential causes include:

  • Buggy apps that modify system resources
  • Power failures or hard resets during an iOS process
  • Errors when syncing with iTunes

If critical system files like the bootloader get damaged, the iPhone will go into recovery mode and display the Connect to iTunes screen.

Buggy iOS Update

In some cases, an iOS software update itself contains bugs that cause iPhones to get stuck in recovery mode. Examples of past iOS updates that had issues like this include iOS 11.0, iOS 13.0, and iOS 14.4. The update installs correctly but prevents proper booting afterward.

Buggy iOS updates that trigger recovery mode are less common these days. But they can still happen, especially with major iOS releases that make significant changes to the operating system.

Hardware Failure

Hardware failures or defects can also send an iPhone into recovery mode. Potential culprits include:

  • Faulty logic board
  • Bad power/home button
  • Corrosion or liquid damage
  • Cracked or damaged connectors

If the iPhone detects a critical hardware issue that prevents safe booting, it will default to recovery mode. This is its way of signaling that service is required before normal operation can resume.

How to Fix an iPhone Stuck in Recovery Mode

If your iPhone is stuck displaying the Connect to iTunes screen and won’t boot normally, try these troubleshooting steps:

Force Restart the iPhone

First, attempt force restarting the iPhone by pressing and quickly releasing the Volume Up button, then pressing and quickly releasing the Volume Down button, then press and hold the Side button until you see the Apple logo.

This restart doesn’t fix any software issues but can kick start the iPhone out of recovery mode in cases where the problem was temporary.

Update or Restore in iTunes

If force restarting doesn’t work, the next step is to connect the iPhone to a computer and enter recovery mode. Do this by:

  1. Launch iTunes on your computer
  2. Connect the iPhone to your computer while holding the Home button
  3. Keep holding the Home button until you get a Connect to iTunes screen
  4. In iTunes, choose Update (to reinstall the same iOS version) or Restore (to install the latest iOS)

This should complete the interrupted process or replace any damaged files needed to boot properly again. If restore fails, you may need to try DFU mode instead:

  1. Connect the iPhone to your computer while powered off
  2. Hold the Power and Home buttons together for 10 seconds
  3. Release the Power button while still holding the Home button until iTunes recognizes the iPhone in recovery mode
  4. Proceed with restore in iTunes

Factory Reset the iPhone

If iTunes restore still doesn’t work, try a factory reset:

  1. Backup your iPhone data to iCloud or iTunes
  2. Choose Settings > General > Reset > Erase All Content and Settings
  3. Wait for the reset to complete and then set up the iPhone again

This will wipe the iPhone back to factory defaults which can resolve many software-related recovery mode issues. Just be sure to backup data first.

Hardware Repair

For hardware-related recovery mode problems, you’ll need to take the iPhone to Apple or an authorized service provider. They can diagnose issues with the logic board, connectors, or other components and replace anything that is damaged.

If the iPhone is still under warranty or you have AppleCare+ coverage, repairs may be fully or partially covered. Out of warranty service can be expensive depending on required part replacements.

How to Avoid the Recovery Mode Problem

While occasional recovery mode issues can happen to anyone, there are steps you can take to avoid them becoming a recurring problem:

  • Always update iOS through Settings rather than plugging into iTunes
  • Don’t jailbreak iPhones unless you fully understand the risks
  • Back up data regularly to iCloud or iTunes
  • Avoid forcing iPhone restarts unless absolutely necessary
  • Use a surge protector to avoid sudden power interruptions
  • Handle iPhone with care to prevent connector or logic board damage

Carefully maintaining your iPhone and being cautious about disruptive software changes will go a long way toward preventing stuck recovery mode situations.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why does my iPhone say Connect to iTunes when I reboot?

The Connect to iTunes screen on reboot typically means your iPhone is stuck in recovery mode. This is an automatic safety measure when the iPhone detects a software issue preventing normal startup.

Can I get my iPhone out of recovery without iTunes?

It’s challenging to get an iPhone out of recovery mode without connecting to iTunes on a computer. Some recovery mode issues can be resolved through a force restart, but most will require iTunes to either update, restore or factory reset the iPhone.

Is recovery mode the same as DFU mode?

Recovery mode and DFU (Device Firmware Update) mode are similar but not identical. Recovery mode shows Connect to iTunes screen and allows restore. DFU mode shows blank screen but allows lower-level restore of Apple firmware.

Why does my iPhone keep going into recovery mode?

If your iPhone keeps entering recovery mode, it’s likely due to an underlying hardware defect or repeated installation of a bad software update. Getting hardware repaired or restoring firmware through iTunes should resolve recurring recovery mode.

Is recovery mode bad for iPhone?

No, recovery mode itself doesn’t harm the iPhone. It’s actually a protective measure to prevent booting until serious software issues get resolved. However, the underlying problem recovery mode is signaling could potentially indicate damage has occurred.


Having an iPhone stuck in recovery mode is a frustrating experience but usually fixable through some combination of force restarting, software restore in iTunes, factory reset, and hardware repair. Avoiding disruptions during updates or restores is the best way to prevent recovery mode situations in the first place. But even if the dreaded Connect to iTunes screen appears, just work methodically through troubleshooting steps until you get the iPhone operational once again.