With older devices like iPhone 4 and 4s, an upgrade to iOS 7 or 7.1 can put your iPhone in the dreaded recovery loop. Connecting to iTunes to restore has no effect and your iPhone is stuck in the recovery mode for eternity.

When this happens, what do you do? How to kick the iPhone 4/4s out of the recovery mode and update successfully to iOS 7 or 7.1? Also, if you need to save data in the process, how to do that?

iPhone 4 4s Stuck in Recovery When Updating to iOS 7-7.1

RecBoot to Kick out of Recovery
If the iPhone is stuck in the recovery mode, all you’re going to see on it is the iTunes icon and the cable – telling you to plug your device to iTunes and restore. But the problem in our case is restore doesn’t work. Which means there’s something wrong with the way your iPhone lapsed into the recovery mode. Our first option, then, is to kick it out of the recovery mode.

One easy way to do this would be to use a software. RecBoot does it pretty neatly. It comes with two buttons: Enter Recovery Mode and Exit Recovery Mode.

  • Connect your iPhone to the computer
  • Start RecBoot
  • Next, click on Exit Recovery Mode
  • This should (hopefully) get your iPhone switched off. Power it on and it should be booting up normally.
  • Next up, connect to iTunes. Don’t upgrade/update. Backup the iPhone and then do a clean restore.

Getting into Recovery Mode, Correctly
If the iPhone got into a problematic recovery mode, that could be one of the reasons why iTunes refuses to restore the device correctly. One way of fixing this would be to put your iPhone into the recovery mode again, manually.

To do this (if your iPhone is now on the recovery mode screen):

  • Disconnect the iPhone from the computer
  • Press the home and power button simultaneously till the screen goes blank
  • Now, press the home button (keep pressing it) and connect the iPhone to the computer
  • The iPhone should now show the Apple boot logo
  • And it will enter the recovery mode
  • Now, fire up iTunes and try restore

(note that in this method, we’re assuming that you have a backup already.)

We’ve discussed about iPhone’s recovery mode here.

DFU Mode
If the objective is to upgrade to iOS 7 or 7.1 (assuming you have backups already), the DFU mode can be helpful. The DFU mode is specifically for iTunes to proceed with the device upgrade without throwing any errors.

To get your iPhone into the DFU mode:

  • Switch off the iPhone
  • Press the Power button for about 2 seconds
  • Then, press the home button (while keeping the power button pressed) for about 10 seconds
  • After this, release the power button but keep the home button pressed for about 15 seconds
  • This puts the iPhone in DFU mode.

There is nothing visibly different on the screen that tells you your iPhone is in DFU. But when you connect to the computer, iTunes will inform you that the iPhone is in DFU. You can then proceed to upgrade the firmware without a problem.

Running into Other iTunes Errors Afterwards
After this process, as iTunes tries to restore and upgrade your iPhone, you might run into other errors like 3194 or 16xx. You’ll have to follow the links to try to fix these issues.

What if nothing works?
Or what if you don’t have a recent backup but you definitely need to protect the data? Take your iPhone to the Apple store. The methods outlined above usually involve restoring the iPhone as new and then using a previous backup to get the data back on your iPhone. If you did not backup most recently but have data on the iPhone that’s vital, you might not be able to restore till you safely copy the data to someplace.

If you are able to successfully power up the iPhone and get the backup rolling, you can then try all kinds of workarounds to restore successfully. In the off-chance that you aren’t able to do that, the Apple store is the next best solution.

Note: the recovery mode issue seems to affect – mostly – older iOS devices like the iPhone 4 and 4s. If an iPhone 5s/5/5c ends up in the recovery mode too, you can follow the same steps.