Fixing a Disabled iPad

Too much security for casual users?

If you can’t remember the passcode for your iPad, try to resist the urge to keep guessing. If you keep going for long enough then the iPad will eventually be disabled, and the way out of that can be complicated. The idea is that stolen iPads are of no use to thieves, so there’s no incentive to steal them. However, people who are not very familiar with computers can find it difficult to follow all the ‘rules’ and end up getting locked out of devices that they legally own.

Don’t keep guessing passcodes

I was recently asked to fix a disabled iPad for a customer who hadn’t used it for a very long time, and as a result had forgotten the passcode. Unfortunately she had repeatedly tried to remember it, without success, and ended up with the iPad being disabled. After being handed a piece of paper with some account names and passwords written on it, I was able to log in to the customer’s iCloud account. However, no Apple devices were registered to that account, so it was not possible to use the ‘Find My Device’ facility.

Nothing’s ever easy

When an iPad has been disabled, a message saying so appears on the screen, along with a suggestion that you connect the device to Apple’s iTunes software, which is used for all kinds of purposes, not just music. One of the things that you can do with iTunes is restore a disabled iPad to normal operation. This should be simple, but of course isn’t. It ought to be possible to connect the disabled iPad to iTunes, go onto the Internet with iTunes, prove that you own the iPad, and let Apple’s security systems re-enable the device. However, the procedure is unfortunately much more painful than that.

Forced to upgrade

First you have to start up the disabled iPad in a special recovery mode. Apple’s instructions for doing this aren’t at all clear, but with luck you can eventually find out how to do it for your specific device from online forums. The next step is to start iTunes, which will see that the iPad is in recovery mode and offer to upgrade or reset it. Even if you choose the reset option, iTunes will still insist on upgrading the iPad’s operating system (iOS) as part of the process. The last thing you need when trying to recover from a problem is to be forced to do extra tasks that aren’t strictly necessary.

The iTunes download process is moronic

Anyway, the next thing that happens is iTunes will start downloading an entire new pile of software for the iPad. In my case this was 1.8 GB in size and there was no way it was going to download successfully in one go. To see exactly how the download mechanism worked, I asked to pause it after a few minutes, with a view to then resuming. It’s just as well I did this experiment, because when I tried to carry on with the download it just started all over again from scratch. I’ve seen some stupid software in my time, but this was ridiculous. Surely Apple must have realised how absurd this was.

Where was iTunes finding the new software?

All I wanted to do was enable the iPad, but now I was being forced into finding a devious way to get the iPad software downloaded. Thankfully I found a website at ‘’ that had a lot of iOS software versions available for download, including iOS 10.3.3 that I needed. The website didn’t host all the available versions of Apple software, it just re-directed me to the appropriate Apple server. Therefore I was downloading official Apple software, not software that might have been adulterated.

An alternative downloading method

Anyway, now I had to find a sensible way of downloading the software that I needed. There were plenty of download manager programs available, and I chose to use a simple one called uGet, which downloaded what I needed in a few attempts. Whenever the download froze, I took a break and carried on later. Eventually I had the 1.8 GB file that I needed, containing iOS 10.3.3, despite the fact thay my Internet connection was not particularly fast or reliable.

Resetting the disabled iPad

The next step was to use iTunes to load the iOS software onto the iPad then verify the installation with Apple. Clicking the iTunes ‘restore’ button would simply start the broken downloading process again, but holding down the Shift key while clicking the ‘restore’ button provide the opportunity to load the iPad with software from an existing file (in my case called ‘iPad_32bit_10.3.3_14G60_Restore.ipsw’). After doing this, and waiting for a few minutes, the iPad was finally working again and said ‘Hello’. The only thing I had to do then was set it up for the customer as if it were brand new.