Force Quit a Misbehaved App in iOS

There are several, escalating steps you can take to force quit a misbehaving app in iOS. This how-to describes successively stronger and stronger measures to achieve that.

Occasionally you may encounter an app that didn't install correctly, or, if it's running, won't quit. Below are stronger and stronger means to handle that situation. These instructions apply to iOS 6 or later. (My use of the term "levels" is informal, just for the sake of this article.)

Level 1. If you're on a home screen and something seems wrong with the device or an app, perhaps it has a frozen progress bar from an update and won't launch, the simplest thing to try is restart your iDevice.

  • 1.1 Press and hold the sleep/wake button at the top of your iDevice until you see the "slide to power off" message. Swipe the slider.
  • 1.2. When the spinning gear stops, the device is shut down.
  • 1.3 Press and hold the sleep/wake until you see the Apple logo. The device will restart.
  • 1.4 If you did this because of a stalled download, go to the App Store app and try downloading again.
  • 1.5 If the app still appears frozen in its update progress, try waiting a few hours. Apple's servers may have hiccuped. (One of the TMO staff has tried logging out of iTunes and logging back in, but I haven't tried that technique myself.) If that doesn't work, jump to Level 4.
  • 1.6 If an app is running, frozen on the display, try Level 2.

Level 2. If you have an app that won't quit and return you to the Home screen, try a basic force quit.

  • 2.1 From the Home screen, click the Home button twice, quickly.
  • 2.2 Tap and hold the app in the list of recent apps at the bottom of the display.
  • 2.3 When the app starts to jiggle (they all will), tap the red minus sign to close it. It should disappear from the list.
  • 2.4 Double click the Home button to return to the Home screen.
  • 2.5 Tap and launch the app again.

Level 3. Sometimes an app gets frozen on the display and won't respond to Level 2.

  • 3.1 Press and hold the sleep/wake button at the top of your iDevice until you see the "slide to power off" message.
  • 3.2 Let go and immediately press and hold the Home button for at least 6 seconds.
  • 3.3 That should force quit the front running app and return you to the Home screen.

Level 4. If you have some kind of more general problem with an unresponsive device or a frozen app that won't respond to the above steps, you can try a reboot of the iDevice.

  • 4.1 Press and hold the sleep/wake button at the top of your iDevice.
  • 4.2 Simultaneously hold down the Home button and wait for at least 10 seconds.
  • 4.3 You'll see the Apple logo as the iDevice reboots.

If Level 4 doesn't solve your problem, you may need to take stronger measures such as restore. But we've covered enough for now, and those restore techniques will be covered in a future how-to.


iPhone & tools image via Shutterstock.