How to reset and fix an unresponsive iPhone
If your iPhone is no longer talking to you nicely, there are a few simple steps you can take to get it back in order.
It can be incredibly frustrating if your iPhone isn't responding to your commands, but it's not worth throwing it away just because it appears something has caused it to freeze up.
There's one rather obvious case where you may want to tread carefully, and that's if it's not responding after a quick accidental trip into some water. While the iPhone 7/Plus, iPhone 8/Plus and iPhone X/XR/XS/XS Max all feature IP-rated water resistance, earlier iPhones as well as the iPhone SE have no specific water resistance.
Even for those iPhones with water resistance, it's a risky business, so if your iPhone isn't talking to you after a dip, check out our guide to restoring a wet smartphone here.
The other most obvious step to get out of the way if you're faced with an iPhone with an entirely black screen and no response is to check if it has simply gone flat.
Make sure you've charged it before proceeding. You should see the charging icon come up on your iPhone screen while it's plugged in, which will also give you an indication if that was the problem all along.
Water and power aside, the most common reason that an iPhone won't respond to your commands has to do with software, whether it's an app crashing or the iOS system itself. That's typically an easy process to fix with just a few simple steps.
What to do if an app isn't responding
If it's just a single application on your iPhone that isn't responding, then typically all you should need to do in order to get your device up and running is close the offending application.
- iPhones prior to iPhone X: Double tap the home button, which will bring up your recently accessed apps list. Swipe until you see the offending app (usually the first in line) and swipe up to force its closure.
- iPhone X/XR/XS/XS Max: There's no home button, so what you need to do is swipe up from the base of the screen, but pause and leave your finger in place. It may help to draw a very slight "r" shape on the screen to bring up the app switcher. Swipe to find the app, and then long press on it until the "minus" sign appears above the app. Tap that to close the misbehaving application.
In most cases, you should then be able to relaunch the application from your home screen if needed. If it's still crashing or hanging your iPhone, check for App updates that may fix the problem or contact the developer to see if it's a known issue.Back to top
What to do if your entire iPhone isn't responding
OK, so you've tried tapping on the screen or swiping around, and nothing is moving. In the wise words of the great Douglas Adams, DON'T PANIC.
All you probably need is a simple soft reset, and you may even be able to do this within iOS itself.
- iPhones prior to iPhone X: Hold down the power button for at least five seconds. A slider should appear onscreen to power down your phone. Slide it across and wait for your phone to fully power down before switching it back on again.
- iPhone X/XR/XS/XS Max: To power off your iPhone, press and hold the side button and either volume button until the power off slider appears. Slide it across, and wait for your phone to fully power down before switching it back on again.
If you can't get the power slider to come up at all, you may require the slightly "harder" version of the iPhone soft reset. Again, there's a difference between newer and older iPhone models, although this time it isn't just for the iPhone X line:
- iPhone 6s or older: Press and hold both the Home and Power buttons for at least 10 seconds. This should restart your device. Keep holding until the Apple logo comes onscreen and then release.
- iPhone 7 or iPhone 7 Plus: Press and hold the side and volume down buttons for at least 10 seconds. Again, this should restart your device, and you need to hold until you see the Apple logo come onscreen.
- iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus or iPhone X/XR/XS/XS Max: Press and quickly release the Volume Up button. Press and quickly release the Volume Down button. Then, press and hold the Side button until you see the Apple logo.
These are all entirely non-destructive resets of your iPhone device, so when they boot up, it should be back to business as usual, although any apps you had open will (not surprisingly) have lost their status and most likely any data you may have entered into them unless they automatically upload data online.Back to top
I've tried all that and it's still not working! What now?
It gets trickier from here on out because there are a couple of potential fixes to restore an iPhone, but most of them do involve a full factory reset of your device.
- THIS WILL DELETE EVERYTHING ON YOUR iPHONE
I'll repeat that again, so it's entirely clear, and also because finder bears no responsibility for your data. Ideally, you should be regularly backing up your precious photos, documents and other data either to a PC or Mac, or directly to iCloud all the time.
- THIS WILL DELETE EVERYTHING ON YOUR iPHONE
The first thing you should try is connecting your iPhone to a computer running Apple's iTunes software. This should detect your iPhone, and with a little luck allow you to at least back up your photos and other data. It may also allow you to update your version of iOS if that's what's causing the problem.
If you've been carefully backing up your iPhone data (and you very much should have been, and should go do so now if you're not doing so already), you should also be able to restore your iPhone from the most recent restore point.
If that doesn't work, then you may wish to consider a full recovery of your device, although you won't be able to recover your data. If you're close enough to an Apple store, it's also worth considering booking a Genius Bar appointment as they may have more luck in recovering your iPhone if it's got this far. Once more, to be clear:
- PROCEEDING FROM HERE WILL DELETE EVERYTHING ON YOUR iPHONE
The actual process for putting your iPhone into recovery mode isn't all that dissimilar from the harder forced reset above.
First off, connect your iPhone to a computer. Make sure iTunes isn't running when you plug in your device and then open iTunes.
You then want to engage pretty much the same process as the soft reset above, but you'll need to hold down the buttons for a little longer.
- iPhone 6s or older: Press and hold both the Home and Power buttons for at least 10 seconds. This should restart your device. Keep holding these buttons when the Apple logo comes up onscreen and until a screen indicating that you should connect to iTunes pops up.
- iPhone 7 or iPhone 7 Plus: Press and hold the side and volume down buttons for at least 10 seconds. Again, this should restart your device, and you need to keep holding past the Apple logo until the screen indicating that you should connect to iTunes comes onscreen. It should look like the image above on most recent iPhone devices.
- iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus or iPhone X/XR/XS/XS Max: Press and quickly release the Volume Up button. Press and quickly release the Volume Down button. Then, press and hold the Side button, and again you're going to keep it held down until the "connect to iTunes" window comes up.
iTunes should give you the option to Update or Restore. Updating will try to reinstall iOS to the latest supported version for your device, and it's well worth trying because it will retain your other data on the device.
If you try the update process and it doesn't fix your freezing problem, you'll have to proceed with the Restore option instead. This will clear everything off your iPhone, leaving it a blank slate as though you'd just taken it out of the box for the first time.Back to top
None of these steps have worked. What now?
If you've tried every step in this guide and your iPhone is simply unresponsive, it's likely that it's broken. You can check with Apple regarding your warranty status and the likely cost of repairs, but it may simply be time to shop around for a new iPhone plan.
Should a new iPhone be your only option, you'll want to check out our comprehensive comparison of Australian iPhone plans to ensure you get a good deal.Back to top
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