Marcus Mears III / Geek Review

If your iPhone displays an “iPhone not available” error with a timer, simply wait for the timer to expire, and then carefully enter your passcode correctly. If you don’t see a timer, you’ll need to wipe your device and restore it from your most recent backup.

You’ve taken your iPhone out of your pocket only to receive an error message saying “iPhone not available” with seemingly no solution. So why does this “unavailable” lock screen appear, how do you fix it, and how can you avoid it in the future?

What does “iPhone not available” mean?

Black “iPhone not available” screen appears after too many incorrect password attempts. It’s meant to protect against brute force attacks, where someone trying to gain access to your iPhone tries as many passcodes as possible in an attempt to force their way in.

Enter your iPhone password

In most cases, you’ll see a timer below the message letting you know how long to wait before your iPhone becomes available again. After five incorrect attempts, the timer is set to one minute, and the delay increases to five, 15, and 60 minutes with each subsequent attempt.

After 10 incorrect password attempts, your iPhone will be permanently locked, with no timer displayed.

RELATED: How to make your iPhone more secure when it’s locked

Fix “iPhone not available” by waiting for it to finish

Assuming your iPhone shows a period of delay on the “iPhone not available” lock screen, the simplest solution is to wait. After the time is up, you will be able to unlock your iPhone with the correct passcode. Be very careful when doing this, as entering the wrong passcode will increase the time again (for example, from one minute to five on the second try).

iPhone lock screen not available error

Fix “iPhone not available” by restoring your iPhone

If you don’t see a timer, and instead your iPhone simply displays an “iPhone unavailable” message, this means that no amount of waiting will fix the problem. Your iPhone is permanently locked and will need to be erased and restored from scratch again. You should still be able to call emergency services using the “Emergency” button at the bottom of the screen if the need arises.

iPhone Unavailable Button "Emergency" visible

Some versions of iOS will display an “Erase iPhone” button on the lock screen that you can use to complete this process. Tap on it, confirm that you want to erase everything, then enter your Apple ID password. Your iPhone will now be back to factory settings. You’ll need to set it up from scratch and restore from an iCloud, macOS, or iTunes (Windows) backup.

Alternatively, you can connect your iPhone to a Mac or Windows PC and restore it that way. macOS or iTunes for Windows will detect that your iPhone needs attention and provide an option to “Restore” the software to the device. You will need to enter your Apple ID password as part of this process.

Lastly, there are third-party apps that claim to be able to turn off the “iPhone not available” screen for a pretty hefty fee. We can’t confirm that they work, especially since Apple is constantly changing the software that runs on the iPhone. The safest option is to wipe your device and restore it from a backup.

Avoid turning on “iPhone unavailable” in the future

The only way to avoid the iPhone not available issue in the future is to make sure you don’t enter the wrong passcode too many times. Sometimes this happens by mistake in your pocket or while holding your iPhone in your hand. Young children may also unknowingly trigger the “iPhone not available” screen.

Be careful when typing your passcode, make sure Face ID is working (or rescan your fingerprints if you use Touch ID) so you don’t have to enter your passcode most of the time.

Mistakes can happen, and the safest thing to do is make sure you have iCloud backup enabled, or manually back up with macOS or iTunes for Windows.

RELATED: How to Backup and Restore Your iPhone or iPad Without iTunes