Fix: An update is required to activate your iPhone

The error “An update is required to activate your iPhone” can be very confusing. Especially if you’ve just updated iOS or reset your iPhone.

Now, to save you the confusion, we’re here to discuss why this happens and what you must do to fix the problem. Keep reading.

Why your iPhone shows that it is unable to activate

The possible causes for this error include:

  • Your device hasn’t connected to a network or the network is unstable.
  • The SIM card is not supported by your iPhone or it’s inserted badly.
  • The activation lock is ON.
  • The activation servers might be down temporarily.
  • A bad USB connection.
  • iTunes failed to verify your device.
  • The mobile carrier is experiencing technical issues.

Fortunately, whatever the problem is, there is a fix for it. And they are all DIY so you don’t have to spend money hiring a technician.

How to fix “iPhone needs an update to activate” error

update required activate iPhone

Try out these solutions:

1. Check the Apple system status

This is the simplest solution to the iPhone activation failure. First, go to the Apple system status page to see if the servers are live.

The iOS device activation box should be green. If it isn’t then the servers might be congested so you should try and activate the iPhone later.

2. Re-insert the SIM card

SIM card issues could also prompt the “An update is required to activate your iPhone” error message. So, to fix it, try and re-insert your SIM card.

Follow the steps below:

  • First, switch off the iPhone.
  • Remove the SIM card tray.
  • Take out the SIM card.
  • Wait a few minutes then position the SIM card properly on the tray.
  • If it’s a dual SIM card phone, make sure you put them in their respective spot.
  • Push the tray back into the phone.
  • Switch ON your iPhone and try to activate it again.

Check if your SIM card is compatible

Contact Apple support and ask about the SIM card that your iPhone can use. If yours is incompatible, then you should consider changing to a carrier that’s supported so that the iPhone can activate.

Also, you can reach out to the carrier about the issue to see if they have a reliable solution.

3. Force restart your iPhone

If your iPhone activation failed because of a software crash or bug, a simple force restart should solve the problem. Here is how to force restart different iPhone models:

iPhone 8 or Later

  • Quickly press and release the Volume Up button.
  • Quickly press and release the Volume Down button.
  • Press and hold the power button until you see the Apple logo.
  • Once the iPhone turns On, try and activate it.

iPhone 7 and 7 Plus

  • Press and hold the Power button and Volume Down button simultaneously until you see the Apple logo.
  • Once the iPhone turns On, try and activate it.

iPhone 6s or Earlier

  • Press and hold the Power button and Home button simultaneously until the Apple logo appears on the screen.
  • Once the iPhone turns On, try and activate it.

4. Switch to another network

If you still get the message that an update is required to activate an iPhone, the problem could be your network connection.

Try and switch to a stable network and see if it works. For instance, if you’re using the cellular network, switch to Wi-Fi.

5. Turn off the activation lock

iPhone activation lock

If the iPhone you’re trying to activate belonged to someone else, then they probably have the activation lock on.

You’ll have to enter their Apple ID and password and proceed to turn off the Activation lock. Ideally, they can log in to the Find My iPhone App and remove the device from their iCloud.

6. Activate using iTunes or Finder

You can actually activate your iPhone using iTunes or Finder. Follow the guide below:

  • Open your PC
  • Make sure it has the latest version of iTunes.
  • Connect your iPhone to the PC using a USB cable.
  • Wait for the PC to detect and start to activate your iPhone.
  • You may have to enter your Apple ID and password.
  • When you see the notification “Set up as new” or “Restore from backup”, the activation was successful.

If you get an error message saying “activation information was invalid” or “activation information could not be obtained from the device” you should proceed to update the iPhone in recovery mode.

7. Update and restore through recovery mode

The next solution for “an update is required to activate an iPhone” is to update and restore your iPhone through recovery mode.

Unfortunately, you might lose data in the process. So, make sure to back up your iPhone before putting it in recovery mode.

How to put your iPhone into recovery mode

  • Connect your iPhone to a PC or Mac using a USB cable. Make sure they’re connected to the internet.
  • For the PC, open the latest version of iTunes.
  • For a Mac that runs macOS Catalina or later, launch Finder.
  • If the Mac runs macOS Mojave or earlier, launch iTunes.
  • Force restart your iPhone using the steps mentioned above for different iPhone models. Stop when you see the recovery-mode screen.
  • The PC or Mac will detect your device and give you the option to either update or restore.
  • Select Update and follow the on-screen instructions
  • After the update and restoration are complete, try and activate your iPhone.


We hope that one of the solutions above helps you to fix the error “An update is required to activate your iPhone”.

But, if nothing works feel free to reach out to Apple support and your SIM card carrier support team too. They are better-placed to understand your predicament and provide working solutions.