BMW iDrive Reboots By Itself: Diagnostics And Fix

The reboot issue has followed the iDrive through all generations, beginning with the 2002 E65 7-Series and continuing to the most recent G-Series models. While the symptoms are similar from generation to generation, the causes differ.

In some cases, the iDrive will reboot once a year, while in others, it will reboot repeatedly.

The standard diagnostic test plans frequently fail to solve the problem because there are no fault codes to even begin the diagnostic process. So, let’s start with the most common causes that apply to all iDrive generations, and then I’ll go over them individually later.

Let’s get started. 

External Causes 

Most often, and this is especially true for the MGU and NBT/Evo head units installed in both F and G-Series, the cause of reboots actually comes outside your BMW. Let’s go through the most common offenders.

Cell Phone

If the iDrive keeps rebooting and hasn’t entered the continuous restart loop, the first thing to rule out is your cell phone. Yes, they have been known for iDrive restart issues in all BMW models.

These issues typically happen after you change your smartphone or after you update iDrive or your phone. Remove and disconnect all Bluetooth devices and cables connected to iDrive first.

If the problem has been resolved, you can reconnect the phone. If the problem persists with a phone connected, try disabling text messages and removing any emojis from the phone name. Also, try to link the cause and effect with other applications, such as clearing the phone’s cache.

The problem can also be in the cell phone’s software. A few years back when Apple released 11.2.2 iOS the iDrive reboots become the norm. The next iOS release solved the problem entirely. 

Navigation Map 

The second most common cause is the navigation map, although the problem is not in the map itself. The maps are very resource hungry, especially in bigger urban areas. Now, when you add radio stations and mobile phones into the mix, the iDrive can easily crush because of the lack of RAM memory and processing power. This will usually happen when you travel and the iDrive needs to load a new map, or when you drive through metro areas. 

DAB Radio 

I know it sounds ridiculous, but it can happen. Some radio stations broadcast excessively large files, such as banners, and if the head unit cache is full, the unit will crash and reboot.

The solution in this case is to reflash the head unit. 

Now, let’s move on to the iDrive head unit faults. When the fault is in the head unit itself, there are only two solutions that will work: software update or head unit replacement. 

E-Series With CCC And MASK Head Units

If you search the market for used CCC head units, the price may surprise you. They are quite often more expensive than the latest MGU head units. There are two reasons for this: first, there are fewer and fewer working units on the market as time passes, and second, they are difficult to repair.

Repaired CCC head units. Source: Revtronic.com

As a curious person, I attempted to repair a few of them, only to fail miserably after wasting a ridiculous amount of my free time. The problem, as I understand it, is in the motherboard soldering points, but if I recall correctly, it has two or three layers, so it’s not something to tackle without experience, specialty tools, and equipment.

Now, not all CCC units have a hardware problem. 

Although, in my experience, this is only about one out of every twenty units. The issue with E-Series BMWs was that you had to flash the head unit via the MOST optical connector, and when the head unit rebooted, it couldn’t finish the software update and was stuck in programming abort mode. They simply freeze and display the BMW startup logo.

BMW actually released CD repair files to address this issue. Essentially, you download the files, burn them to a CD, and insert the disc into CCC. In this manner, the head unit is reprogrammed directly from the CD.

When you consider all of the hassles and time spent, purchasing a new head unit from BMW for about $1,000 makes perfect sense. Or perhaps the universe is telling you that now is the perfect time to retrofit an NBT iDrive system for about the same or less.

iDrive Reboot Due to Data Processing Overload 

Most, if not all, reboots of the F and G Series’ iDrives are caused by data processing overload. It doesn’t matter which head unit – CIC, CHAMP, NBT, EVO, ENTRY, or the latest MGU – they’ll all come to a point where there’s no RAM, ROM, or processing power left to handle the tasks put on them. 

To clear the cache, you must reflash the iDrive head unit. I learned this a long time ago by following the pattern of most BMW techs when they are stumped: let’s try with the software update and see what will happen. 

And it worked. And it’s still working like charm for every head unit. Recently I’ve reflashed the 2013 E84 X1 with CIC-MID RUEKO for a customer for the third time. I knew a software update will solve the problem, but I never understood why. 

I’ve come to this conclusion – that the cache is full and needs to be cleared – only after the iDrive 4 to iDrive 6 flashes became popular five or six years ago. Basically, you change your BMW’s production date in the vehicle order and the E-Sys will automatically flash the head unit using the iDrive 6 software. 

The only problem is that the ID4 NBT head unit has only 2GB RAM to work on while the ID6 NBT Evo head unit has 4GB. As the software for ID6 uses much more resources the head unit constantly crashes and reboots. 

NBT iDrive 4 during the software update. In this case from ID4 to ID6.

The reboots will mostly happen while using the navigation map or while playing YouTube videos via Bluetooth. And as time goes by it will reboot more and more often. 

Then I found a guy on a coding forum who promised me he will reflash my NBT remotely with custom software and there will be no more reboots. As I watched what he was doing on my laptop, I’ve seen he was only using the older software version from 2018. No, it didn’t work. 

But, I digress. 

I did have to replace maybe a few head units in F-Series BMWs during the last 10+ years, but none of them because of the reboot issues. 

The solution is a software update. While there were actually some software errors corrected with newer releases – most notable for early NBT Evo units (2016-2018) where the iDrive would reboot while you’re receiving a phone call –  the point is not to update the head unit, but rather reprogram, or reflash it. 

I’m not sure if this is true, but as I said I believe the issue is similar to when your PC is slow and you need to clear cache and browser cookies. With iDrive, the only way to do it is to reflash the head unit.

2018 MGU Head Unit Software Error 

This issue affects the early 2018 BMWs (G05, G15) with Live Cockpit Professional. Depending on the case, sometimes there’s only audio and navigation interruption or the display will shut down and the iDrive will reboot by itself shortly. The issue is solved with the 18-11-577 software release.  

These problems are solved at the early stages, so there’s no point to talk about them. 

In Conclusion

BMW F30 head unit software update in progress.

According to my experience, the cause of rebooting for the first two generations of iDrive will be a hardware fault in more than 90% of cases, and for all other generations from CIC up to MGU, a software update will fix the problem 99% of the time. The most important thing to remember is to reflash the head unit on time – after the first reboot, reflash it or schedule a software update appointment, as the unit that cannot start up will be impossible to flash. 

Georg Meier

BMW technician since 1996. I began my automotive journey in 1993 as an apprentice mechanic at Automag, the world's oldest BMW dealership in Munich. With years of experience and dedication, I garnered a wealth of knowledge about the intricacies of BMW and MINI vehicles. The love/hate relationship with the brand led me to found BIMMERIST where I share expertise and insights with fellow enthusiasts.

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  • Hi,
    I have the issue with the DAB. I don’t really understand what you mean with the reflash. Like new software at the dealer?

    • Yes, by reflash I mean software update at the dealer, or anyone capable. Remote software upgrades (OTA) can sometimes solve the issue, but they are rarely released. This works with iDrive 7 (live cockpit) and later.

  • my idrive reboots itself every 10-15 secomds, cant play radio or even take a phone call any more.

    Any suggestions that won’t cost me a fortune would be great please.

    Thanks

  • I Have tried to update my unit but it doesnt seem to pick up the usb in time for it to recognise the update then the continuous boot loop ensues any suggestions

    BMW: F10 5 series 2013

  • I had the same issue with the iDrive in my 320d 2015 Saloon / Sedan (F30 model).
    The iDrive unit was restarting every 20 seconds. Was told by local BMW garage that the head unit needed replacing and would cost around £900.
    Working in IT I thought the issue may be related to a software fault rather than a hardware fault, i.e. corrupted data causing the restart. So I deleted the personal data stored against the current driver profile and this cured the issue. The problem is you have to be very quick in initiating the deletion function in iDrive as the unit reboots every 20 seconds.
    You will see in the operating manual and loads of YouTube videos that you need to go through quite a few menu options to actually get to the “delete personal data” menu option. Then, when the delete starts the iDrive reboots before the cycle is completed. But I persevered for over 2 hours and finally the continuous cycle of deleting the personal data in 15 second intervals cleared the profile data and my iDrive is fully working again. I just had to re-pair my phone, setup my radio stations, etc, to get it back to how it was before the issue occurred.
    In my mind, sitting in my car continuously initiating the data deletion every 15-20 seconds for 2 hours was better than paying £900.
    Hope this helps other people out!

  • HEllo Georg, how are you?
    Man, I’ve got into a situation, I have a 328I and I did retroft from ID4 to ID6. After that I Lost the possibility to use the app MY BMW and do all the remote services like for example send map to my car, find its location and lock and unlock the car. Do you have any idea of what could have happened that made me lose this service?
    Greetings from Brasil, and sorry for my bad english

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