A friend asked me to help her with her old iPhone 4 (she has upgraded to a 7). When I turn it on, it says, "iPhone is disabled" and "connect to iTunes."

When I do so, iTunes reports that it is locked with a passcode, and that I need to type that in to continue. However, the iPhone does not display a keypad or allow any sort of input.

Apple suggests the only solution is a wipe, but this will lose all of her photos.

Can photos be retrieved (at a minimum) from a disabled iPhone 4?

3 Answers 3


No. Unless you can wait the timeout and somehow enter the correct passcode, you would need to open the device and physically bypass or short circuit the protection in some way.

This brute force stack could succeed faster than the hundred hours if you are sure the erase after 10 wrong entries isn’t enabled.

For most people, erasing it eventually is the only practical option.


This happens when the wrong passcode has been entered 10 times. The stages escalate from a 1-minute lock after 5 incorrect attempts, to a 60-minute lock after 9 incorrect attempts. After the 10th incorrect attempt, depending on the setting under SettingsPasscode, either the iPhone gets wiped, or you get the message you describe.

Since your friend is worried about losing all her photos with a wipe, it's safe to assume she did not have iCloud Backup enabled, or that she was running iOS 4? Because if she does have a backup in iCloud, you could simply wipe the phone and restore it.

According to OS X Daily, you need to plug the phone into iTunes on the computer it was previously synced with. Then you should be able to Sync it by entering the correct passcode directly into iTunes. This will trigger a new backup, after which you'll be able to Restore her iPhone from this backup.

If this doesn't work for you, then the only way to regain access to that iPhone is to wipe it. Because the contents of the phone are encrypted, not even Apple can recover the data for you.

  • If it was never synced is there no hope? If it was synched, that machine is on an island off the coast of Vancouver and I'm typing this in Toronto. Aug 9, 2017 at 0:36
  • 1
    You could always try with your own computer, but probably the only hope is that she had an iCloud backup… If not, please make sure she has that enabled on her new iPhone 7 😨
    – user11633
    Aug 9, 2017 at 0:39
  • Yes, her new phone is backed up. I tried on my machine and it did not work. Aug 10, 2017 at 16:56

Try to remove the passcode by restoring the iPhone 4S from iTunes or Find My iPhone in iCloud if you've enabled it before. But the issue here is that you will lose your data by following the above method, which you should be aware of it. Besides, if you have set up to automatically backup in iTunes before, your phone will be auto sync while connecting to iTunes. If no, then click to restore the data on your own.

Besides, I have tried another way to recover photos from locked iPhone before, which is using the Windows Media Gallery on my PC to import the photos. But provided you have clicked to trust PC on your iPhone before. Hope this would do a favor for you.

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