What to do with an iPad that cannot be restored?

Having an iPad that cannot be restored can be very frustrating. However, there are still several options you can try to get your iPad working again or repurpose it before deciding to recycle it.

Try force restarting your iPad

If your iPad is frozen or unresponsive, force restarting it can sometimes resolve software issues and allow you to restore the device. To force restart an iPad with a Home button, press and hold the Home and Power buttons together until the Apple logo appears. For newer iPad models without a Home button, press and hold the Volume Up and Power buttons at the same time.

Put your iPad into Recovery Mode

If force restarting doesn’t work, the next step is to put your iPad into Recovery Mode and connect it to a computer. To do this, connect your iPad to a computer then force restart it again. When the Apple logo appears, press and hold the Home button if your iPad has one, or the Volume Up/Down buttons if it doesn’t, until you see the Recovery Mode screen.

This should allow your computer to recognize your iPad and let you restore it using iTunes or Finder. However, if you get an error saying the iPad cannot be restored, move on to the next steps.

Try a different Lightning cable

Sometimes the Lightning cable can cause connection issues that prevent an iPad from being properly recognized or restored. Try using a different Lightning cable, preferably an official Apple one, to connect your iPad to your computer and attempt the restore again.

Update or reinstall iTunes/Finder

Outdated or corrupted iTunes or Finder software on your computer could also be the reason your iPad won’t restore. On a Windows PC, download the latest version of iTunes. On a Mac, update to the newest macOS and make sure Finder is functioning properly.

Try restoring with a different computer

If you’ve tried different cables and updated your computer software, the next troubleshooting step is attempting to restore your iPad using a different computer entirely. Borrow a friend or family member’s computer to connect your iPad and restore it.

Reset your iPad’s settings

Resetting your iPad’s settings to factory default may resolve any software issues preventing you from restoring the device. To do this, go to Settings > General > Reset and choose “Reset All Settings.” This will not erase your data but simply restore system settings to default.

Erase your iPad completely

If resetting settings doesn’t work, the nuclear option is to erase your iPad entirely by doing a full factory reset. This will wipe all of your data and settings from the device. As a last resort before recycling your iPad, erase it by going to Settings > General > Reset and selecting “Erase All Content and Settings.”

Contact Apple support

If you’ve tried all of these steps and your iPad still won’t restore, it’s time to contact Apple support. They may be able to diagnose a hardware issue or other problem preventing the restore process from completing successfully. Schedule a session with an Apple technician at your local Apple store’s Genius Bar or call Apple support to get personalized help restoring your stubborn iPad.

Use your iPad for something else

If your iPad ultimately cannot be restored no matter what you try, before recycling it consider repurposing the device for a different use:

  • Use it as a digital photo frame – Load photos onto it and keep it plugged in to display your favorite memories.
  • Make it a kids learning tablet – Install educational apps and games for your children to use without worrying about breaking an expensive device.
  • Turn it into a smart home hub – With your iPad plugged in, use it to control smart home devices and automations using your voice.
  • Make it a spare streaming screen – Stream movies and shows from services like Netflix to the iPad and plug it into any TV when needed.
  • Install a wall-mounted iPad controller – Use your old iPad as a controller for home automation functions like lights, thermostat, security cameras, etc.

Recycle your iPad responsibly

If your iPad ultimately cannot be restored and you have no other use for it, make sure to recycle it responsibly. iPads contain toxic materials like lead and mercury that should not end up in landfills. Find an e-waste recycling facility near you that can properly dismantle and recycle the materials.

You can also trade in your iPad to Apple for credit towards a new device purchase. Or consider donating your unusable iPad to charity groups like Cell Phones for Soldiers or National Cristina Foundation who will either refurbish it or properly recycle it.


Exhaust all troubleshooting options before giving up on an iPad that won’t restore. Try different cables, computers, resetting software, erasing content, and contacting Apple support. If it ultimately cannot be revived, repurpose your old iPad for other uses around your home before considering recycling options.