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How to Put iPhone in Recovery Mode: A Step-by-Step Guide

an iphone 15 displaying a screen of recovery mode

When you’re iPhone is acting up and the usual troubleshooting methods don’t work, recovery mode can be a real iPhone saver. But, to be clear, iPhone recovery mode is a last resort, not your first line of defense.

In this article, we’ll explain what recovery mode is and guide you on when and how to use it.

What Is iPhone Recovery Mode?

Recovery mode is a troubleshooting feature that helps you fix various software-related issues when your iPhone is malfunctioning, and easy fixes like turning your phone on and off or updating to the latest iOS version fail. It’s a safe and often effective way to restore your iPhone to its regular working condition. 

However, recovery mode does come with one major risk: Certain actions taken in recovery mode can result in partial or complete data erasure. But, when you’re screen is stuck on the Apple logo or in a continuous restart loop, recovery mode may be your best and only option.

In recovery mode, users can fix software problems, install critical updates, address booting issues, remove malware, recover passwords, and restore factory settings. To prevent potential data loss in recovery mode, it’s best to regularly back up your iPhone data using iCloud or another data backup platform.

Unfortunately, recovery mode isn’t a cure-all. If recovery mode fails to resolve the problem at hand, it might be time for a new iPhone. That’s where Navi’s free, unbiased Phone Deal Finder can help you sort through the best phone deals you qualify for right now.

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Put an iPhone in Recovery Mode: 4 Simple Steps

Although recovery mode has been a standard feature on iPhones since the earliest models, the method of accessing recovery mode has changed slightly as the iPhone's design has evolved.

To enter recovery mode, you’ll need a USB cable or USB-C cable (depending on your iPhone model) and your Mac or PC. Make sure your computer is fully updated with the latest operating system and the latest version of either the Apple Devices app or the iTunes app.

The process of getting into recovery mode changes slightly depending on your iPhone model, and that’s mostly because of the different buttons on different iPhone models. Apple devotees probably remember the “home” button on older iPhones, which Apple did away with on iPhones released since the iPhone X in 2017.

We’ll make sure you know how to access recovery mode no matter what iPhone model you have.

Step 1

Connect your phone to your Mac or PC with your USB cable or USB-C cable.

Step 2

If you’re on a Mac, open the Finder (MacOS Catalina and later) or the iTunes app (before MacOS Catalina). If you’re on a PC, open the Apple Devices app or the iTunes app. (Side note: if you’re not sure what version of MacOS you have, click the Apple logo in the top menu bar and select “About This Mac.”)

Step 3

If your iPhone is successfully connected, a device icon will appear in the app you’ve opened. Click on this icon to select your iPhone and proceed to the next step.

Step 4

After connecting your iPhone to your computer, you’ll be ready to enter recovery mode. the next instructions vary depending on which iPhone model you have.

  • For iPhone 8 or Later (including iPhone SE 2nd and 3rd generation)
    For iPhone 8 and later models, including the iPhone SE (2nd generation and newer), enter recovery mode by quickly pressing the volume up button, followed by the volume down button. Then, hold the side button until you see the recovery mode screen appear.
  • For iPhone 7 and 7 Plus
    If you have an iPhone 7 or 7 Plus, press and hold both the top (or side) button and the volume down button simultaneously until the recovery mode screen appears.
  • For iPhone 6S or Earlier (including iPhone SE 1st generation)
    If you have an iPhone 6S or earlier, hold both the home button and the top (or side) button together until the recovery mode screen pops up.

Troubleshooting Tips

If you follow whichever steps above correlate to your iPhone model and you still don’t see the recovery mode screen, you can try these troubleshooting tips:

  • Check the USB cable connection to ensure your phone has a secure connection to your computer.
  • Try a different USB cable.
  • Restart your computer.
  • Double-check to make sure your iOS (Mac) and Apple Devices app or iTunes app are up-to-date (PC).
  • Double-check the steps above to make sure you’re pressing the correct button combination for your iPhone model.

In some cases, pressing that button combination may cause your phone to restart instead of entering recovery mode. If that happens, simply try the steps again. 

Using Recovery Mode 

Once you’ve connected your phone to your computer and entered recovery mode, you’ll be presented with the option to restore or update your iPhone. Either option has the potential to fix the underlying problem with your iPhone, but it’s important to understand the difference between restoring vs updating using recovery mode.

Connecting to iTunes or Finder

  1. Grab your iPhone's charging cable.
  2. Plug the Lightning or USB-C connector (depending on your iPhone model) into your iPhone.
  3. Connect the other end of the cable (usually USB-A) to an available USB port on your computer.

Mac Users:

  • For macOS versions older than 10.15 Catalina, iTunes will automatically launch when you connect your iPhone.
  • If you're on macOS Catalina (or later), Finder will open instead.

Windows Users:

You may need to download the appropriate software from Apple to manage your iPhone on a Windows PC.  Check the Apple website for details.

After connecting, you might see a pop-up on your iPhone asking you to "Trust This Computer." Go ahead and tap "Trust" to allow your iPhone and computer to communicate.

Restoring vs Updating Your iPhone

After you’ve connected to Finder (newer MacOS versions), Apple Devices app (PC), or iTunes (older MacOS versions and some PCs), a pop-up will appear with two options:  “Restore” or “Update.” 

The Difference Between Restore and Update:

“Restore” and “Update” are two different actions you can take in recovery mode. Update will try to fix your phone without erasing any data. Restore erases all data and settings, returning your device to its factory state. Because of this, it’s always a good idea to try “Update” before “Restore.” 

If your iPhone is still on the fritz after updating, go ahead and re-enter recovery mode. This time, select “Restore.” Although it’s a pain to lose your data and settings, “Restore” has a good chance of solving whatever issue you are having. 

We recommend regularly backing up your data using iCloud or another cloud-based storage service to make it easier to restore your data in case of unexpected issues that could prompt an unplanned factory reset.

Importance of Following On-Screen Instructions

When using recovery mode, it’s important to follow the specific on-screen instructions provided by iTunes, Finder, or the Apple Devices app. Following instructions gives you the best chance at a successful outcome and a resolution to your problem.

Different iPhone models and iOS versions may have slightly different recovery processes, but your computer’s software will tailor instructions to your specific device. It’s also important that you don’t unplug your phone from your computer during the recovery process, as this could cause additional errors and/or data loss.

The Bottom Line 

When your iPhone freezes or gets stuck on the Apple logo loading screen, it can be a headache to get it back to its normal working condition. Hopefully, this guide helps you use recovery mode to troubleshoot and resolve any software-related issues you may encounter with your iPhone. 

Although recovery mode can solve a variety of iPhone software issues, it has its limits. At a certain point, it may be time to consider upgrading to a new iPhone model. When that time comes, use Navi’s free, unbiased Phone Deal Finder to sort through the latest, best cell phone deals right now from Apple and other mobile phone brands.

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