It would be great if everything worked perfectly every time you activated your new or refurbished device, but that’s not how man-made things work.

If you’re having trouble waking up your iPhone after buying a new one or restoring your device in iTunes, we have some ideas that you can try to solve the problem once and for all.

Why won’t my iPhone activate?

Table and article summary

Every time you set up a new or used iPhone or your own iPhone in iTunes after restoring it, you will see a white “Hello” screen asking for details about yourself before you can use it.

One of the steps that you need to take is to activate the device. Sometimes this doesn’t go as well as you’d like.

In some cases, you may receive error messages such as the following:

  • Activation server is not available – This means that the server you are checking to make sure your device can be activated has failed or has a large number of users at the same time. This is often the case when the iPhone starts up, when everyone tries to activate their device at the same time.
  • SIM card is not supported – This means that you have a SIM card in your device that is not suitable for your iPhone.
  • Activation could not be completed – This means that some sort of glitch in your internet connection or in the iPhone itself is causing the problem, and you need to fix these problems by looking at things that could possibly have gone wrong.

Regardless of what message you received, there are ways to fix it. We will talk about it now.

Fixing iPhone Activation Errors

Now that you understand why these error messages occur, let’s go through some troubleshooting steps that you can try to avoid activation errors.

Make sure you have a SIM card installed – Many iPhone models use a SIM card and are not activated until one is installed in the SIM card slot. This is the case even if you no longer have service through your cellular provider. Just insert a compatible SIM card and you can avoid activation errors that say you need a SIM card.

Replace the SIM card – Sometimes you need to put the SIM card back. You may see a NO SIM error even though you have a SIM card installed. This could be because it is not in the SIM card slot properly and your iPhone cannot read it. Use a paper clip or a SIM card eject tool to eject the tray, then reinsert the SIM card into the tray, and then reinsert it.

Sign in with your Apple ID – In some cases, you’ll need to sign in with your Apple ID to activate your iPhone. This is because later versions of iOS include a feature called and protect your device from being restored and used by others in the event it is stolen.

Make sure Apple’s activation server is online. As mentioned earlier, Apple’s servers sometimes shut down and can cause high levels of wake-up traffic that the servers simply cannot handle. In these cases, activation may be slow or non-existent. You can check with Apple to see if the activation server is down. If so, please try again later.

Connect to a Wi-Fi network – In some cases, the cellular signal may not be strong enough to activate iPhone. Since you need an internet connection to reach Apple’s activation servers, you may need to connect to a network that should be more reliable.

Connect your iPhone to iTunes – If there aren’t any Wi-Fi networks and you don’t have cellular service, connect to a trusted computer and activate your iPhone that way. iTunes has a built-in activation mechanism that allows Apple’s activation servers to be reached directly over an Internet connection.

Make sure iTunes is up to date – If you use iTunes to activate your iPhone and it doesn’t work, make sure you have the program installed. An outdated version of iTunes may prevent you from activating your iPhone as some versions of iTunes are not compatible with the latest iOS devices on the market.

Restart iPhone – Sometimes the problem is a fluke with iOS itself, and restarting your iPhone and rebooting can solve the problem.

Restore your iPhone – If you suspect your problem has something to do with your firmware being out of date, you can always restore and update your iPhone using the latest version of iTunes. I would only recommend this option if all of the above still haven’t worked for you.

Contact your provider – It is quite possible and not very rare that the provider who bought your iPhone from you gave you a faulty SIM card or that your SIM card is damaged. Contact your company to see if they can get a replacement SIM card. Usually you have to pay a very small fee to get a new one, but not all providers will charge you a replacement. The mileage varies.

Contact Apple – If absolutely nothing works and you swear you’re not an iPhone thief trying to break into a stolen iPhone, then you should contact Apple directly. There may be a hardware failure in the device itself that is preventing the iPhone from reading the SIM card. Apple can replace the iPhone with an appointment in the Genius Bar.


We hope that after going through the options checklist above, you have been able to activate your iPhone. We understand that it is a painful process of elimination when it comes to these types of problems. However, if you take the time and work your way through the possibilities, you should be able to figure things out for yourself.

Also read:

Have you ever had trouble activating your iPhone? If so, what was the problem for you? Share the comments!

Can’t activate your iPhone? Here’s why and how to fix the problem

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