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How to Reset Your iPhone or iPad, Even if it Won’t Boot

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You can easily reset your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch to factory default settings. If you’re experiencing problems — even if it won’t boot — you can reinstall the entire iOS operating system.

There are several ways to do this, and we’ll go through them from the simplest to the most complicated. You’ll need a PC or Mac with iTunes installed to restore your device’s operating system.

Perform a Factory Reset

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The standard factory reset is the fastest and easiest option. It will reset your device to a “like new” condition, erasing all your personal settings, apps, and other local data. When you finish, you’ll have to go through the first-time setup process again. Of course, any data that’s synced to your iCloud account or another online service will be restored after you log into your device with your user information again. If you’ve set up iCloud, it will automatically back up local app data and restore it after you reset the device and reinstall your apps.

This type of reset is ideal if you want to get your device in a “like new” state, especially if you’re selling it or just passing it along to someone else.

To perform a standard factory reset, tap the Settings app icon on your device’s home screen. Tap the General category in Settings, then scroll down and tap Reset. Tap Erase All Content and Settings  and enter your PIN when prompted. On a modern iPhone or iPad, your device will remove the encryption key that protects access to your data, ensuring it can’t be recovered and marking the memory sectors as available for use. This will only take a few minutes.

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Restore With iTunes

The above process only removes your personal data and apps. It doesn’t reinstall the entire operating system. If you’re experiencing crashes or other problems, the system files on your device may be corrupt. You can fix these problems by connecting your device to a PC or Mac running iTunes. iTunes can download the device’s operating system from Apple and reinstall a fresh copy of it on the device, replacing the device’s operating system and really starting over from scratch. This is known as a “restore.”

First, open iTunes on your computer. You should ensure you’re using the latest version of iTunes for this.

Next, connect your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch to your PC or Mac computer with the included USB cable. The USB cable is normally attached to the wall charger — it’s the same cable you use to charge. Unlock your device with your PIN and tap the Trust button to trust your computer.

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Select your device when it appears in iTunes and click the Restore button. iTunes will restore your device with a clean copy of the iOS operating system, removing all your personal files and other data and replacing the entire operating system.

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Restore From Recovery Mode

If your device won’t boot or the standard restore process won’t work properly when you try it from iTunes, you’ll need to use recovery mode to fix your device. Ensure iTunes is open on your computer before beginning this process.

To enter recovery mode, you’ll first need to turn off your device completely. Press and hold the power button and slide to turn it off. If the device isn’t responding, press and hold the power and home buttons at the same time for a few seconds to turn it off.

Next, connect your device’s USB cable to your computer. Press and hold the home button until the “Connect to iTunes” screen appears — you’ll see a connector pointing at an iTunes icon. You can now release the button. If you don’t see this screen and the device just boots normally, try the process again. Ensure you hold down the home button until the screen appears.

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iTunes will inform you that it’s detected a device in recovery mode. Click the Restore button and iTunes will restore the  device’s operating system.

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If none of these tricks fixes the problems you’re experiencing, your device may have a hardware problem. You should probably take it to Apple and have them fix it for you.

Image Credit: Kārlis Dambrāns on Flickr

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.

  • Published 02/24/14

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