Why can’t i restore iPhone with iTunes?

iTunes is Apple’s desktop app that allows you to manage the content on your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch. One of iTunes’ main functions is the ability to restore or update your iOS device software. Restoring an iPhone using iTunes essentially wipes the device and installs a fresh copy of the operating system. This can fix many issues you may experience with your iPhone. However, you may encounter problems trying to restore your iPhone using iTunes. Here are some common reasons why you may be unable to restore your iPhone with iTunes and how to fix them.

Outdated Version of iTunes

One of the most common reasons you may be unable to restore your iPhone with iTunes is because you have an outdated version of iTunes installed on your computer. iTunes needs to be updated periodically to maintain compatibility with new iOS versions. If you are trying to restore an iPhone running a newer iOS version with an old iTunes install, it likely will not work properly.

To fix this, you need to update iTunes to the latest version. You can check for updates in the iTunes app by going to Help > Check for Updates. Or you can manually download the newest iTunes installer from Apple’s website. Once updated to the most current version of iTunes, you should then be able to restore your iPhone without issues.

Corrupt iTunes Library

An iTunes library that has become damaged or corrupt is another potential culprit for restore problems. Your iTunes library contains all the media content, iOS backups, app data and settings for iTunes. If this data becomes corrupt, it can prevent iTunes from being able to properly communicate with your iPhone during a restore.

Attempting to restore your iPhone using a corrupt iTunes library will often produce errors like “The iPhone could not be restored. An unknown error occurred (4013).” To resolve this, you need to rebuild your iTunes library by deleting it and allowing iTunes to create a new one from scratch. Make sure you have backups of all your important iTunes data before proceeding.

To rebuild your iTunes library on Windows:

  1. Close iTunes
  2. Open Windows Explorer and navigate to: C:\Users\YourName\Music\iTunes\
  3. Delete the “iTunes Library.itl” file
  4. Hold Shift and restart iTunes – this will create a new empty iTunes Library
  5. Import your media files back into iTunes
  6. Sync your iOS devices to transfer app data/settings back

On a Mac:

  1. Close iTunes
  2. Press Option while opening iTunes to bring up a dialog box
  3. Click “Create Library” to make a new iTunes Library
  4. Import your media and resync your iOS devices

Rebuilding your iTunes library in this manner should resolve any corruption that was preventing iPhone restores.

iPhone is Passcode Locked

If you are trying to restore an iPhone that is passcode locked, iTunes will be unable to complete the restore. This is a security feature to prevent data on a locked iPhone being wiped without consent.

To successfully restore your passcode locked iPhone with iTunes, you need to first remove the passcode lock. This can be done by putting the iPhone into recovery mode (press and hold Home + Sleep buttons until you see the recovery screen) before connecting to iTunes. Alternatively, you can enter your iPhone passcode normally to unlock it before attempting to restore via iTunes.

iPhone Disabled Connecting to iTunes

Some users encounter an issue where iTunes gives an error about the iPhone being disabled and unable to connect when trying to restore. This typically occurs if the iPhone has been disabled due to too many failed passcode attempts.

You can fix this by putting the iPhone into Recovery Mode again using the keypress combination mentioned above. Keep holding the keys until you see the Recovery screen, then connect to iTunes. This should allow you to restore the iPhone successfully despite the disabled state.

Not Enough Storage Space on iPhone

Restoring an iPhone requires some free space on the device for the restore file to be saved temporarily. If your iPhone is completely out of free storage, iTunes may struggle to properly restore it.

Before trying to restore, make sure you have at least 500MB – 1GB of available space on your iPhone. Delete apps, photos, videos or music to free up space. Then attempt the restore again when sufficient storage is available.

Wi-Fi Connection Issues

Stable internet connectivity is also important for a successful iTunes restore. If you run into errors when restoring due to poor Wi-Fi signal, try using a wired ethernet connection instead. Disconnect any other devices from the network to maximize bandwidth.

Alternatively, you can download the restore .ipsw file directly from Apple’s servers instead of having iTunes do it. Hold Shift (or Option on Mac) and click “Restore iPhone” in iTunes – this will let you select the .ipsw file manually. Download the file on another computer if needed.

iPhone Driver Issues in iTunes/Windows

Outdated or corrupted drivers in iTunes or Windows can also cause problems with iPhone restores. Issues may arise if drivers for the Apple Mobile Device service become damaged, or if iTunes is not properly detecting the iPhone.

Updating Windows and reinstalling iTunes/Apple device drivers can help resolve these type of issues:

  • Update Windows to the latest version
  • Update iTunes to newest version
  • Download and reinstall Apple device drivers for Windows
  • Reboot computer
  • Reconnect iPhone and try restore again

USB Connection Problems

Faulty USB ports, cables, drivers or settings can stop iTunes from properly communicating with an iPhone during a restore. Some things to try:

  • Use a different USB cable – the cable may be defective
  • Try connecting the iPhone to another USB port
  • Plug the iPhone directly into the computer rather than through a USB hub
  • Toggle different USB data transfer modes in iTunes settings
  • Restart computer and retry restore

Outdated Firmware

If the iOS version you are trying to restore is extremely outdated, iTunes may refuse to complete the process. This is because Apple stops “signing” older iOS versions after a period of time. Once unsigned, those versions can no longer be restored.

The only solution is to update the iPhone firmware to a newer signed version before restoring. You can download the latest firmware IPSW file from Apple to update to a version that iTunes will allow restoring.

Wrong iOS IPSW File

Restoring requires using the correct IPSW firmware file that matches your specific iPhone model and version. If an incompatible IPSW is selected, the restore will fail. Re-download the IPSW file for your iPhone from Apple’s site and re-attempt the restore.

Also, make sure you are selecting the IPSW file manually by Shift/Option + clicking “Restore” in iTunes. Letting iTunes download its own firmware file can sometimes cause mismatches.

Hardware Defects

In rare cases, underlying hardware issues with the iPhone itself may be the reason for restore difficulties. Defective storage chips, logic boards, connectors or sensors can stop the restore process from working correctly.

If you’ve exhausted all other troubleshooting, hardware problems are likely the culprit. Time for a trip to the Apple store or service center to have the iPhone inspected for faults.

iPhone is Jailbroken

Trying to restore an iPhone that has been jailbroken can also result in headaches. Jailbreaking modifies the iPhone’s firmware in ways that iTunes may not like. You may encounter various error codes or messages about being unable to restore a jailbroken device.

The only true solution is to undo the jailbreak before attempting to restore through iTunes. Backup your data, restore the iPhone to factory defaults first, then re-jailbreak after the restore is complete.


As you can see, there are a variety of explanations for why you may be unable to properly restore your iPhone using iTunes. Most issues can be resolved by updating iTunes, reinstalling drivers, changing USB ports, or eliminating storage constraints. But in rare cases, serious hardware defects could be to blame, requiring a trip to the Apple store.

Persistence and methodically working through the various troubleshooting steps outlined here should help get your iPhone successfully restored via iTunes. Just don’t forget – regularly backing up your iPhone data elsewhere is strongly advised to avoid potential data loss when restoration issues arise.