What does restoring an iPhone do?

Restoring an iPhone essentially wipes the device and reinstalls the latest version of iOS. This can help resolve software issues, remove jailbreaks, or reset the device to factory settings if you plan on selling or giving it away. There are a few key things that happen when you restore an iPhone:

Erases All Content and Settings

Restoring an iPhone will erase all of the content and settings on the device. This includes:

  • Photos
  • Music
  • Apps
  • Contacts
  • Calendars
  • Text messages
  • Call history
  • Safari browsing history and bookmarks
  • Notes
  • Device settings
  • Home screen layout

Basically, everything will be deleted from the iPhone when you restore it. Your data is not necessarily gone forever though. If you had iCloud backups enabled, you can restore your content and settings from a backup after the iPhone is reset.

Upgrades iOS Version

Restoring an iPhone will install the latest version of iOS that is currently signed by Apple. This can upgrade an older iPhone to the newest software. Even if you are already on the latest version of iOS, restoring will reinstall the OS as new.

Removes Jailbreak

If your iPhone has been jailbroken, restoring will remove the jailbreak and any related apps or tweaks that were installed. It will essentially update your device back to a non-jailbroken state with the stock Apple iOS.

Fixes Software Issues

Restoring can also fix some persistent software issues you may be experiencing like freezing, crashing, bugs, lagging, etc. Resetting the device causes the operating system to be reinstalled in a clean state which can resolve these types of problems.

Preps Device for Sale or Trade-In

Restoring your iPhone before selling or trading it in will wipe all of your personal content and reset it to factory settings. This gives the new owner a fresh device to set up themselves.

Process for Restoring an iPhone

Here is the basic process for restoring an iPhone:

  1. Back up your iPhone data first if possible. You can backup to iCloud or iTunes.
  2. Make sure you have the password to your Apple ID account.
  3. Connect your iPhone to a computer with a USB cable if possible.
  4. Open iTunes on the computer or the Settings app on the iPhone.
  5. Initiate a restore in iTunes or Settings.
  6. The iPhone will reboot into recovery mode and display a connector cable logo on screen.
  7. Let the restore complete, this can take several minutes.
  8. The device will reboot itself several times during the process.
  9. Agree to the Apple terms and conditions.
  10. Go through the setup assistant to reinstall iOS.
  11. Sign in with your Apple ID when prompted.
  12. Restore your data from an iCloud or iTunes backup.

Backing Up Your iPhone Before Restoring

It’s highly recommended you backup your iPhone before restoring if you want to keep your content. Here are the backup options:

iCloud Backup

You should enable iCloud backups so your data is periodically saved to Apple’s servers. To backup to iCloud:

  1. Go to Settings > Your Name > iCloud.
  2. Tap on iCloud Backup.
  3. Turn on iCloud Backup.
  4. Tap Back Up Now to manually initiate a backup.

Your iPhone will now automatically backup daily when charging, on WiFi, and with the screen locked.

iTunes Backup

You can also backup locally to your computer using iTunes. To backup to iTunes:

  1. Connect your iPhone to computer and open iTunes.
  2. Select your device in iTunes.
  3. Click Summary in the horizontal menu bar.
  4. Click Back Up Now under Backups.

This will immediately initiate a full backup of your iPhone to that computer.

Restoring from a Backup After Resetting iPhone

After restoring your iPhone, you’ll want to restore your data from an iCloud or iTunes backup during the setup process. Here’s how:

iCloud Restore

  1. Begin the setup assistant after the restore completes.
  2. Select your language.
  3. On the Data & Privacy screen, tap Restore from iCloud Backup.
  4. Sign in with your Apple ID.
  5. Choose the desired backup from the list of available backups.

Your iPhone will restore your settings and content from the iCloud backup.

iTunes Restore

  1. Open iTunes on your computer.
  2. Connect your iPhone to your computer.
  3. Select your device in iTunes.
  4. Click Summary in the horizontal menu bar.
  5. Click Restore Backup under Backups.
  6. Select the desired backup file.

Your iPhone will restore your settings and content from the iTunes backup.

Requirements for Restoring iPhone

Here are some requirements to keep in mind for restoring an iPhone:

  • You’ll need your Apple ID and password to reinstall iOS.
  • For iCloud restores, you’ll need an internet connection.
  • For iTunes restores, you’ll need a USB cable and computer with iTunes.
  • Allow 1-2 hours minimum for a full restore and setup.
  • Your iPhone will be unavailable during the restore process.
  • You’ll need to reinstall any apps from the App Store after restoring.

Different Kinds of iPhone Restores

There are a few different types of restores you can perform on an iPhone:

Standard Restore

This completely erases the device and reinstalls the operating system from scratch. It will upgrade to the latest iOS version as well.

Force Restore

A force restore is the same as a standard restore but it bypasses some error messages if a normal restore fails. This is a last resort option.

DFU Restore

DFU stands for Device Firmware Upgrade mode. This is a deeper restore mode you can put an iPhone into if it won’t boot up properly. It completely reflashes the firmware.

Recovery Mode Restore

Recovery mode is similar to DFU mode. It will reinstall the iOS firmware and is used if an iPhone is having major software issues.

iCloud Erase

You can also erase your iPhone remotely if you lose it or it’s stolen. This is done on the Find My iPhone app or iCloud.com.

When to Avoid Restoring an iPhone

In some cases, you’ll want to avoid restoring an iPhone. Such as:

  • If you don’t have a recent backup, as you will lose your data.
  • If you have an untethered jailbreak, as it cannot be redone on newer iOS.
  • If your iPhone is working fine, as it’s unnecessary.

You should also avoid restoring multiple times consecutively. Try doing at least 3 normal shutdowns and reboots before restoring to see if that fixes any problems you are encountering.

Signs You Should Restore Your iPhone

Here are some signs it may be time to restore your iPhone:

  • Very slow performance with lag or freezing
  • Excessive crashing or rebooting
  • Phone running hot
  • Problems upgrading iOS versions
  • Persistent bugs or glitches
  • Cannot power on
  • Strange display artifacts or graphics issues
  • Stuck in recovery mode
  • Needs to be unlocked
  • Preparing to sell or trade-in

A restore can help improve performance and fix stability issues if your iPhone is experiencing some of those problems.

Potential Risks When Restoring an iPhone

While generally safe, there are some potential risks to be aware of when restoring an iPhone:

  • Permanent data loss if you don’t have a backup
  • Failed restore bricking the device if interrupted
  • Greater risk of physical damage if opened for hardware repair
  • Possibility of losing jailbreak status if desired
  • Having to reconfigure settings and reinstall apps
  • Stuck in recovery mode if interrupted
  • Enabled Find My iPhone preventing restore

To minimize risks, follow Apple’s procedures closely, backup beforehand, use trusted equipment, and don’t interrupt the process. Also make sure Find My iPhone is disabled before attempting a restore.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does restoring an iPhone delete everything?

Yes, restoring an iPhone will completely erase all content and settings on the device and revert it back to factory default settings.

Will I lose my data if I restore my iPhone?

You will lose all your data if you restore your iPhone, unless you have a backup. Be sure to backup your iPhone to iCloud or iTunes before restoring.

Do you keep same iOS when restoring iPhone?

No, restoring an iPhone will install the latest version of iOS that is currently being signed by Apple. It will upgrade your OS.

How long does it take to restore an iPhone?

It typically takes 1-2 hours to fully complete an iPhone restore. The initial software restore may only take 10-30 minutes, but the full setup process will take longer.

Should I restore or update my iPhone?

If your iPhone is working fine, updating is preferable as it’s faster. But if you’re having major software issues, a full restore is better to start fresh.

What does an iTunes restore do?

Restoring in iTunes completely wipes and reinstalls iOS on an iPhone, the same as a standard reset. It also allows restoring device backups.

Can I restore iPhone without losing data?

You can restore an iPhone without losing data as long as you have a recent backup in iCloud or iTunes that you can restore from after the iPhone is reset to factory settings.


Restoring an iPhone essentially factory resets it and reinstalls the operating system. This erases all content and settings, removes jailbreaks, resolves software issues, and prepares a device for resale. Be sure to backup your iPhone before restoring, then restore from that backup after the reset completes. Restoring should fix most major software problems, but risks permanent data loss if backups aren’t available.