What to do when you encounter Activation Error on your iPhone SE after factory reset/restore [Troubleshooting Guide]

This post contains standard solutions and troubleshooting procedures used to deal with activation errors that occur on an #Apple iPhone SE (#iPhoneSE) device after a hard reset. If by any chance you bumped into this page while searching for a fix to a similar issue with your iPhone, then feel free to try any of the following methods which you think is most applicable.


Performing a factory reset is a widely known method that is usually used as a last resort to fix software-related issues affecting various mobile devices including iPhones. While many have found this method helpful and effective in several circumstances, others have ended up having another problem after the reset. And one of these is manifested by an activation error that prompts after restoring your iPhone as new/from a backup, or resetting your iPhone to its factory settings.

Now, before we proceed with our troubleshooting, if you have other concerns with your new iPhone SE, drop by our troubleshooting page for we have already published some guides and tutorials. You may also contact us by completing our iPhone issues questionnaire. This is a free consultation servicer we offer and all we need is information about the problem. So please give us that so that we can help you better.

Possible Causes

Activation errors are often tied to a network issue, which means that your iPhone could not be activated because the activation server is not available for the moment. In most cases, it turned out to be the Apple servers having some troubles. Other possible culprits would include SIM card issues, Activation Lock settings configuration, as well as iTunes problems (if using iTunes to activate iPhone). For instance, iTunes was unable to recognize or verify your device.

Activation problems are often manifested with pertinent alert messages as you try to activate your iPhone. You might be prompted with a message saying, “Activation server is unavailable, “SIM card is unsupported,” “Activation couldn’t be completed” and the like.

Meanwhile, other users who have encountered the same problem were seeing a message prompting them to sign with an Apple ID to activate. In this case, you will need to check on the Activation Lock feature in Find My iPhone as it is possible that it’s activated.

Standard Solutions and Troubleshooting Procedures

The following solutions are based on the earlier mentioned possible causes. Here are the things you should do if ever you encounter any of the aforesaid error prompts while trying to activate your iPhone after a reset or restore:

Step 1. Check the SIM card for possible malfunctions.

If the message is saying something about the SIM card and your iPhone uses a SIM card, make sure that the SIM card is properly secured in your iPhone. Your iPhone might still require the SIM card to activate even without an active contract. If you are seeing a No SIM card error or Invalid SIM alerts, then make sure that the SIM card is not damaged, or locked. Usually in this case, you will need to contact your carrier for network or activation assistance, or if needed, SIM card replacement.

Step 2. Device Activation Server is not available.

Sometimes, the culprit is the server itself. To ensure this isn’t your case, head on to Apple website and see if the service is available. Here’s what you should do:

  • Check the system status page from the official Apple website.
  • Scroll to iOS Device Activation.
  • If you see the box next to it is not green, it means the service is currently unavailable.

Having said that, try activating your iPhone later.

Step 3. Activation Lock may be enabled.

If you are prompted to enter a password, it is most likely that the Activation Lock feature is activated in Find My iPhone. In this case, you will need to enter the correct password for your Apple ID account to proceed.

Step 4. Restart your iPhone.

It’s a widely used method in fixing minor software glitches including this one. So go ahead and do the following:

  1. Press and hold the Sleep/Wake button until the red slider appears.
  2. Drag the slider to turn your iPhone completely off, wait for a few seconds and then press and hold the Sleep/Wake button until the Apple logo appears.

Alternatively, you can force restart your device by pressing and holding both the Sleep/Wake and Home buttons for at least 10 seconds until the Apple logo appears.

Step 5. Disconnect and Re-connect to a reliable Wi-Fi network.

If the error occurs while using a certain wireless network or cellular data connection, try to use a reliable wireless network instead. This means you need to enable Wi-Fi feature (if necessary) on your iPhone. Otherwise, scan for available wireless network you can connect to.

Step 6. Use iTunes.

If you don’t have an available Wi-Fi network to connect to, try connecting to iTunes and activate your iPhone via iTunes instead. In this regard, you will need a computer with the latest version of iTunes app installed.

Step 7. Restore your iPhone via Recovery Mode.

A computer with the latest iTunes version installed would be necessary in this process. Connect your iPhone to the computer and follow these steps:

  1. Press and hold the Sleep/Wake and Home buttons simultaneously. Do not release the buttons when the Apple logo appears. Keep holding both buttons until the recovery mode screen shows up.
  2. When you see the option to Restore or Update, select Update.
  3. Wait for iTunes to attempt to reinstall iOS without erasing your data. You should see iTunes initiate software downloads for your device. If the download takes more than 15 minutes and your iPhone exits recovery mode, allow the download to finish then repeat these steps.

Wait until the Update or Restore completes and then set up your device.

Other Helpful Tricks

  • Log out of your Apple ID account and then log back in.
  • Toggle Airplane Mode on and off. Go to Settings-> Airplane Mode, toggle the On/Off switch to turn it on, wait for about 10 seconds and then disable Airplane Mode again.
  • Use of iOS System Recovery software. Resorting to a third-party app for iOS system recovery is also another option you can try on. That is in case you are still unable to get rid of the activation error after doing every possible means to fix it. If you are decided, just pick a reliable tool available for and compatible with device.

If none of the aforementioned solutions was able to fix the problem, then it’s time to contact Apple Support or your carrier for further assistance and other options.

Connect with us

Visit our troubleshooting page to view more solutions to other iPhone problems we have addressed in our prior posts. If you wish to reach our iOS support team for further assistance, then you may do so by filling up this form with all the required information. Be sure to provide us with the significant details of the issue that you need help with so we would be able to give you the best possible solutions and recommendations to try on.