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> 'iPad is disabled' fix without resetting using iTunes - Instructional Tech Talk

How To iPad

Published on December 17th, 2012 | by Jeff Herb


'iPad is disabled' fix without resetting using iTunes


Today I met my match with an iPad that had a passcode entered too many times, resulting in it displaying the message ‘iPad is disabled – Connect to iTunes’. This was a student iPad and since they use Notability for most of their work there was a chance that her files were not all backed up to the cloud. I really wanted to just re-activate the iPad instead of totally resetting it back to our default image.

I reached out to my PLN on Twitter and had some help from a few people through retweets and a couple of clarification tweets. I love that so many are willing to help out so quickly. Through this I also learned that I look like Lt. Riker from Star Trek (thanks @FillineMachine).

Through some trial and error (and a little sheer luck), I was able to reactivate the iPad without loosing any data. Note, this will only work on the computer it last synced with. Here’s how:


1. Configurator is useless in reactivating a locked iPad. You will only be able to completely reformat the iPad using Configurator. If that’s ok with you, go for it – otherwise don’t waste your time trying to figure it out.

2. Open iTunes with the iPad disconnected.

3. Connect the iPad to the computer and wait for it to show up in the devices section in iTunes.

4. Click on the iPad name when it appears and you will be given the option to restore a backup or setup as a new iPad (since it is locked).

5. Click ‘Setup as new iPad’ and then click restore.

6. The iPad will start backing up before it does the full restore and sync. CANCEL THE BACKUP IMMEDIATELY. You do this by clicking the small x in the status window in iTunes.

7. When the backup cancels, it immediately starts syncing – cancel this as well using the same small x in the iTunes status window.

8. The first stage in the restore process unlocks the iPad, you are basically just cancelling out the restore process as soon as it reactivates the iPad.


If done correctly, you will experience no data loss and the result will be a reactivated iPad. I have now tried this with about 5 iPads that were locked identically by students and each time it worked like a charm.


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About the Author


Jeff Herb is an Educator, Blogger, and Podcaster focusing on Instructional Technology and finding ways to innovate the classroom using technology. Follow Jeff on Twitter to keep up with the latest in Educational Technology.

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  • Techfixers Kenny

    why does this only works with computer that it last synced to ? is there any other way around it ? if this procedure fails, would it wipe all the data ?

    • Jeff Herb

      This only works with the last computer it syncs with because iTunes does not perform a backup on an iPad it doesn’t recognize, it just formats it immediately. The trick to this one is that you cancel out the backup before it starts reformatting.

      And yes, if you don’t cancel the backup before it completes, you do run the risk of losing data – but that would have been inevitable without this work around anyway.

      Thanks for your questions!

      • Manja Syed

        Sir .can I update ios 7 without computer n laptop? When I update my ipad.. can it be used normal? Ty

        • Itu Babi


        • Itu Babi


  • elvis

    i suppose my question is essentially the same as kenny’s, and i think i already know the final answer; regardless, i shall ask anyway.

    the ipad in question belongs to a friend of mine, and may never have been synced. ever. not with any laptop, pc, macbook … nothing. no icloud account/relationship either. it’s well over a year old, and has hundreds of megs of pix. she claims that she was using it one day with no problems, and the next day it “just started asking for a passcode.” you guessed it – there have been enough incorrect attempts at guessing the passcode that the ipad is now locked up tight, and seems to be completely disabled.

    i can even hook it to a linux box, and see the device as if it were a camera, but it shows the device as having no pictures. my research over the past several days has consistently led me to “sorry, dude. factory restore. wipe it clean.”

    do you have ANY other suggestions, regardless of complexity or risk? i’m willing to try terminal cpmmands, password cracking, whatever.

    • Jeff Herb


      To my knowledge, a syncing relationship must exist between the device and the computer in order for this method to work. Without this relationship, the device will start by wiping itself instead of starting with a backup. For this to work, you need to cancel out the backup before it finishes – data will be lost without this step.

      I will try and see what I can track down for you, but I was thrilled to find this work-around in the first place…not sure if anything more intensive exists.

      Let me know if you come up with a solution!

  • sachin

    i have followed the instructions to fix disabled ipad without resetting but the in device section it does not read ipad. The pop up shows itunes cannot connect ipad as it is passcode protected. please suggest

    • Jeff Herb


      This is generally the case if the device you’re connecting to your computer hasn’t been synced with that computer. Is this the case?

      • joy

        my ipad has been synched w m computer several times but i also get this message. if i reboot in safe mode only option is to restore ipad and delete all data. thoughts arnd this?

      • Jo

        yeah my device has been synced to the computer before but it doesn’t show up. help!

  • Nuha

    my ipad is disabled and it can’t connect to itunes ? i really need an answer
    thank u.

    • Jeff Herb

      Hi @46dd1ec1e9fc3754296e830366a91d9c:disqus – need a little more info than that. What do you mean by “it can’t connect to iTunes?”

      • Clarence A. Farley

        What really happens is that when ever you try connecting the device to iTunes, it ask you to enter the pass-code for the device in other for it to connect.

  • Kat

    I also have a student iPad which I have forgotten the password to. I have backed up with iCloud but I haven’t synced to a computer. Will this work?

  • Neats

    What if the last computer you synced to does not recognize the iPad?

    • Jeff Herb

      That’s a great question. Can’t say I’ve run across that problem. Perhaps putting the iPad into recovery mode? No guarantees here, as I’m not sure if recovery mode will still attempt a backup first. Either way, here are the steps:

      1. Disconnect the USB cable from the iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, but leave the other end of the cable connected to your computer’s USB port.

      2. Turn off the device: Press and hold the Sleep/Wake button for a few seconds until the red slider appears, then slide the slider. Wait for the device to turn off.

      Note: If you cannot turn off the device using the slider, press and hold the Sleep/Wake and Home buttons at the same time. When the device turns off, release the Sleep/Wake and Home buttons.

      3. While pressing and holding the Home button, reconnect the USB cable to the device. The device should turn on.
      Note: If you see the screen pictured below, let the device charge for at least ten minutes to ensure that the battery has some charge, and then start with step 2 again.

      4. Continue holding the Home button until you see the “Connect to iTunes” screen. When this screen appears you can release the Home button.

      5. If necessary, open iTunes. You should see the following “recovery mode” alert. Restore using iTunes.

      • Indu

        Hey I have followed all the above steps but still Itunes say “t says it needs the password entered on the ipad – which can’t be done because ipad is disabled. “. This IPAD was never synched to PC. I need to enable this, please suggest.

        • Jennifer

          my mom’s does the same thing as Indu. It starts to do the restore but then stops & the message about the needing to entering the password. Plus my Itunes doesn’t have a menu on the left side anymore since it was updated. I’m kinda confused on why it looks different. Any help would be awsome! Thanks!

  • Susan Broadstreet Albert

    My daughter’s ipad can’t even be accessed through itunes – it says it needs the password entered on the ipad – which can’t be done because ipad is disabled. What can we do???

    • Jeff Herb

      If it won’t allow you to interact with the computer while the lock is in place, my guess is that the iPad had never been synced with the computer. Is that the case? If so, you will need to reformat the iPad as this solution really only works if you can initiate a sync and then cancel it before there is data loss.

  • lolVa

    im connecting it to itunes and i try to restor it but it updates this software and it takes hoooours !!!! pleaseee help

  • Dinny

    the above method worked like a charm and restored my ipad, which was disabled due to the “wrong passcode” attempts

    • Jeff Herb

      Great to hear, Dinny – thanks for sharing your success!

  • Trooper

    Like Elvis, I am in the same situation. The pictures on my ipad are dearly important as they contain my 4th childs birth in photos and video. My wife cried for over an hour when we realized that our 7 and 9 year old exhausted the attempts to guess the passcode on the ipad. (ipad3). Apple Care was no help. My PC crashed in December(2012) and was restored shortly before my sons birth in January. The Ipad was never synced to the new Itunes account nor did it have an ICloud account. Any help would be greatly appreciated. I can also be reached by email -

    • Natalia

      Hi there. I had the same situation. I nearly lost all my very important photos of my baby!! I couldn’t manage by connecting ipad to the PC. But I’ve managed to send from disabled ipad to iPhone via STREAM PHOTOS. Hope that helps.

      • MAK

        Hi Natalia. How you did that can you please give some instructions. I got couple gig photos and that one time occassion photos. I can’t afford to lose. Please advise

    • Patrick Petruccello


      Did you ever get this resolved without losing the data?

  • Peter Shea

    My daughter cracked the glass on her iPad. We sent it to a company that fixes them. when we got it back it said iPad disabled for 22,667,476 minutes. Does this fix work under these conditions or only when permanently disabled?

  • banana

    i forgot my ipod touch at my friends house on friday and just got it back today (on sunday), and they must of tried to get on it, but they couldn’t because it has a password on it. so, when i turned it on now it keeps saying Ipod is disabled connect to iTunes and there is no arrow slide thingy

    i have already tried turning it all the way off and that didn’t help

    can u help me please???????

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  • kacie oboyle

    it doesnt come up ( kacies ipad ) what will i do or what can i do ?

  • My I Pad is disabled.

    Do i need to log in with my apple id and password first. and then go to file and click on devices.
    But when I click on it, there are Sync, Transfer Purchases, Backup, Restore from Backup. But I tried to click on it but it doesn’t let me.

  • My I Pad is disabled.

    Jeff Herb, When I went into iTunes, it didn’t say recovery mode alert but it said software update. Do I need to update the software first then the recovery mode alert will come out…

    • Jeff Herb

      If you update the software it should re-enable the software much like the backup does. Good luck!

  • Rsix Xanthus Mark

    sir my ipad is also disabled but den i also cant connect it to itunes..den if i connect the itunes said that i need 1st ti enter my password to my ipad..but i cant because my ipad is disabled..please help me..thanks

    • Sally Huntington

      my ipad is disabled, and I cannot connect to iTunes…problem is I can’t connect to anything..the ipad is frozen and the screen color is red..please help..

    • yarjang

      hold home button and lock button until apple logo apears when apple logo appears leave the lock buton then your ipad will says connect to itunes then restore ipad from itunes

  • Sbidani


    My I pad shows a message ” Ipad is disabled” connect to I tunes. This happened after I bought an apple iphone 5 and they synced the iphone5 to the same apple ID ( which would be a natural thing to do).

    Now, I can log into Itunes with the same apple ID, and it shows only one device which is the iphone.

    When I connect the ipad2 to itunes, it identifies it as “Kiosk’s Ipad” and gives a message “Ipad is locked with a passcode” and could not connect to iTunes.

    Please advise

    • Jeff Herb

      Had you synced the iPad with the computer in the past? I assume you have, just clarifying.

  • mitch

    my ipad is disabled abd never been snyced with computer what im going to do?

  • Richard

    no help is useful till now

    • Jeff Herb

      Great to hear, Richard! Thanks for commenting.

  • Donna Robles


  • Deb

    About how long does it take to restore disabled ipad to iTunes?

    • Deborah Jackson

      Can someone please answer this question? Is it suppose to take 7 hours? I don’t have that much data on my ipad.

  • Savannah

    It took a bit of searching in iTunes (it was actually under File – Devices – Transfer Purchases to from iPad and then I x’d things out), but it totally worked!! Thanks!!

  • sunshineannie

    My daughter had a passcode on her ipad2, she kept entering radom numbers bc she forgot it, it has now permanantly disabled the ipad says to connect to Itunes I did that I when I connect it it brings up the screen to backup in icloud or computer and to sync. the message for restore says connect a usb cable to update or restore. when I right click on the ipad name it only brings up eject,sync,backup or reset restore warnings. I also did what you suggested as far as canceling out the backup before it finishes and nothing happened. the computer does bring a pop up when I begin that it can not connect bc of password but Itunes does detect the ipad, I really hope this gives you a little more info to help us with this problem for me I dont care if I loose all my data and it restores back to factory anything to get it working again I am willing to do… Thank you.

  • Jose

    Great solution, thanks!

  • Christie

    This worked perfectly and no data loss! Thank you!!!

  • carameljean

    if the iPad is connected to a computer that it has not been synched with…. and when i click the restore button from the iTunes … it downloads a software update…. what will I do next? Can I still recover the datas? or it will completely erase all datas from the iPad?

  • jackie

    my ipad is disable and I don’t have a computer to connect to iTunes with I need help unlocking my Ipad

  • Uddhav

    Hello Jeff… I manage to connect my disabled ipad2 through itunes. But to my agony, i dont get ‘setup as new ‘ option in my itune. Is ther any other way i can get that option? Thx

  • jess

    Well,my i-pad was disabled for attempting too many passcodes and now i tryed to connect it to itunes but, it doesnt work! :(

  • Teri

    Jeff, one of my children disabled our iPad. our computer has told us several times that an iTunes update is available. If I connect the iPad to my PC & do the update will that enable the iPad to working order. I am not very tech saavy so I am trying to weed through these posts & figure this all out. Thanks for your help!

    • Teri

      Jeff, I saw a post that said updating the software should re-enable the iPad w/o data loss. If I have the software update notice does that mean that the iPad HAS been synced to the PC in question?

  • Teri

    Thank you Jeff!!!!! We just enabled our iPad thanks to you! Thank you for all the help you have given all of us! (We weren’t given the option of setting up as a new iPad or restoring. It was only ‘Set up your new iPad’. Many smiles!

    • Jeff Herb

      Glad it worked for you, Teri!

  • Qually

    What if you have never synced the iPad before?? Will it still work?? Please answer soon. Please ….

  • Habib Rahman

    Hello, i wanted to update the software to iOS6. after updating finish and my ipad restarted it asked for connect to itunes. now i connected the ipad to itunes and clicked on restore. but meanwhile i got the error 9006 which stoped restoring. please help to fix my ipad again.

  • lost

    Hi. My iPad is disabled and says connect to iTunes..I don’t have the computer I synced the iPad anymore, what can I do

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  • Cassidy Ferguson

    What happens after? Does the iPad still have the password or is it gone?

    • Jeff Herb

      The pass code will still remain active, but the iPad will no longer be disabled.

  • Brooks

    Hello All,

    I have looked online for how to restore my Ipad after receiving the disabled message on the device, as well as Itunes. I looked for almost an hour on how to fix the issue and all I got was putting it into DFU mode then restoring via Itunes. WELP that didnt work!

    So I decided to maybe restore using an IPSW found online. I have an Ipad mini so i picked the IPSW corresponding with the device. Put the device in DFU mode, then hit shift(PC) and tried to restore using that. I received another error message after that, so I decided to just simply hit the restore button on Itunes.


    hope this helps someone.

  • julia

    Just had this exact situation, and I followed the above directions, and I completed successfully in about 3 minutes. thanks whoever wrote those instructions!!!!
    saved all my photos :)
    -Julia, from Delaware

  • Bob

    Hi Jeff can you please post a video of this because I just cant afford to lose these pictures

    • Rich The Tech

      I’ve got an ipad 4 that is locked, I plugged it into a mac and was able to download all the photos. no files i’m afraid. (just noticed how long ago you commented, sorry)

  • M.M


  • Dee

    Thanks for this! I found with my ipad, I didn’t have to go as far as restore, all I had to do was sync and immediately cancel, and it was no longer disabled. Thanks again!

  • Alyssa

    Sir, my iPad mini is experiencing a slightly different issue. My friend updated it to the new iOS 7 when I was away and now it won’t even start. Everytime I try to switch it on, it shows a black screen with a USB and an arrow pointing to iTunes logo. I assume it was because she forgot to backup my iPad? What should I do now, because the laptop that I used to sync the iPad with is no longer working?

    • Alyssa

      what I meant was, the iPad has never been synced with any laptop.

      • Jeff Herb


        The iPad is simply wanting to be activated again. This sometimes happens during upgrades and requires you to plug it in to any computer running iTunes. It does not matter if you haven’t synced with that computer before. Hope that helps!

  • dtv

    Your method works great. I was able to get the “disabled” message cleared on an iOS 7 iPad. Thanks so much. You’re my newest hero now.

  • Sarah

    my ipad is not disabled yet bu if i type the password one more time it will be!
    I forgot the password so how can i open it without losing anything on my ipad.
    without losing any pictures, videos, or games! Please answer back AS SOON AS POSSIBLE!!!
    thank you

  • Sarah

    Hi,my ipad is not disabled yet but if I write the password one more time, it will be! How can i open it without deleting anything! I really need your help! THANK YOU!

  • Rich The Tech

    Hi Jeff,
    I have a students iPad that has never been connected to iTunes, is there anything that I can do or am I flogging a dead horse?
    Thanks in advance

  • Nashasnazi

    Hi, my ipad 3 screen went off…. Siri is working and also the can take screen shots… But can’t see anything on the screen and so not able to switch it off… Can any one help me…. Thank u

  • mikecampo

    same issue as RSIX Xanthus Mark. Installed ITunes on my laptop pc and connected ipad to it. message said that ipad is locked and disabled. must enter password which is stupid because if I knew the passcode, I would not be in this predicament and would long on to the ipad. How do I work around this itune message without reformatting the entire ipad and loosing all of my data. HELP PLEASE!! Mike

  • JP

    This worked like a charm! Thanks for sharing.

  • Aslam

    Thanks yOU So much !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! its Really worked for ME ……….. YAHOOOOO !

  • Chanda

    My iPhone 5 is disabled and says Connect to iTunes. I connected my iPhone 5 to my laptop by USB cord. My iTunes program says it can’t connect to my iPhone 5 because it is locked with a passcode and I must enter the passcode on my iPhone before it can be used with iTunes. But I can’t do anything on my iPhone 5 except Connect to iTunes.
    You can show this to anyone who might help, thanks. My iPhone 5 is now an useless brick.

  • cdenesha

    AWESOME. Thank you, I am experiencing this with students now. Thank you for sharing!

  • Kelly Smith

    Yeah I figured this out and thought how easily it is for thieves to use this method, and still get our credit info, buy on our accts etc. I reported it to amazon, and though I was thankful I didn’t lose my info and was able to remove restrictions w/o the long lost password I was left unimpressed w/ the safety of losing an iPad. I had a lost scare a few months ago and was reassured that my info was locked out and safe. When I found it, all my info was there and no passwords or special work was necesarry and that was using my find my iPad app and working w/ apple.

  • KellyS91709

    Yeah I figured this out and thought how easily it is for thieves to use this method, and still get our credit info, buy on our accts etc. I reported it to amazon, and though I was thankful I didn’t lose my info and was able to remove restrictions w/o the long lost password I was left unimpressed w/ the safety of losing an iPad. I had a lost scare a few months ago and was reassured that my info was locked out and safe. When I found it, all my info was there and no passwords or special work was necesarry and that was using my find my iPad app and working w/ apple.

  • Lucie

    I tried to do this but there was no setup as new ipad option. Please help me. I have all my schoolwork on my ipad. I can’t delete anything. Thank you and pleaase respond.

  • Briana

    Ipad locked wanting passcode suddenly. Tried to restore on Itunes. I can’t remember if I ever synced my Ipad with my mac but I hold the home button on the Ipad before connecting to computer. When I connect Itunes recognizes that an Ipad is connected. It prompts for a “check for updates” or “restore ipad” I chose Restore Ipad Download starts but then fails with Itunes stating I need to enter a passcode which I don’t have otherwise I wouldn’t be trying the restore. Very frustrated! It doesn’t matter to me if I lose files on Ipad I just want it to work again. My Itunes also doesn’t give an option of “connect New Ipad” it also doesn’t show in the devices screen. Hopefully someone can help?

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  • lisalettley

    HI My iPad is diable , when i connect to iTunes it says “Tunes could not connect to the iPad “Mine Pad 2 Situation” because it is locked with a passcode. You must enter your passcode on the iPad before it can be used with iTunes.’
    my old mac has water damage so this Mac that I’m using is new and i never backed up mu iPad on it. Please help lol

  • jeff herb’s wife

    the title said that you fix without iTunes.but, you show us using iTunes. later, I will fix your asshole using iTunes!!!!!!!!

  • jeff herb’s wife

    I will plug the usb cable into the hole of your bottom!!!!!!!

  • Jake

    My old iPad is permanently disabled until I connect to iTunes. My sister tried to connect my iPad to iTunes, but it saids that I have to enter a passcode but I can’t.

  • Charles Matheo G

    what should i do? My files is very important and i don’t want to reformat :(

  • Jonathan

    Hey, are you able to unlock an icloud lock on an iPad. I restored my iPad and now it won’t let me in it because I forgot my apple ID.

  • Lg

    I tried it on my disabled iPhone and it worked perfectly! Thank you very much!
    I did not get the option of ‘set up as new iPhone’. Instead I had to click on ‘restore iPhone’, and then I had to wait a little while it was “extracting files” before I canceled it. Otherwise it would just take me back as if nothing had happened.
    You can look at your screen on your iPhone to make sure the disabled message disappears before cancelling the restore.
    Thanks again!

    • G

      Before it said “extracting files” did it first say “extracting software”? Don’t want to go too far and lose data.

  • Vicki Terrell

    Hi Jeff, my ipad 2 is disabled, I don’t think I have sync it with my computer. I tried going into iTunes and it did identify the ipad said that I need the pass word. Is there anyway I can still keep my data or is it lost forever?

  • xyz

    Hi Jeff, I am already on step 3 but unfortunately I cannot proceed to step 5 because there is no “Setup as New Ipad” option.

  • Hollyleaf

    what do you do if stupid itune ( apple products are soooooo messed up these days) wont let you do step number 4 ( like mine)?

    • cdenesha

      Instead of clicking on the iPad name, right click the name of your iPad. Then choose Sync.

  • Hollyleaf

    stupid person breaking in to my house and trieing to break into my ipad i have to restore it ( well there goes floppy birds, instagram, Roblox,Skype, etc……(1,000,000 more apps later).

  • Isabelle91138

    This little girl came to my house and disabled my iPad mini and I know the password and the computer it was previously connected with just broke and I have another computer with iTunes but I doesn’t have the data how do I reactivate my iPad without losing any thing on it?! Please help!

  • Kellie MichelleRandomness Lean

    Excuse me but could you please tell me what a “status window” looks like exactly. Considering timing is obviously everything with this method I would hate to be confused lol

  • Dan

    I need help. i can’t do it right…

  • Kkksmm3

    My son changed the password on his iPad mini then forgot what he changed it to. He’s now disabled the iPad mini and it’s telling us to connect to iTunes (which it has been synced to before). I tried to follow your directions, but I’m getting a window that says “To allow access, please respond on your iPad”. Obviously I can’t do that because it’s disabled. I believe he upgraded to iOS 7 so is that the difference? Is there a different workaround?

    • cdenesha

      It is possible it is due to iOS 7.1.1. I have discovered and reported to Apple a bug that may be related, in that the command to ‘RequestUnlock’ cannot be sent to the device. (For those using Configurator, you can not currently unlock passcode locked devices.) You will probably need to put the iPad in Recovery mode and Restore from backup (iTunes or iCloud).

  • Muskaan007

    My iPad is disabled. I tried to unlock it by iCloud but it says iPad is ”offline”. Plz suggest some way out of this coz it contains many important files.

  • Rickety

    I am currently permanently locked out of my 4s but I have remembered my password. Is there anyway I can unlock it without losing any data?

  • steven

    sir my I pad is on a screen and it shows a charger and an arrow pointing to the iTunes logo no matter how much I try tuning it of it still wont work please help me

  • Amy Bero

    I followed the directions up to number 3, but when I plug it in a box pops up that says do you want to allow this computer access to “Amy’s iPad” if you don’t allow, you will not be able to manage or sync your ipad with this computer.

    Then I hit continue and it says to allow access please respond on your ipad…which I cannot do because my child disabled it with too many guesses & now it says ipad disabled connect to iTunes.

    So I am stuck. When I don’t continue or stop the process the box suggests there is zero I can do.


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