How to put your iPad in DFU mode to restore a totally unresponsive device, as a last resort

iPad 2018

  • You can put an iPad in DFU mode – Device Firmware Update mode – to restore an iPad that seems to have malfunctioned beyond all use.
  • DFU mode will allow you to use your iPad again, but in so doing you will lose all your files, pictures, and everything else in its memory.
  • Apple makes using DFU mode intentionally complicated so you don’t do it accidentally, and it can be a frustrating process to complete, but it may be your only option to salvage an iPad. 
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If your iPad seems fried – if the apps and programs constantly malfunction or, beyond that, it’s completely unresponsive – the issue might not be the hardware, but the software. 

The bad news is that any file you didn’t back up elsewhere may be lost (an expert at the Apple Store or elsewhere might be able to help, but don’t hold your breath). 

The good news is that you can breathe new life into an iPad by using Device Firmware Update mode to completely replace the failed software. 

Using DFU mode is a serious step; it means accepting that the iPad as you knew it – all photos, videos, apps, and more – will be gone. 

It’s also a multi-step process that can be a serious headache, and that you may need to try a few times. But the frustration is worth the hundreds you won’t spend on a brand new iPad. 

Here’s how to do it. 

Check out the products mentioned in this article:

iPad (From $329.99 at Best Buy)

How to put an iPad in DFU mode

Read through these instructions a few times before you start the process, as the steps are time-sensitive and you’ll need to be ready. 

1. Connect your iPad to a Mac computer that has iTunes open – the iPad might not show up in iTunes immediately; don’t worry about that, keep going.

2. Hold down the power button and home button on the iPad. If the iPad was on, once the screen goes black, count to three. If it was off, once you see the Apple logo, count to three. (It should take about 10 seconds before you count to three in both cases.)

3. After that three second count, release the power button (on the side) but keep holding the home button (circle on the front bottom).


4. Keep holding the home button until you see this message on the screen: “iTunes has detected an iPad in recovery mode. You must restore this iPad before it can be used with iTunes.”

5. Click “OK” on the message above.

6. Click “Restore and Update.”

The latest available iOS operating system will now be automatically loaded onto the iPad, and the iPad will be wiped clean of everything that was on it, including the faulty software that plagued it.

Related coverage from How To Do Everything: Tech:

  • How to backup your iPad to iCloud or a computer 

  • ‘Why won’t my iPad connect to Wi-Fi?’: How to fix your iPad’s Wi-Fi connection in 4 different ways

  • How to restart and force-restart any iPad model

  • How to connect an iPad to your TV in two different ways

SEE ALSO: The best iPads you can buy

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