An iPhone connected to a MacBook to be manually restored.
blackzheep/Shutterstock

Sometimes, your iPhone or iPad might refuse to boot or update via the Finder app. If it’s stuck, you can try to manually restore your iPhone or iPad using the IPSW file on your Mac or MacBook.

Restoring your iPhone or iPad should be a last resort, as doing so will erase all the data on your phone or tablet. It will also reinstall iOS or iPadOS with the latest version. Once the operating system restore process is complete, you can then restore your data from a backup.

Before you begin, make sure you’ve backed up your iPhone or iPad.

RELATED: How to Back Up and Restore Your iPhone or iPad without iTunes

How to Download the Correct IPSW File for Your iPhone or iPad

When you use your Mac to update your iPhone or iPad (via Finder or iTunes, depending on the version of macOS), your computer uses an IPSW file. If everything goes smoothly and you’re able to update or restore your phone or tablet, you won’t have to worry about this file.

However, if your iPhone or iPad is stuck at a particular OS version (or if a beta version isn’t playing nice) and won’t update, the IPSW file will come in handy. You can download this file and force your Mac to use it to restore your iPhone or iPad.

You can find and download the IPSW file for your device on the IPSW website. It lists the latest versions of IPSW files signed by Apple. You can’t install an update file that isn’t signed by Apple, as the company verifies it against its servers before installing the firmware.

To get started, head to the IPSW website and choose your device (iPhone or iPad). For our example, we’re going to restore a 2018 iPad Pro 11-inch (Wi-Fi), but the process is the same for all iPhones and iPads.

Select your device on the IPSW website.

Scroll down and select your model (ours is the iPad Pro 3).

Select your specific model.

You’ll then see all available IPSW files; select the latest signed version.

Select the latest signed version of the IPSW file.

On the next page, click “Download.” This is quite a large file (around 5 GB), so, depending on your internet connection, this could take a while.

Click "Download."

How to Restore Your iPhone or iPad via Finder on a Mac

Starting with macOS Catalina, Apple broke out the iTunes app and moved the iPhone and iPad management section to the Finder app. All the features are the same, they’re just in a different place. If you’re using an older version of macOS, just follow the steps below in iTunes.

RELATED: Where Are iTunes Features in macOS Catalina?

Again, you want to make sure you’ve backed up your device before proceeding, as this process will erase all the data on your iPhone or iPad.

After you’ve backed up your device, connect your iPhone or iPad to your Mac via its USB cable. If your iPhone or iPad won’t boot, put it in the DFU (recovery) mode before you start this process.

Open the Finder app on your Mac, and then select your iPhone or iPad from the sidebar. Press and hold the Option key, and then click “Restore iPhone” or “Restore iPad.”

Click your device in the sidebar, press Option, and then click "Restore iPad."

Next, select the IPSW file you downloaded, and then click “Open.”

Click "Open."

If your Mac asks you to install a device update, click “Install.”

Click "Install."

Wait while your phone or tablet downloads and installs the update.

The "Downloading" progress bar.

When it’s done, Finder will ask if you’re sure you want to restore your iPhone or iPad; click “Restore.” If this pop-up doesn’t appear after the device update, go back and start the restore process again.

Click "Restore."

Your Mac will now start the restore process, which can take a while. Make sure your iPhone or iPad remains connected to your Mac. Your device will boot to the Apple logo a few times.

The restore progress bar for an iPad on a Mac.

When the process completes, a pop-up will appear that says your device has been restored; click “OK.”

Click "OK."

Your iPhone or iPad will now restart, and you’ll once again see it in the sidebar. You can now either restore your data from an iCloud backup or disconnect your phone or tablet from your Mac and set it up like new.

If you have a backup on your Mac (especially if it’s encrypted), it’s going to be much faster to restore from this rather than an iCloud backup. After your device is restored, select it from the Finder sidebar to see the iPhone or iPad setup screen.

Here, select a backup, and then click “Continue” to start the process.

Select a backup, and then click "Continue."

After the process is complete, your iPhone or iPad will be back to how it used to be—only now, it will be functional!


If you want to be more conscientious about your backups, be sure to check out all the data you can back up on iCloud.

RELATED: What Is Apple's iCloud and What Does It Back Up?

Khamosh Pathak Khamosh Pathak
Khamosh Pathak is a freelance technology writer who specializes in tutorials. His work has also been published on iPhoneHacks, Zapier's blog, MakeUseOf, and Guiding Tech. Khamosh has seven years of experience writing how-tos, features and technology guides on the internet.
Read Full Bio »

The above article may contain affiliate links, which help support How-To Geek.