October 12, 2011 at 4:25 pm

Anatomy of an iOS 5 Upgrade Fail

Apple rolled out the much-anticipated iOS 5 upgrade on Wednesday, bringing a bevy of helpful new features for music fans. However, the upgrade process is not going smoothly for everyone.

Here’s what happened the first two times I tried to update my iPhone 4 to Apple’s new iOS 5 operating system on Wednesday:

iphone ios 5 fail
The same thing is happening to at least five of my friends. Others report that they installed the update in minutes with no problem. At this point, there’s no way to know how widespread the problem is, although there certainly is one. (Please let me know if it’s happening to you.)

After the second fail, I followed each of Apple’s recommendations:

1. Yes, I have the latest version of iTunes (10.5).

2.  I updated a bunch of unrelated programs including iPhoto and Safari, on Apple’s recommendation, and restarted my computer as required.

3. I disconnected other USB devices. (During the first fail, I had an iPad plugged in.)

4. I don’t have any weird security settings, although my router was not made by Apple.

5. I restarted my computer (again).

Once again, the “Backing up ‘iPhone’” progress meter made scant progress, even after over twenty minutes:

ios 5 fail

Lo and behold, we encountered a third fail, even after exhausting Apple’s list of suggestions:

ios 5 fail

At least this time Apple gives us an error number, which yields the following suggestion:

If the steps listed in Error 3000-3999 do not resolve the issue, and you are using a Mac, you may be able to resolve an error 3004 by quitting iTunes and using the following command at the command line: dscacheutil -flushcache

Command line? I do remember encountering a similar cache flushing issue with a blogging tool at one point, but this is clearly not the “ready for primetime” experience we expect from Apple — and it’s even more frightening that the problem only seems to affect Macs.

We’re going to try that suggestion, and will keep updating this story as things progress. Even if it works, Apple’s iOS 5 upgrade process appears to be a pretty serious fail in some cases — one we have corroborated with multiple other iPhone users.

For now, my iPhone is bricked:

ios 5 failAnd my only option is to restore the iPhone to factory settings, losing all contacts. I have no choice but to trust that Apple will later be able to give me my contacts back… and right now, I don’t have a lot of trust in the process:

I bit the bullet and allowed Apple, which doesn’t have a lot of my trust right now, to delete everything on my phone. Then iTunes told me that Apple’s servers are down. This is bad.

ios 5 upgrade fail

Apple’s servers came back up, but error 3004 strikes again:

ios 5 failI tried the command line trick that Apple recommends for error 3004 for a second time:

ios 5 upgrade failMy iPhone is still bricked. I’ll let the following screenshots speak for themselves.

Ready:

ios 5 fail

Set:

ios 5 fail
Fail:

Caveat emptor.

Update: My iPhone became bricked — as in it couldn’t boot up, and iTunes couldn’t recognize it. If that happens to you too, follow the below directions from Apple, then keep trying to Restore your iPhone until you can then install iOS 5. I just tried it and while iTunes failed (for the umpteenth time) to restore my iPhone, at least it lets iTunes recognize your iPhone, which is a start. Here’s how to make iTunes recognize your iPhone again, so that you at least have a fighting chance of unbricking your iPhone (thanks for the suggestion, Josh Newman):

1. Disconnect the USB cable from the iPhone or iPod touch, but leave the other end of the cable connected to your computer’s USB port.
2. Turn off the device: Press and hold the Sleep/Wake button for a few seconds until the red slider appears, then slide the slider. Wait for the the iPhone or iPod touch to turn off.
▪ If you cannot turn off the device using the slider, press and hold the Sleep/Wake and Home buttons at the same time. When the device turns off, release the Sleep/Wake and Home buttons.
3. While pressing and holding the Home button, reconnect the USB cable to iPhone. When you reconnect the USB cable to iPhone, the device should power on.
 Note: If you see the screen pictured below, let the device charge for at least ten minutes to ensure the battery has some charge and then start with step 2 again.

 4. Continue holding the Home button until you see the “Connect to iTunes” screen. When this screen appears you can release the Home button:

5. If necessary, open iTunes. You should see the following “recovery mode” alert:

 6. Use iTunes to restore the device.

However, be forewarned — just because iTunes can recognize your iPhone is no guarantee that Apple’s servers will be up to the task of upgrading your iPhone. Even after following these instructions, I ended up here once again:

ios 5 upgrade repair instructionsUpdate 7:30pm ET: Apple’s iOS 5 servers are still down or too busy to serve the update. My iPhone remains in limbo:

7:54pm ET: Restore is finally in progress. I started this process about six hours ago:

8:11pm ET: It’s alive. Sort of.

8:14pm ET: It’s restoring my apps. I had over 250:

8:31pm ET: The iPhone is usable again, and iCloud is installing (there wasn’t enough storage in the free 5GB iCloud to back up my 32GB iPhone 4 for free, but that’s a different story):

9:08pm ET: Apps almost restored (it finished shortly thereafter):

Now for the iPad.

10:40pm ET:

11:56pm ET:

ios 5 ipad update8:34am ET: The iPad update seems to be going a lot smoother this morning. The install didn’t happen last night, but the iOS 5 installer for iPad downloaded in about ten minutes this morning. It’s restoring the apps:

Our iPad upgrade failed too, although not as badly: See part two of this 22-hour saga.

  • Chris

    that is exactly where i crap out also.. right at the installing firmware.. then i get the 3004 error and we start over… I am only at 7 times though and at this for over 60 min.. I called Apple Care… they say its the servers.. but why/how many time does the phone need to talk to the server… especially when i downloaded the update to my imac before i even did the update… really sad…

  • pissed@appletoday

     Hold the home button and the off switch until the apple logo shuts off, then back on and then off. Unplug the usb cable open itunes and hold the home button and plug it in.

  • Anonymous

    To those that are saying they keep trying without success, all I can tell you is KEEP TRYING.  After 90 minutes, the restore eventually worked for me.  Running iOS 5 on my fully restored iPhone 4 as I type this…

  • Mrkirk

    Tried resetting as suggested. No luck. iTunes will not recognise my phone. Apple logo appears on phone, progress bar comes up, then spinning wheel, then off…. repeat repeat repeat.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Doug-Fletcher/551216479 Doug Fletcher

    Also try rebooting PC – worked for me success

  • Eoghantansey

    tried this 4 or 5 times, nothings happening, see the bar for 1 second followed by spinning wheels

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Doug-Fletcher/551216479 Doug Fletcher

    Try rebooting your pc – worked for me – success

  • JOHNNY_5

    Mine just achieved success now hope it will restore my data from my backup! The secret….. keep trying.

  • Eoghantansey

    finally, i tunes can see my phone again, but nl luck on a successful restore

  • mobile_Dave

    My phone was bricked after the attempted update, the hell of apple sign and spinner loop. But I got out of the loop by following these easy instructions http://techiezlounge.com/fix-ios-devices-bricked-after-itunes-update.html

  • mobile_Dave

    My phone was bricked after the attempted update, the hell of apple sign and spinner loop. But I got out of the loop by following these easy instructions http://techiezlounge.com/fix-ios-devices-bricked-after-itunes-update.html

  • Jsparker

    i had same problem…  to break out of the eloop…hold power & home button for 10 secs, when logo appears release power button & keep home button pressed for another 5-10 seconds until phone pops up in itunes again

    trying restore again now… 

  • Jsparker

    i had same problem…  to break out of the eloop…hold power & home button for 10 secs, when logo appears release power button & keep home button pressed for another 5-10 seconds until phone pops up in itunes again

    trying restore again now… 

  • Jsparker

    i had same problem…  to break out of the eloop…hold power & home button for 10 secs, when logo appears release power button & keep home button pressed for another 5-10 seconds until phone pops up in itunes again

    trying restore again now… 

  • Caamelaihan

    UPDATE:

    I had been following the comments section religiously here just in case anyone might come up with a fix. Meanwhile I kept trying to restore my iPhone 4 again and again. Well, the thing is it works for some, as it did for me on the 6th try.

    This is definitely a server handling issue, due to millions of pings to apple at this time. 
    Just keep trying and the bouncers at apple servers will let you past the velvet rope. 

  • Eoghantansey

    well, thank god, found i tunes, got ios5 in, hoping my last restore works and in 10 minutes hopefully back to normal

  • Iphone4user

    **** Just got back from the Apple Store 

    They used a similar trick above and were able to bring my iPhone back from the “Apple logo/spinning wheel of death” loop.  I watch the genius hold down the home button while plugging it into a computer.  The iPhone came back up (ironically with iOS 5 even though I never completed the install properly).

    The manager of the store and the geniuses were all laughing  … “another update another massive rush to hit the servers and we will be dealing with crap like this all week”

    Good luck.

  • Anonymous

    Yup, epic fail updating my iPad 1.0 to iOS 5.0. Not impressed at all.

  • http://twitter.com/vanaman Sean Vanaman

    chiming in: it will work eventually. 

    if you get the permanent loop of apple logo and spinning wheel, hold the home and lock button until you get the itunes/cable icons that asks you to plug in your phone and try to restore again.

    was able to get it done on in-flight wifi, so your connection speed shouldn’t matter much.

    good luck, all.

  • Loco4olas

     Exactly the same problem here. Won’t restore-tried again and again and keep getting similar error messages to you.  At least your instructions got iTunes to recognise my phone.

    As kingnathan84 says, maybe it’s their (Apples) servers are overloaded and that’s causing the problems.Thanks.Matt (Sydney, Aust.)

  • Niels Sommer

    My iPad upgrade has failed like 5 times now. I get the same internal error msg. I think that it´s more important to get some sleep than have IOS 5 from day one or day two. They could have the decency to at least tell you up front not to waste your time and come back later.

  • E Coli

    i have gone through the _exact_ same issues, except my error has a different number:

    The iphone could not be restored. An unknown error occurred (-1)

    i’m unable to tell if it’s still an issue w/ the servers like everyone is saying or if my phone is just hosed at this point.

  • Ross8ball

    Hi from the UK, just had 3004 number 5…….getting mad now! Wish I hadn’t bothered tbh…….the stories of it happening in the end is keeping me going……going for a mac restart and a different USB port……fingers crossed. Nice to know I’m the only one going through this epic fail!!

  • Jack

    Yup, stuck in recovery mode now after it bricked me. Trying to restore, and even when it lets me restore, at the end I get the triumphant “3004″. Then, back again. For fucks sake, it won’t even allow me to restore to iOS4 so I at least have a functional phone until the shit stops.

  • Jack

    Yup, stuck in recovery mode now after it bricked me. Trying to restore, and even when it lets me restore, at the end I get the triumphant “3004″. Then, back again. For fucks sake, it won’t even allow me to restore to iOS4 so I at least have a functional phone until the shit stops.

  • squish

    I  continue to get the exact same outcome. Ive constantly been trying again hoping that ill get a break and it will finally work. This however, has been very helpful. At first when it said internal i thought it meant  my phone was messed up and i was a little worried. THANKS for the help ^.^

  • Ross8ball

    Is anyone else getting stuck on the restore process…….on the mac the progress bar is getting to about 99% and on the phone it’s getting to 70% and then getting stuck!!! Don’t really know what to do from this point……any help please.

  • squish

    just a quick update to MY personal encounter with the IOS issue…
    as it turns out, one can use the same technique to make your update work, as you can to get someone to do something …………..( badly worded i know and i apologize) but in the end if you constantly attempt to update the phone..you will catch a break in the fluxation of people attempting to update their phones…and your phone shall be restored ^.^

  • Ben9394

    Hi 
    Are everyone here use TinyUmbrella before? i try it with a freash PC, no more error 3004. 

  • Frustrated

    same exact experience = not cool!

  • http://twitter.com/PhaseCydrome Brian Daynes

    I am not happy….  I can get the PC to see the phone, when the phone is in diagnostic mode ( as you explain in your post ) but during the restore process,  I get the apple logo on the phone,  and a progress bar directly under it THAT DOES NOT PROGRESS…. after about 4 minutes the PC gives up and throws an error code 1611….  I will keep at it though the night now… its like a child…I need it to be not sick…. :(((((

  • Astahly

    what did you do to get the restore process to complete?  I have 3004 now for about 2 hours…!!

  • http://twitter.com/barbashov Barbashov Ilya

    Maybe you experiencing this issue because you still using Snow Leopard?
    Had the same error 3004 with Lion, 10.7.2 update fixed it.

  • Anonymous

    mine works a treat now. took 24 attempts.but got there in the end!

  • Jacobstrent

    I too am bricked, trying again for the 3rd time. Lame.

  • Astahly

    she works!!  Error 3004 was a ruse. I have to believe its about server overload…just keep trying….

  • Loco4olas

    I kept trying and it eventually worked. Servers overloaded by all us fanboys (and girls).

  • Ebbeak

    I’m lucky to have my iphone upgraded after the first crash. But, now the most apps are not working including ibooks!!

  • Mrkirk

    Thank you!!! This worked. At lease iTunes will see my phone now. Hopefully it will restore.
    Had to hold down sleep and home to turn it off, then hold home and plug it in to my computer. 

  • Winophile

    Great write up, thanks, but still unclear as to what to do after it asks to Restore from factory settings?

  • GasPath

    My Ipad2 failed the initial IOS 5 install at 75% and rebooted. Then it tried to retore itself and the servers were down. I have had no success all day. I’ll try again this evening when I get home (I’m overseas at the moment) and see if it remains dead. I’m half tempted to take it to the local Apple Store (yes there is one where I’m at) and process it under warranty. Somehow, I think that somewhere in that 49 page EULA there is a clause that forgives Apple of any wrongdoing if an update causes you device to be unusable.

  • Jon Hodgson

    I seriously thought my iPad 2 3G was toast.  Actually, probably more useful as a coaster!

    …however, the following process worked (copied from above):

    1. Disconnect the USB cable from the iPhone or iPod touch, but leave the
    other end of the cable connected to your computer’s USB port.
    2.
    Turn off the device: Press and hold the Sleep/Wake button for a few
    seconds until the red slider appears, then slide the slider. Wait for
    the the iPhone or iPod touch to turn off.
    ▪ If you cannot turn off
    the device using the slider, press and hold the Sleep/Wake and Home
    buttons at the same time. When the device turns off, release the
    Sleep/Wake and Home buttons.
    3. While pressing and holding the Home
    button, reconnect the USB cable to iPhone. When you reconnect the USB
    cable to iPhone, the device should power on.
 Note: If you see the
    screen pictured below, let the device charge for at least ten minutes to
    ensure the battery has some charge and then start with step 2 again.

    I thank you.  My iPad thanks you.  Apple would if they weren’t so damn busy sorting out everyone else’s problems from IOS 5 Day!

  • Newamsterdamjazz

    Did it last night.  NOT A PROBLEM ANYWHERE.  Took a LONG time (but I’ve got too much info on my iPhone). 

  • Kmccullor

    I upgraded my Desktop to iTunw 10.5 and attempted the iOS 5 upgrade to my iPad 2 it failed with error 1611.  I could not get is to see the iPad any more or complete the restore.  I still had the older version of iTunes on my Laptop and was able to restore on the Laptop.  It successfully restored the iPad back to pre iOS 5.  Close call!!!!

    Going to try using the Desktop once more the execute the upgrade.

  • upSet

    I have tried to restore my iphone 4 8 times over and over again and it’s happening to my brothers to error 3004 so I can’t even use my iphone because I tried to turn it off and it would go off then turn it back on a white screen and I followed the steps with the turn off the iphone then back on the hold the home button lots of times and nothing but a white screen dam them who ever made the iOS 5 update I am in Puerto Rico for Work and when I get back to the States there will be hall!!!!

  • Timalfrey311

    I was fortunately did not have these issues with installing the IOS 5 software on three IPhone 4′s. I am however having problems with the charging/docking port to connect chargers, stereos, ect on all three. If anyone has heard of this or any comments please help. 

  • Mayrazamudio

    All of the things listed above have happend to ipod. I cannot usecit at all. Im soo frustrated with this i have burst in tears. Please help