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iOS 6 upgrade freeze resolved

Posted: Mon Oct 15, 2012 10:18 pm
by JerryFreilich
Had an interesting case arise today. A friend was updating her iPhone 3 GS to iOS 6 and after seeing the phone restart showing the black screen with white Apple logo, she thought the upgrade complete and disconnected the phone from the computer (actually a Windoze PC). Apparently she disconnected too soon because the phone was not completely done installing the new OS. The result was that the phone showed a black screen and couldn't be seen by iTunes. If you go to Apple's website you'll see quite a number of postings with this or similar problems.

Shutting down the phone and restarting it, the phone showed a black screen with white Apple logo followed by the image below that clearly asks you to connect the phone to the computer. However, connecting the phone to the computer still did not work and iTunes still failed to "see" it. It remained in this state despite repeated reboots of the computer, the phone, and restarts of iTunes.

A post on Apple's website describes a procedure where you launch iTunes on the computer but keep the phone unconnected. They then suggest that you HOLD DOWN the Home button on the phone and keep it held down while you reconnect the phone to the computer. In some cases, apparently, this magically allows iTunes to "see" the phone and then send up a box saying you are in "Recovery Mode" and do you want to restore the phone?

In my case today holding down the Home button DID NOT work! So I called Apple's over the phone tech support (by filling out the little form on the Support page of their website). The result was instantaneous and extremely helpful. I was on the phone with an Apple rep in 30 seconds who suggested that my approach was correct but suggested three additional things to check: 1. Ensure that the computer is running iTunes 7.2 latest version. 2. Try a different computer, and 3. Try a different USB port. My friend skipped step 2 in this case, but as soon as she plugged in to another of the computer's USB ports, iTunes instantly "saw" the phone and asked if she wanted to restore it. Problem fixed.

Curiously, these three suggestions were made by the Apple rep I talked to. The phone's owner talked to a different rep (she not realizing that I was already talking to Apple) who made NONE of those three suggestions and after trying the hold down button method, told her that the phone was defective and needed to be returned! Hmm, not the best service. A little persistence pays.

I learned from this whole episode that when an iPhone shows that icon "connect to iTunes" it means that the phone is in "Recovery Mode" and is actively trying to repair itself. Clever and also useful human interface design. It would have been nice if Apple was more upfront about explaining this. I found virtually no reference to "Recovery Mode" in the Apple tech bulletins... and found such reference only in the Community bulletin board help postings. Another thing I learned from the Rep is that Apple DOES NOT CHARGE for telephone help on these iOS (or OS X) upgrade calls. In other words, they want you to buy Apple Care and perhaps pay for hardware out-of-warranty help. But they want to keep people happy with these upgrade issues.

I find that when people encounter these Mac/iPhone/iPad problems they immediately think they have to go to Seattle and see the Genius at the Apple Store. Folks... that's why you belong to this club! We can fix most of these things right here. And the bottom line is that although Apple products may be complicated and require some knowledge in troubleshooting... the truth is they work well most of the time and are thoughtfully designed so that humans can fix them.

Re: iOS 6 upgrade freeze resolved

Posted: Tue Oct 16, 2012 6:05 am
by Stephen Hart
You see the same "plug it in" icons when a phone is brand new. (We've just set up two new iPhones.) It's possible that "recovery mode" is just making the phone think its new and ignore all settings and data it has on it. There are a number of sites that give step-by-step instructions for entering recovery mode.

A similar, but different procedure is called DFU mode. This is not the same as recovery mode. There's no icon on the screen, and the procedure requires some careful timing while pressing buttons. Many sites that show you how to do this are about jailbreaking the iPhone, but you don't need to do that to use DFU.

I ran into the same problem you saw once, Jerry. In my case, my iPhone 4 got most of the way through an iOS upgrade and then just got stuck. As those downloads take a really long time, it's possible that there was a brief power outage during the download or upgrade process, followed by an automatic restart of my iMac. DFU mode allowed me to start over.

Two important tips for all iOS upgrades:

1. Choose Download Only so that you can keep your phone in use during the long time (on DSL, at least) it takes for the download. It's the whole iOS.
2. When you choose to upgrade, pay attention to the messages on screen and wait until the phone has completely restarted and shows your normal lock screen or home screen.

Re: iOS 6 upgrade freeze resolved

Posted: Tue Oct 16, 2012 1:36 pm
by Richard Serkes
Jerry, I'm going to assume that both the USB ports were hardwired to the PC's motherboard and therefore "powered" USB ports. Is that correct? I ask because even though some non-powered USB ports will allow data to go back and forth between a device and the computer when it comes time to do serious work such as upgrading the OS a non-powered USB port just won't work. I'm not sure why that would be the case because data flow is data flow and if it's taking place then the device doesn't need power from the port. But some Apple products specifically say NOT to do upgrades on a device while it's on the need to plug it in to a wall outlet. In a similar vein, perhaps some devices (e.g., an iPhone) must have an exterior source of power to do upgrades such as being plugged into a powered USB. I bring this up because when I upgraded my iPads to iOS6 I did so wirelessly but had them plugged in to A/C rather than rely on the battery.

What I'm getting at is I wonder if it's at all possible that the original USB port wasn't powered and the second one that fixed the problem was. Not likely, I know.

Re: iOS 6 upgrade freeze resolved

Posted: Tue Oct 16, 2012 3:03 pm
by Stephen Hart
But some Apple products specifically say NOT to do upgrades on a device while it's on the need to plug it in to a wall outlet.
I think that's because if you're doing an upgrade and if the MacBook's battery keels over sideways, the device getting upgraded might get hosed, not a dissimilar scenario to the cause of the original problem discussed here.

USB is complex. There are high-speed and low-speed USB ports, high-power and low-power ports, not to mention USB 2 and 3. For example, earlier MacBook Air's had low-power USB ports onboard, and those will not power some devices, like an external USB-powered hard drive.

Re: iOS 6 upgrade freeze resolved

Posted: Tue Oct 16, 2012 3:22 pm
by Richard Serkes
So all USB ports are equal but some are more equal than others.

Re: iOS 6 upgrade freeze resolved

Posted: Tue Oct 16, 2012 4:29 pm
by Stephen Hart
Richard Serkes wrote:So all USB ports are equal but some are more equal than others.