In the latest update to iOS, Apple has issued a patch for one of its most stubborn and mystifying errors, potentially restoring countless bricked phones to functionality. Typically triggered by third-party repairs, Error 53 has been causing headaches for months, but became particularly prominent earlier this month when a freelance reporter described severe difficulty restoring his phone after having it repaired while on assignment in Macedonia.
While rare, the error is significant because of its severe consequences. Error 53 is typically triggered by a disruption of the link between the Touch ID fingerprint reader and the Secure Enclave within the phone, which often causes the phone to brick completely. Many users who took those phones to nearby Apple stores were told the phones were effectively unrecoverable.
That won't be true after the latest iOS update, although it doesn't mean Error 53 is gone for good. The new update will restore phones bricked by the phone, but it won't restore function to the fingerprint reader. Allowing that connection to be broken and then restored could open the door for a malicious program to steal a user's fingerprint as it travels from the reader to the Enclave, an attack that has been demonstrated in the past on Android phones without similar protections.
Apple's instructions for restoring an Error 53-plagued phone are pasted below:
1. If iTunes is open on your Mac or PC, quit iTunes.
2. If your iOS device is plugged into your computer, unplug it.
3. Make sure that you have the latest version of iTunes.
4. Connect your iOS device to your computer with a USB cable.
5. Open iTunes and select your device.
6. When you see the option in iTunes to Restore or Update, click Restore.*
7. When you see your iOS device's Hello screen, follow the onscreen steps to set up your device.
*If you previously backed up your device, you can set up from your backup.
*When you see the screen for Touch ID, tap Set up Touch ID later.
8. If Touch ID on your device didn't work before you saw error 53, the feature still won't work after you restore your device. Contact Apple Support to ask about service options for Touch ID.