If you enter your password incorrectly too many times, you’ll be left with a locked device. You probably rarely do it voluntarily, but occasionally someone grabs the iPhone and taps on it like crazy – maybe your toddler. Before the iPhone is completely locked, it shows several other error messages. For example, this one: "iPhone is disabled, try again in 1 minute." Or this one: "iPhone is disabled, try again in 60 minutes". But if you screw up again and again, you will end up with: "iPhone is disabled, connect to iTunes". The warnings with waiting time should not be ignored, because once the latter error message occurs, the restore process via iTunes or the Finder (as of macOS 10.15 Catalina) will also delete all data on the phone. If you make regular backups, you’re on the safe side – but it’s still annoying and time-consuming.
What do the error messages "iPhone is disabled" mean? but specifically?
As a rule, they mean that you have entered the password to unlock your iPhone too often. Or someone else (have you let your kids play with your iPhone maybe once?). To protect you from a possible hacking attempt, the device locks itself for a while. Because if a potential thief could just keep on guessing passwords – in the worst case even with a matching software that tests much faster than a human – a hack would not be a problem anymore. With a 4-digit security code there are only 10.000 possible combinations. A human would need 4 hours and 6 minutes to try them all – a computer only 6 minutes and 34 seconds…
To eliminate this risk, iOS deliberately stops password entry if it was previously entered incorrectly too many times. With up to 5 wrong attempts everything is still in the green zone. With 6 or 7 wrong entries you are already punished with a waiting time. From the tenth wrong entry, that’s it – your iPhone will be locked.
Here is an overview of the error messages:
5 incorrect entries: "iPhone is disabled, try again in 1 minute."
6 incorrect entries: "iPhone is disabled, try again in 5 minutes"."
7 incorrect entries: "iPhone is deactivated, try again in 15 minutes."
8 Misentries: "iPhone is disabled, try again in 60 minutes."
9 incorrect entries: "iPhone locked by owner:in"
By the way, the above mentioned time delays are automatically activated on your iPhone and cannot be turned off or shortened.
The only way to avoid these error messages is to be a little more careful when entering your password. Alternatively, switch your phone protection to Touch ID or Face ID (if your device supports it), or do away with a password altogether (although we strongly advise against this last option for security reasons).
On the other hand, for those who need even more protection, there is an optional, tougher security measure that will completely wipe the device if someone enters the wrong code 10 times in a row. However, this is only really useful if you have data stored on your iPhone that must not fall into the wrong hands under any circumstances. If you want to enable the feature, go to "Settings> Touch ID& Password" and activate the button next to "Erase data" in the menu at the very bottom.
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The easiest solution: Wait
With up to nine wrong guesses you have to do nothing but wait. You will notice that the message to try again in X minutes counts backwards. This way you can see how long it will take until the next attempt is made. Emergency calls can of course be made at any time during the waiting period.
Once the waiting time is over, your iPhone’s screen will change back to normal mode and you can try again. But be careful: If you do it wrong again, you will end up on the waiting list again. Once you have reached the longest waiting time of 60 minutes, you have only one chance left. If there’s another error, the only way to reactivate your iPhone is to connect it to iTunes (or the Finder in newer macOS versions). So if you are unsure about the password before, it is best to write down all the entries you have made. iOS unfortunately also counts identical multiple entries of a (wrong) password as separate errors. So better do not repeat yourself. If your iPhone is already beyond recovery, proceed as follows:
Restore iPhone with iTunes or Finder
If you have only reached this point, you should hope that your last backup was not so long ago. Because even if you can restore your iPhone using iTunes or Finder, this process will erase all data. You do have a backup… right?!
You can choose to restore via a local backup or via iCloud. We’ll look at the option via iTunes respectively the Finder – it’s generally easier.
Connect your iPhone to the Mac or PC it normally syncs with and start iTunes (or open the Finder under macOS 10).15 Catalina or newer). If you don’t have a computer that is synced with your iPhone, you can either use maintenance mode or reactivate the device via iCloud. If iTunes asks you for your password on startup (yeah, pretty stupid situation), handle the process via maintenance mode as well.
Wait until your computer wants to sync your device. Then click "Restore iPhone" and follow the on-screen instructions. Once the wipe is complete, you will be taken to the setup screen – just as if you were setting up a new device. You will also get the option to restore a backup at this point.
Use maintenance mode
Maintenance mode is a more drastic method of reactivating your device and may be worth a try if the above strategy didn’t work. Here’s how to put your iPhone into maintenance mode:
Connect the USB cable to your computer, but do not connect it to the iPhone
Open Finder on Macs new Macs (MacOS Catalina and above) or iTunes on Windows and older Macs
Press and hold the home button (iPhone X and later – volume up button) and the power button for 10 seconds until the iPhone turns off
Continue to hold down the home button (iPhone X and later – volume up button), but release the power button
Plug in the USB dock/Lightning connector to connect iPhone to Mac (hold down the Home or. Volume up button still pressed)
The Finder or iTunes should now display a message that an iPhone has been detected in maintenance mode.
If iTunes doesn’t solve the problem…
Repairing a disabled iPhone is not always as simple as described above. Some iPhone owners find that connecting the disabled iPhone to iTunes or the Finder doesn’t do much. If both the restore via iTunes and the maintenance mode didn’t achieve any effect, you may still be able to wipe your iPhone with iCloud, which we will explain in the next section.
Restore iPhone with iCloud
If the iPhone is locked after nine or more attempts, you can restore it from the latest iCloud backup. This option appears as soon as the device has connected to wifi after unlocking it. When selecting this option, you will also see how up-to-date the backup is. From experience it is a few hours to a few days old.