Hey Apple! Please Fix Error 14!

image credit: Apple

published by Chand Bellur
March 6, 2021 at 7:07 p.m.
  • When an iPhone runs out of storage space, it can end up in a reboot cycle. This condition is known as “error 14”.
  • Experts say that an iPhone should have at least 20% free space, which the operating system can use for virtual memory and other applications.
  • “Error 14” can only be solved by a factory reset, which erases all apps and data. Users can’t initiate a backup because the device is in a reboot loop.
  • iOS has harbored this defect for several years, and Apple is unwilling or incapable of fixing it.

What is Error 14?

The iPhone comes equipped with a solid-state drive (SSD) capable of storing a finite amount of information. All of your apps, photos, videos, documents, and other information reside in this space, often filling up without user awareness. Although iOS pops up warnings as free space runs out, many people just tap OK and go on with their lives.

Apps and media use up most, but not all, SSD capacity. Operating systems use storage space to cache data from primary storage temporarily. This is often known as swap space or virtual memory.

With iOS, when users store too much information on an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, the device can cease to function. This is known as “error 14”. A reboot cycle traps the iPhone, rendering it useless. The only way to fix this issue is to reset the device, which erases all content. Unless you back up your device regularly, you may lose precious photos and other content forever.

Error 14 sometimes results in the tragic loss of photos and files. Many victims of this defect have lost precious and irreplaceable photos of loved ones. Most iPhone users can reset their device and restore a reasonably recent backup. Although some apps can recover data from iPhone backup files, not everyone backs up their device continuously. These apps also require a computer and aren’t free.

Why is it Called Error 14?

The reboot cycle defect is called “error 14”, because of the message shown to iTunes users when the problem occurs. Most people don’t connect their iPhones to iTunes anymore. Many people don’t even own computers anymore. For these, error 14 manifests in constant device reboots. They’re stuck in an endless reboot cycle until they connect to iTunes and reset the device entirely. Doing so erases all of the device data.

How to Deal With iPhone Error 14

Apple offers some support documentation on how to approach error 14 if it happens during an iOS update. In this case, connecting your iPhone to a computer running the latest version of iTunes can help. Using iTunes on a computer, users can rerun the update. With a computer managing the install files, this should enable an iPhone with little storage space to update its operating system.

If you don’t have a computer, the Apple Store can assist. You’ll most likely need to book an appointment at the Genius Bar. Since this is a software issue, it shouldn’t cost anything but your free time to resolve it.

Unfortunately, if Error 14 didn’t happen during a system update, it’s the result of too much data stored on iOS. Although the operating system pops up warnings and prevents some downloads, in some cases, users can essentially “brick” their devices by storing too much data. In this case, restoring your iPhone to factory settings is the only option. Doing so will erase all data on the phone.

If you have an iCloud backup, you should be able to restore it on your reset device, bringing it back to its last working state. If this works, it’s best to avoid error 14 in the future by keeping an ample amount of free space on your device.

How to Prevent Error 14

The best way to prevent error 14 is to keep enough free space on your device. PC Magazine suggests a total of seven GB — five for iOS updates and two so you can continue to take photos and videos. This is the bare minimum. Other resources suggest 10% free space, regardless of capacity. This seems like a lot of unused space. With this heuristic, an iPhone with 256 GB of storage should have 26 GB free. That’s unnecessary. Seven GB is the bare minimum, and more free space is ideal.

iOS now has an easy method to free up space on your device. Simply tap on Settings > General > Storage to see a variety of methods to free up space on your device. Many of these involve deleting unnecessary files, such as infrequently used apps and old, unused digital content.

Apple encourages customers to use iCloud, and it’s the easiest cloud-based storage option for the iPhone. Google, Dropbox, Microsoft, and a variety of other technology providers offer cloud-based solutions. iCloud is the only one that can back up an iPhone in one complete volume. With other solutions, you can only upload individual files to the cloud. Since most of these offer limited, free storage, it’s a great way to offload images, video, and other content to free up space on your iPhone.

It’s also possible to use home-based network-attached storage solutions to offload photos and other media. Myriad network drives exist, and the vast majority work with iOS. With the Files app, an iPhone user can mount a network drive, storing photos and other files without a monthly charge. The drawback is that you have to buy the network drive and, like all drives, back it up. 

Cloud-based storage has its advantages. ISO-certified data centers won’t lose your data. It’s backed up continuously, and they even have generators to back up the power supply. If you have a network drive, you’ll need to back that up onto a different device, or you could lose data. All hard drives eventually fail, but most become obsolete before that happens.

Once you offload files from your iPhone, you can delete them. You can also restore them using the Files app. iCloud backups aren’t ideal for archiving individual files, as you won’t be able to retrieve them. Their sole purpose is to restore your device, should it fail or you buy a new one.

Apple Should Fix Error 14

User neglect doesn’t cause error 14. It’s poor software design. Users shouldn’t be able to brick their device by using it as intended. Although iOS pops up messages with the warning “iPhone Storage Full”, users can easily corrupt their system just by ignoring the message and continuing to use the device.

Error 14 doesn’t happen to everyone who overruns their actual storage capacity. The defect is probably an edge case. It likely affects a small percentage of users; however, with over a billion iPhones in use, that’s a lot of people.

The best way to fix this condition is to set a hard line on storage space. The operating system needs to reserve an ample amount of space so the user cannot allocate it. It’s clear they’re trying to do this, but users can continue to use the device and corrupt the OS. It’s not entirely their fault, as with ignoring a “check engine” light, because they don’t understand the consequences. Most people don’t have the technical background to understand this, and, to them, the iPhone is a consumer device. They’re not misusing it.

The inability to fix this catastrophic issue once again draws attention to Apple’s declining quality. It’s hard to see any nefarious business model behind this. The issue seems to be more of neglect and lack of concern than a way to sell iCloud subscriptions or larger internal storage capacities. The issue affects few users, but losing irreplaceable photos and videos is a drastic consequence. It could even result in ecosystem defection, with victimized users switching to Android.

2 comments

  1. Thank you for writing this article. It is now June 2021, and even drive savers have told me my data is unrecoverable due to error 14.

    1. I’ve never seen any other operating system that does this. It’s surprising to see how easy it is for end users to essentially ruin their devices merely by using them. I smell another class action lawsuit…

      There may be one already.

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