iPad Recovery Mode: Fix a Locked or Stuck-at-Apple-Logo iPad

A Guide to the iPad Recovery Mode

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Getty Images / Mauro Grigollo
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Resetting the iPad to its factory default settings is the nuclear option when it comes to troubleshooting.  For most issues, simply rebooting the iPad will fix the problem.  It's amazing what a simple reboot will do for the iPad, although it is important to follow the right procedure when rebooting.  When that fails, choosing to erase all settings and data and start from scratch becomes an option.

 But what happens when you can't even reset the iPad?   If the iPad is locked or continually gets stuck at the Apple logo, you'll need to go beyond nuclear and force the iPad into recovery mode.

The iPad's recovery mode is a process that uses iTunes on your PC or Mac in order to bypass the normal operation on your iPad.  If the iPad has been disabled or something went wrong with a previous update and it now freezes at the Apple logo, this process can force the iPad to reset to its fresh-out-of-the-box factory default settings.  

Remember, this should only be used when you cannot get into the iPad to operate it.   If your iPad boots up but freezes often while you use it, you can use some basic troubleshooting steps to help fix the problem. 

And before you try this option, make sure you have tried forcing a reboot.  If you iPad is merely frozen, even if it is at the Apple logo, try holding down the Sleep/Wake button for a full thirty seconds to see if it will power down.

 Once the iPad's screen goes completely dark, wait a few seconds and then press the button again to power it back on.  If the iPad reboots but gets stuck at the Apple Logo again, or it simply won't reboot, you will need to continue with these instructions.  

If you do not already have iTunes installed on your PC or Mac, you can download it from Apple's website.

How to Enter Recovery Mode on the iPad:

  1. Connect a USB cable to your PC. The cable that comes with the iPad can be used to connect it to your PC. Only connect the USB cable to your PC, not your iPad. Connecting the cable to your iPad must be done in the proper order.
  2. Turn off your iPad. You can accomplish this by holding down the Sleep/Wake button at the top of the iPad until a red slider appears on the screen. Activate the slider to turn the iPad off.
  3. Hold down the Home Button. The Home button is the round button at the bottom of the iPad, below the screen. While holding down the home button, connect the USB cable to the iPad. Your iPad should power on at this point. Keep holding the Home button down until you see the iTunes logo appear on the screen.
  4. If you see a battery on the screen, you will need to let the iPad charge for a bit and then repeat these steps.
  5. You are now in the iPad's recovery mode. You will receive a message on the screen alerting you that you have entered recovery mode. At this point, you can restore the iPad through iTunes using these instructions.  

This process will work from any computer, so if you don't own a PC and never turned on Find My iPad, you can go through this process using a friend's computer.

If you have backed up your iPad using iTunes or iCloud, you should be able to recover everything up to the point of your backup. But even if you haven't backed up your iPad, you can still recover any apps that you have previously purchased by downloading them from the App Store.

What if you don't have access to a computer?

If your iPad is locked and you don't have access to a computer, you can use Find My iPhone/iPad to wipe it remotely. You can either use the Find My iPhone app on your iPhone or you can go to www.icloud.com from any device that can connect to the web and then simply log on using your Apple ID.

To wipe your iPad remotely, choose your iPad (click the blue button if you are on the map screen) and then choose "Erase iPad".  Get more help erasing the iPad remotely.

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